, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 370-378
Date: 22 Nov 2005

Blood flow does not limit skeletal muscle force production during incremental isometric contractions

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Abstract

It has been suggested that a transient limitation in blood flow during intermittent muscular contractions can contribute to muscle fatigue, and that this limitation is greater as contraction intensity increases. We investigated skeletal muscle blood flow and fatigue in 13 healthy, untrained men (21–27 years) during 16 min of intermittent (4 s contract, 6 s relax) isometric dorsiflexor contractions. Contractions began at 10% of pre-exercise maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) force and increased by 10% every 2 min. Hyperemia (i.e., post-contraction blood flow, measured by venous occlusion plethysmography) and MVC were measured at the end of each stage. Muscle volume measures were obtained using magnetic resonance imaging. After 10 min of exercise, submaximal force and post-contraction hyperemia plateaued. MVC fell from 8 min of exercise onwards (p=0.004), and this onset of fatigue preceded the plateau in submaximal force and hyperemia. Despite a large range in dorsiflexor muscle size (66.3–176.4 cm3) and strength (112.5–421.8 N), neither muscle size nor strength were related to fatigue. The temporal dissociation between changes in blood flow and the onset of fatigue (fall of MVC) suggest that limited blood flow was not a factor in the impaired force production observed during intermittent isometric dorsiflexor contractions in healthy young men. Additionally, post-contraction hyperemia increased linearly with increasing contraction intensity, reflecting a match between blood flow and force production throughout the protocol that was independent of fatigue.