The anabolic benefits of venous blood flow restriction training may be induced by muscle cell swelling

Med Hypotheses. 2012 Jan;78(1):151-4. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.10.014. Epub 2011 Nov 1.


Venous blood flow restriction (VBFR) combined with low intensity resistance exercise (20-30% concentric 1-RM) has been observed to result in skeletal muscle hypertrophy, increased strength, and increased endurance. Knowledge of the mechanisms behind the benefits seen with VBFR is incomplete, but the benefits have traditionally been thought to occur from the decreased oxygen and accumulation of metabolites. Although many of the proposed mechanisms appear valid and are likely true with VBFR combined with resistance exercise, there are certain situations in which benefits are observed without a large accumulation of metabolites and/or large increases in fast twitch fiber type recruitment. Cell swelling appears to be a likely mechanism that appears to be present throughout all studies. VBFR may be able to induce cell swelling through a combination of blood pooling, accumulation of metabolites, and reactive hyperemia following the removal of VBFR which may contribute to skeletal muscle adaptations that occur with VBFR. We hypothesize that cell swelling is important for muscle growth and strength adaptation but when coupled with higher metabolic accumulation, this adaptation is even greater.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle Cells / cytology*
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology*
  • Resistance Training / methods*