European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 370–378 | Cite as

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

  • D. M. Wigmore
  • K. Propert
  • J. A. Kent-BraunEmail author


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.


Muscle fatigue Venous occlusion plethysmography Oxygenation Dorsiflexor muscles 



We thank Dr. Graham Caldwell for the muscle size analysis program, Dr. Todd Constable for use of the MRI facilities, Anita Christie for the blood flow analysis programs, Dr. Patty Freedson for use of the accelerometers, Linda Chung, Amy Kearns, and Karen Martin for assistance with data collection, and all of the subjects for their participation in this study. This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging Grant R01AG-21094.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Exercise ScienceUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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