Exercise intensity and muscle hypertrophy in blood flow-restricted limbs and non-restricted muscles: A brief review

ArticleinClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging 32(4):247-52 · July 2012with171 Reads
Impact Factor: 1.44 · DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-097X.2012.01126.x · Source: PubMed


    Although evidence for high-intensity resistance training-induced muscle hypertrophy has accumulated over the last several decades, the basic concept of the training can be traced back to ancient Greece: Milo of Croton lifted a bull-calf daily until it was fully grown, which would be known today as progressive overload. Now, in the 21st century, different types of training are being tested and studied, such as low-intensity exercise combined with arterial as well as venous blood flow restriction (BFR) to/from the working muscles. Because BFR training requires the use of a cuff that is placed at the proximal ends of the arms and/or legs, the BFR is only applicable to limb muscles. Consequently, most previous BFR training studies have focused on the physiological adaptations of BFR limb muscles. Muscle adaptations in non-BFR muscles of the hip and trunk are lesser known. Recent studies that have reported both limb and trunk muscle adaptations following BFR exercise training suggest that low-intensity (20-30% of 1RM) resistance training combined with BFR elicits muscle hypertrophy in both BFR limb and non-BFR muscles. However, the combination of leg muscle BFR with walk training elicits muscle hypertrophy only in the BFR leg muscles. In contrast to resistance exercise with BFR, the exercise intensity may be too low during BFR walk training to cause muscle hypertrophy in the non-BFR gluteus maximus and other trunk muscles. Other mechanisms including hypoxia, local and systemic growth factors and muscle cell swelling may also potentially affect the hypertrophic response of non-BFR muscles to BFR resistance exercise.