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Neuromuscular adaptations in human muscle following low intensity resistance training with vascular occlusion

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Low-intensity (~50% of a single repetition maximum—1 RM) resistance training combined with vascular occlusion results in increases in muscle strength and cross-sectional area [Takarada et al. (2002) Eur J Appl Physiol 86:308–331]. The mechanisms responsible for this hypertrophy and strength gain remain elusive and no study has assessed the contribution of neuromuscular adaptations to these strength gains. We examined the effect of low-intensity training (8 weeks of unilateral elbow flexion at 50% 1 RM) both with (OCC) and without vascular occlusion (CON) on neuromuscular changes in the elbow flexors of eight previously untrained men [19.5 (0.4) years]. Following training, maximal voluntary dynamic strength increased (P<0.05) in OCC (22%) and CON (23%); however, isometric maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) strength increased in OCC only (8.3%, P<0.05). Motor unit activation, assessed by interpolated twitch, was high (~98%) in OCC and CON both pre- and post-training. Evoked resting twitch torque decreased 21% in OCC (P<0.05) but was not altered in CON. Training resulted in a reduction in the twitch:MVC ratio in OCC only (29%, P<0.01). Post-activation potentiation (PAP) significantly increased by 51% in OCC (P<0.05) and was not changed in CON. We conclude that low-intensity resistance training in combination with vascular occlusion produces an adequate stimulus for increasing muscle strength and causes changes in indices of neuromuscular function, such as depressed resting twitch torque and enhanced PAP.

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This study was supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada – both SMP and MJG. Daniel Moore is the recipient of an NSERC PGS-A scholarship. Thanks to the subjects for their time and effort. Thanks as well to Mr. John Moroz for his expert technical assistance. SMP is the recipient of a Premier’s Research Excellence Award and a CIHR New Investigator Award and acknowledges these sources of funding in the completion of this work.

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Correspondence to Stuart M. Phillips.

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Moore, D.R., Burgomaster, K.A., Schofield, L.M. et al. Neuromuscular adaptations in human muscle following low intensity resistance training with vascular occlusion. Eur J Appl Physiol 92, 399–406 (2004).

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