Blood Flow Restriction After Sprint Interval Training Increases Aerobic Capacity

Weight training with low loads and restricted blood flow, a technique called Kaatsu training, increases strength and is particularly valuable during rehabilitation. Blood flow restriction causes metabolic stress that triggers rapid adaptation. Researchers from Loughborough University in the UK expanded this concept by restricting blood flow to leg muscles after repeated sprint cycling workouts. Subjects performed repeated 30-second maximal sprint intervals on a stationary bike followed by blood flow restriction to the leg muscles following exercise, two days per week for four weeks. They showed increases in maximal oxygen consumption, but no increases in a 15-kilometer time trial— compared to a group that practiced intervals without blood flow restriction. Muscle biopsies showed that post-exercise blood flow occlusion also increased a chemical linked to increased muscle capillary density. This is potentially a landmark study. A 15-kilometer time trail on a road bike is a specific motor skill that might not change in four weeks. We can infer from the dramatic changes in maximal oxygen consumption and muscle blood vessels that restricting blood flow after exercise is a viable training technique. (Experimental Physiology, 101: 143-154, 2016)

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