Efficacy of a gravity-independent resistance exercise device as a countermeasure to muscle atrophy during 29-day bed rest

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Abstract

Aim

This study determined changes in knee extensor and plantar flexor muscle volume during 29 days of bed rest with or without resistance exercise using a gravity-independent flywheel ergometer.

Methods

Seventeen men (26–41 years) were subjected to 29 days of bed rest with (n = 8) or without (n = 9) resistance exercise; Supine Squat (SS) and Calf Press (CP) performed every third day. Quadriceps and triceps surae muscle volume was determined before and after bed rest and force and power were measured during training. Prior to these interventions, reproducibility of this device for training and testing was assessed in 23 subjects who performed bilateral maximal concentric, eccentric and isometric (MVC) knee extensions and plantar flexions over repeated sessions with simultaneous measurements of force, power and electromyographic (EMG) activity.

Results

Quadriceps and triceps surae muscle volume decreased (P < 0.05) 10 and 16%, respectively, after 29 days bed rest. Exercise maintained quadriceps volume and mitigated triceps surae atrophy. Thus, either muscle showed different response across subject groups (P < 0.05). Force and power output during training were either maintained (P > 0.05) or increased (P < 0.05). EMG amplitude in the training mode was similar (SS; P > 0.05) or greater (CP; P < 0.05) compared with that elicited during MVC. Peak force and power test-retest coefficient of variation (CV) ranged 5–6% and 7–8% for SS and CP, respectively.

Conclusion

The present data suggest that this resistance exercise paradigm counteracts quadriceps and abates the more substantial triceps surae muscle atrophy in bedridden subjects, and therefore should be an important asset to space travellers.

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