European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 117, Issue 2, pp 345–358 | Cite as

Acute low-intensity cycling with blood-flow restriction has no effect on metabolic signaling in human skeletal muscle compared to traditional exercise

  • William J. Smiles
  • Miguel S. Conceição
  • Guilherme D. Telles
  • Mara P. T. Chacon-Mikahil
  • Cláudia R. Cavaglieri
  • Felipe C. Vechin
  • Cleiton A. Libardi
  • John A. Hawley
  • Donny M. Camera
Original Article



Autophagy is an intracellular degradative system sensitive to hypoxia and exercise-induced perturbations to cellular bioenergetics. We determined the effects of low-intensity endurance-based exercise performed with blood-flow restriction (BFR) on cell signaling adaptive responses regulating autophagy and substrate metabolism in human skeletal muscle.


In a randomized cross-over design, nine young, healthy but physically inactive males completed three experimental trials separated by 1 week of recovery consisting of either a resistance exercise bout (REX: 4 × 10 leg press repetitions, 70% 1-RM), endurance exercise (END: 30 min cycling, 70% VO2peak), or low-intensity cycling with BFR (15 min, 40% VO2peak). A resting muscle biopsy was obtained from the vastus lateralis 2 weeks prior to the first exercise trial and 3 h after each exercise bout.


END increased ULK1Ser757 phosphorylation above rest and BFR (~37 to 51%, P < 0.05). Following REX, there were significant elevations compared to rest (~348%) and BFR (~973%) for p38γ MAPKThr180/Tyr182 phosphorylation (P < 0.05). Parkin content was lower following BFR cycling compared to REX (~20%, P < 0.05). There were no exercise-induced changes in select markers of autophagy following BFR. Genes implicated in substrate metabolism (HK2 and PDK4) were increased above rest (~143 to 338%) and BFR cycling (~212 to 517%) with END (P < 0.001).


A single bout of low-intensity cycling with BFR is insufficient to induce intracellular “stress” responses (e.g., high rates of substrate turnover and local hypoxia) necessary to activate skeletal muscle autophagy signaling.


Blood-flow restriction Exercise Autophagy Mitophagy 



AMP-activated protein kinase


Analysis of variance


Autophagy-related gene


Blood-flow restriction


Body mass


Bcl-2/adenovirus E1B 19 kDa-interacting protein-3


Eukaryotic initiation factor 2α


Eukaryotic initiation factor 2Bε


Endurance exercise


Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2


Effect size


Glucose transporter 4


Glycogen synthase


Glycogen synthase kinase 3β




Microtubule-associated protein-1 light chain 3 beta


Mitogen-activated protein kinase


Mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1


Pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4




Resistance exercise


Repetition maximum




Unc-51-like kinase 1


Peak oxygen uptake




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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. Smiles
    • 1
  • Miguel S. Conceição
    • 2
  • Guilherme D. Telles
    • 2
  • Mara P. T. Chacon-Mikahil
    • 2
  • Cláudia R. Cavaglieri
    • 2
  • Felipe C. Vechin
    • 3
  • Cleiton A. Libardi
    • 4
  • John A. Hawley
    • 1
    • 5
  • Donny M. Camera
    • 1
  1. 1.Mary MacKillop Institute for Health ResearchCentre for Exercise and Nutrition, Australian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Physical EducationUniversity of CampinasCampinasBrazil
  3. 3.School of Physical Education and SportUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratory of Neuromuscular Adaptations to Resistance Training, Department of Physical EducationFederal University of São CarlosSão CarlosBrazil
  5. 5.Research Institute for Sport and Exercise SciencesLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

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