Central cardiovascular hemodynamic response to unilateral handgrip exercise with blood flow restriction
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Exercise training with blood flow restriction (BFR) increases muscle size and strength. However, there is limited investigation into the effects of BFR on cardiovascular health, particularly central hemodynamic load.
To determine the effects of BFR exercise on central hemodynamic load (heart rate—HR, central pressures, arterial wave reflection, and aortic stiffness).
Fifteen males (age = 25 ± 2 years; BMI = 27 ± 2 kg/m2, handgrip max voluntary contraction-MVC = 50 ± 2 kg) underwent 5-min bouts (counter-balanced, 10 min rest between) of rhythmic unilateral handgrip (1 s squeeze, 2 s relax) performed with a moderate-load (60% MVC) with and without BFR (i.e., 71 ± 5% arterial inflow flow reduction, assessed via Doppler ultrasound), and also with a low-load (40% MVC) with BFR. Outcomes included HR, central mean arterial pressure (cMAP), arterial wave reflection (augmentation index, AIx; wave reflection magnitude, RM%), aortic arterial stiffness (pulse wave velocity, aPWV), and peripheral (vastus lateralis) microcirculatory response (tissue saturation index, TSI%).
HR increased above baseline and time control for all handgrip bouts, but was similar between the moderate load with and without BFR conditions (moderate-load with BFR = + 9 ± 2; moderate-load without BFR = + 8 ± 2 bpm, p < 0.001). A similar finding was noted for central pressure (e.g., moderate load with BFR, cMAP = + 14 ± 1 mmHg, p < 0.001). No change occurred for RM% or AIx (p > 0.05) for any testing stage. TSI% increased during the moderate-load conditions (p = 0.01), and aPWV increased above baseline following moderate-load handgrip with BFR only (p = 0.012).
Combined with BFR, moderate load handgrip training with BFR does not significantly augment central hemodynamic load during handgrip exercise in young healthy men.
KeywordsVascular stiffness Kaatsu Autonomic function Blood flow Pulse wave reflection
Aortic pulse wave velocity
Blood flow restriction exercise
Central mean arterial pressure
Heart rate variability
Distance between sternal notch and carotid pulse site
Distance between sternal notch and proximal edge of thigh cuff
Low-frequency-to-high-frequency component ratio
Maximal voluntary contraction
Backward pressure component
Forward pressure component
Root mean square of standard deviation of R–R intervals
Rate pressure product
Standard deviation of R–R intervals
Tissue Saturation Index
Mean blood velocity
The authors would like to thank the participants for their time and dedication towards the study. The authors would also like to thank the students (graduate and undergraduate) from the School of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Southern Mississippi for their support and assistance throughout the various stages of this project.
DC, LS, and SM conceived, and designed research; DC, RJ, and SM conducted experiments; DC, RJ, DS, LS, and MJ analyzed data; DC and RJ drafted the manuscript. All authors read, edited, and approved the final manuscript for submission.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
There are no conflicts of interest to report for this study.
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