Physiological response in the forearm during and after isometric intermittent handgrip

  • S. E. G. Byström
  • Å. Kilbom


The aim of the present paper was to study the development of fatigue during isometric intermittent handgrip exercise. Using a handgrip dynamometer, four combinations of contraction-relaxation periods were studied (10+10, 10+5, 10+2s and continuous contraction) at three contraction intensities (10, 25 and 40% maximum voluntary contraction, MVC). Local blood flow (BF) in the forearm (venous occlusion plethysmography) was followed before, during and after the exercise period. Electromyography (EMG) (frequency analysis) and the perceived effort and pain were recorded during the exercise period. Forearm BF is insufficient even at isometric contractions of low intensity (10% MVC). The results indicate that vasodilating metabolites play an active role for BF in low-intensity isometric contractions. It is shown that maximal BF in the forearm during relaxation periods (25–30 ml min−1 · 100 ml−1) is already reached at 25% MVC. Only intermittent exercise at 10% MVC and (10+5s) and (10+10s) at 25% MVC was considered acceptable with regard to local fatigue, which was defined as a switch of local BF to the post-exercise period, a decrease in the number of zero-crossings (EMG) and marked increases in subjective ratings.

Key words

Fatigue Forearm Intermittent handgrip Blood flow Electromyography 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barcroft H, Millen JLE (1939) The bloodflow through muscle during sustained contraction. J Physiol (Lond) 97:17–31Google Scholar
  2. Björksten M, Jonsson B (1977) Endurance limit of force in longterm intermittent static contractions. Scand J Work Environ Health 3:23–27Google Scholar
  3. Clarke R (1958) The duration of sustained contractions of the human forearm at different muscle temperatures. J Physiol (Lond) 143:454–473Google Scholar
  4. Detry JM, Brengelman GL, Rowell LB, Wyss C (1972) Skin and muscle components of forearm blood flow in directly heated resting man. J Appl Physiol 32:506–511Google Scholar
  5. Dimberg L (1987) The prevalence and causation of tennis elbow (lateral humeral epicondylitis) in a population of workers in an engineering industry. Ergonomics 30:573–580Google Scholar
  6. Edholm OG, Fox RH, MacPherson RK (1956) The effect of body heating on the circulation in skin and muscle. J Physiol (Lond) 134:612–619Google Scholar
  7. Furchgott RF (1955) Pharmacology of vascular smooth muscle. Pharmacol Rev 7:183–265Google Scholar
  8. Hagberg M (1981) Muscular endurance and surface electromyogram in isometric and dynamic exercise. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exercise Physiol 51 (1):1–7Google Scholar
  9. Hägg G (1981) Electromyographic fatigue analysis based on the number of zero crossings. Pflügers Arch 391:78–80Google Scholar
  10. Humphreys PW, Lind AR (1963) The bloodflow through active and inactive muscles of the forearm during sustained handgrip contractions. J Physiol (Lond) 166:120–135Google Scholar
  11. Jonsson B (1984) Muscular fatigue and endurance basic research and ergonomic applications. In: Kumamoto M (Ed) Neural and mechanical control of movement. Yamguchi Shoten, Kyoto, pp 64–76Google Scholar
  12. Kilbom Å (1976) Circulatory adaption during static muscular contractions. A review. Scand J Work Environ Health 2:1–13Google Scholar
  13. Kilbom Å, Persson J (1981) Circulatory response to static muscle contractions in three different muscle groups. Clin Physiol 1:215–225Google Scholar
  14. Kilbom Å, Wennmalm Å (1976) Endogenous prostaglandins as local regulators of blood flow in man: effect of indomethacin on reactive and functional hyperaemia. J Physiol (Lond) 257:109–121Google Scholar
  15. Kilbom Å, Gamberale F, Persson J, Annwall G (1983) Physiological and psychological indices of fatigue during static contractions. Eur J Appl Physiol 50:179–193Google Scholar
  16. Kurppa K, Waris P, Rokkanen P (1979) Peritendinitis and tenosynovitis. A review. Scand J Work Environ Health 5 [Suppl 3]:19–24Google Scholar
  17. Lind AR, McNicol GW (1967) Circulatory responses to sustained handgrip contractions performed during other exercise, both rhythmic and static. J Physiol (Lond) 192:595–607Google Scholar
  18. Lindhard J (1920) Untersuchungen iffier statische Muskelarbeit. Scand Arch Physiol 4:145–195Google Scholar
  19. Luopajärvi T, Kuorinka I, Virolainen M, Holmberg M (1979) Prevalence of tenosynovitis and other injuries of the upper extremities in repetitive Work. Scan J Work Environ Health 5 [Suppl 3]:48–55Google Scholar
  20. Milerad E, Kilbom A (1985) Physiological and electromyographic response to repetitive hand-grip exercise. Clin Physiol 5 [Suppl 4]:134Google Scholar
  21. Mundale M (1970) The relationship of intermittent isometric exercise to fatigue of hand grip. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 51:532–539Google Scholar
  22. Richardson D (1981) Blood flow response of human calf muscles to static contractions at various percentages of MVC. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol 51:929–933Google Scholar
  23. Rohmert W (1973) Problems in determining rest allowances. I. Use of modern methods to evaluate stress and strain in static muscular work. Appl Ergon 4.2:91–95Google Scholar
  24. Sadamoto T, Bonde-Petersen F, Suzuki Y (1983) Skeletal muscle tension, flow, pressure, and EMG during sustained isometric contractions in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 51:395–408Google Scholar
  25. Sato H (1984) Endurance time and fatigue in static contractions. J Hum Ergol 13:147–154Google Scholar
  26. Silverstein BA, Fine L, Armstrong T (1987) Occupational factors and carpal tunnel syndrome. Am J Med 11:343–358Google Scholar
  27. Sinoway L, Shenberger J, Wilson J, McLaughlin D, Musch T, Zelis R (1987) A 30-day forearm work protocol increases maximal forearm bloodflow. J Appl Physiol 62:1063–1067Google Scholar
  28. Sjögaard G, Savard G, Juel C (1988) Muscle BF during isometric activity and its relation to muscle fatigue. Eur J Appl Physiol 57:327–335Google Scholar
  29. Taylor WF, Johnson JM, Kosiba WA, Kwan CM (1989) Cutaneous vascular response to isometric handgrip exercise. J Appl Physiol 66 (4):1586–1592Google Scholar
  30. Vanhoutte PM, Shepherd T (1973) Venous relaxation caused by acetylcholine acting on the sympathetic nerves. Circ Res 32:259–267Google Scholar
  31. Williams CA, Lind AR (1979) Measurement of forearm blood flow by venous occlusion plethysmography: influence of hand blood flow during sustained and intermittent isometric exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 42:141–149Google Scholar
  32. Williams CA, Mudd JG, Lind AR (1978) The forearm bloodflow during intermittent hand-grip isometric exercise. Circ Res 48 [Suppl 1]:110–117Google Scholar
  33. Whitney RJ (1953) The measurement of volume changes in human limbs. J Physiol (Lond) 121:1–27Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. E. G. Byström
    • 1
  • Å. Kilbom
    • 1
  1. 1.Divison of Applied Work PhysiologyNational Institute of Occupational HealthSolnaSweden

Personalised recommendations