Adaptation of Perceptual Responses to Low-Load Blood Flow Restriction Training

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Abstract

Martín-Hernández, J, Ruiz-Aguado, J, Herrero, AJ, Loenneke, JP, Aagaard, P, Cristi-Montero, C, Menéndez, H, and Marín, PJ. Adaptation of perceptual responses to low-load blood flow restriction training. J Strength Cond Res 31(3): 765–772, 2017—The purpose of this study was to determine the adaptive response of ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and pain over 6 consecutive training sessions. Thirty subjects were assigned to either a blood flow restriction training (BFRT) group or a high-intensity resistance training (HIT) group. Blood flow–restricted training group performed 4 sets (30 + 15 + 15 + 15, respectively) of unilateral leg extension at an intensity of 20% one repetition maximum (1RM) while a restrictive cuff was applied to the most proximal part of the leg. The HIT group performed 3 sets of 8 repetitions with 85% 1RM. Ratings of perceived exertion and pain were assessed immediately after each exercise set along the 6 training sessions and were then averaged to obtain the overall RPE and pain per session. Statistical analyses showed significant main effects for group (p ≤ 0.05) and time (p < 0.001). Ratings of perceived exertion values dropped from session 1 to session 6 in both BFRT (8.12 ± 1.3 to 5.7 ± 1.1, p < 0.001) and HIT (8.5 ± 1.2 to 6.40 ± 1.2, p < 0.001). Similar results were observed regarding pain ratings (BFRT: 8.12 ± 1.3 to 5.90 ± 1.55, p < 0.001; HIT: 6.22 ± 1.7 to 5.14 ± 1.42, p < 0.01). Our results indicate that RPE was higher after HIT, whereas differences did not reach significance regarding pain. These perceptual responses were attenuated over time, and the time course of this adaptive response was similar between BFRT and HIT. In summary, BFRT induces a marked perceptual response to training, comparable with that observed with HIT. However, this response becomes attenuated with continuous practice, leading to moderate values of RPE and pain. Perceptual responses may not limit the application of BFRT to highly motivated individuals.

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