Ischemic Preconditioning and Repeated Sprint Swimming: A Placebo and Nocebo Study

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Ischemic preconditioning (IPC) has been shown to improve performance of exercises lasting 10–90 s (anaerobic) and more than 90 s (aerobic). However, its effect on repeated sprint performance has been controversial, placebo effect has not been adequately controlled, and nocebo effect has not been avoided. Thus, the IPC effect on repeated sprint performance was investigated using a swimming task and controlling placebo/nocebo effects.


Short-distance university swimmers were randomized to two groups. One group (n = 15, 24 ± 1 yr [mean ± SEM]) was exposed to IPC (ischemia cycles lasted 5 min) and control (CT) (no ischemia); another (n = 15, 24 ± 1 yr) to a placebo intervention (SHAM) (ischemia cycles lasted 1 min) and CT. Seven subjects crossed over groups. Subjects were informed IPC and SHAM would improve performance compared with CT and would be harmless despite circulatory occlusion sensations. The swimming task consisted of six 50-m all-out efforts repeated every 3 min.


IPC, in contrast with SHAM, reduced worst sprint time (IPC, 35.21 ± 0.73 vs CT, 36.53 ± 0.72 s; P = 0.04) and total sprints time (IPC, 203.7 ± 4.60 vs CT, 206.03 ± 4.57 s; P = 0.02), moreover augmented swimming velocity (IPC, 1.45 ± 0.03 vs CT, 1.44 ± 0.03 m·s−1; P = 0.049). Six of seven subjects who crossed over groups reduced total sprints time with IPC versus SHAM (delta = −3.95 ± 1.49 s, P = 0.09). Both IPC and SHAM did not change blood lactate concentration (P = 0.20) and perceived effort (P = 0.22).


IPC enhanced repeated sprint swimming performance in university swimmers, whereas a placebo intervention did not.

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