Restricted blood flow exercise in sedentary, overweight African-American females may increase muscle strength and decrease endothelial function and vascular autoregulation

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Objectives: Exercise with partially restricted blood flow is a low-load, low-intensity resistance training regimen which may have the potential to increase muscle strength in the obese, elderly and frail who are unable to do highload training. Restricted blood flow exercise has also been shown to affect blood vessel function variably and can, therefore, contribute to blood vessel dysfunction. This pilot study tests the hypothesis that unilateral resistance training of the leg extensors with partially restricted blood flow increases muscle strength and decreases vascular autoregulation. Methods: The subjects were nine normotensive, overweight, young adult African-Americans with low cardiorespiratory fitness who underwent unilateral training of the quadriceps' femoris muscles with partially restricted blood flow at 30% of the 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) load for 3 weeks. The 1-RM load and post-occlusion blood flow to the lower leg (calf) were measured during reactive hyperemia. Results: The 1-RM load increased in the trained legs from 77 ± 3 to 84 ± 4 kg (P < 0.05) in the absence of a significant effect on the 1-RM load in the contralateral untrained legs (P > 0.1). Post-occlusion blood flow decreased significantly in the trained legs from 19 ± 2 to 13 ± 2 mL·min-1·dL-1 (P < 0.05) and marginally in the contralateral untrained legs from 18 ± 2 to 16 ± 1 mL·min-1·dL-1 (P = 0.09). Changes in post-occlusion blood flow to the skin overlying the trained and the contralateral untrained muscles were not significant. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that restricted blood flow exercise, which results in significant gains in muscle strength, may produce decrements in endothelial dysfunction and vascular autoregulation. Future studies should determine whether pharmacopuncture plays a role in treatments for such blood vessel dysfunction.

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