Muscle, tendon, and somatotropin responses to the restriction of muscle blood flow induced by KAATSU-walk training

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The efficacy of KAATSU training has been demonstrated in human athletes, both as a therapeutic method as well as a training aid. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of slow walk training combined with restriction of muscle blood flow (KAATSU) on muscle and tendon size.


Six healthy, unfit Standardbred mares performed walking (240 m/min for 10 min and then 5 min recovery) with KAATSU, and 6 mares performed walking without KAATSU. A specially designed elastic cuff1was placed at the most proximal position of the forelegs and inflated to a pressure of 200-230 mmHg throughout the walking and recovery sessions. The training was conducted once a day, 6 days/week for 2 weeks. Skeletal muscle thickness and tendon thickness were measured using B-mode ultrasound at baseline and after 2 weeks of training. Venous blood samples were obtained before the first acute exercise and 5, 15 and 60 min afterwards. Serum somatotropin concentration was determined using a commercially available equine-specific ELISA kit.


The acute increase in plasma somatotropin was 40% greater (P<0.05) in the KAATSU-walk group than in the Control-walk group 5 min after exercise and remained elevated (P<0.05) at 15 and 60 min post exercise compared with the Control-walk group. After 2 weeks of training, muscle thickness increased (P<0.05) 3.5% in the KAATSU-walk group but did not change in the Control-walk group (0.7%). Tendon thickness did not change (P>0.05) in either group.


These data demonstrate that KAATSU training can induce muscle hypertrophy in horses and suggest that KAATSU training may provide significant therapeutic/rehabilitative value in horses, as has been shown in man.

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