Comparative Effects of Vigorous-Intensity and Low-Intensity Blood Flow Restricted Cycle Training and Detraining on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Aerobic Capacity

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Kim, D, Singh, H, Loenneke, JP, Thiebaud, RS, Fahs, CA, Rossow, LM, Young, K, Seo, D-i, Bemben, DA, and Bemben, MG. Comparative effects of vigorous-intensity and low-intensity blood flow restricted cycle training and detraining on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic capacity. J Strength Cond Res 30(5): 1453–1461, 2016—Traditional high-intensity aerobic training has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis and aerobic capacity; however, recent research indicates that low-intensity aerobic training with blood flow restriction (BFR) may have similar effects. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of vigorous-intensity (VI) cycling vs. low-intensity cycling with BFR (LI-BFR) on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic capacity after training and subsequent detraining. Thirty-one physically active subjects were assigned to one of 3 groups: VI (n = 10, 60–70% heart rate reserve [HRR]), LI-BFR (n = 11, 30% HRR with BFR at 160–180 mm Hg), and no exercise control (n = 10, no exercise). Subjects in VI and LI-BFR cycled 3 times per week for 6 weeks (total 18 sessions). Body composition, muscle mass, strength, and aerobic capacity were measured pre, post, and after 3 weeks of detraining. A group × time interaction (p = 0.019) effect for both knee flexion and leg lean mass was found. For both VI and LI-BFR groups, knee flexion strength was significantly increased between pre and post (p = 0.024, p = 0.01) and between pre and 3 week-post (p = 0.039, p = 0.003), respectively. For the LI-BFR group, leg lean mass was significantly increased between pre and 3 week-post (p = 0.024) and between post and 3 week-post (p = 0.013). However, there were no significant differences between groups for any variables. The LI-BFR elicits an increase in the knee flexion muscle strength over time similar to the VI. An increase in the leg lean mass over time was seen in the LI-BFR, but not in VI and CON.

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