Comparisons between low-intensity resistance training with blood flow restriction and high-intensity resistance training on quadriceps muscle mass and strength in elderly

J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Apr;29(4):1071-6. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000703.


High-intensity resistance training (HRT) has been recommended to offset age-related loss in muscle strength and mass. However, part of the elderly population is often unable to exercise at high intensities. Alternatively, low-intensity resistance training with blood flow restriction (LRT-BFR) has emerged. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of LRT-BFR and HRT on quadriceps muscle strength and mass in elderly. Twenty-three elderly individuals, 14 men and 9 women (age, 64.04 ± 3.81 years; weight, 72.55 ± 16.52 kg; height, 163 ± 11 cm), undertook 12 weeks of training. Subjects were ranked according to their pretraining quadriceps cross-sectional area (CSA) values and then randomly allocated into one of the following groups: (a) control group, (b) HRT: 4 × 10 repetitions, 70-80% one repetition maximum (1RM), and (c) LRT-BFR: 4 sets (1 × 30 and 3 × 15 repetitions), 20-30% 1RM. The occlusion pressure was set at 50% of maximum tibial arterial pressure and sustained during the whole training session. Leg press 1RM and quadriceps CSA were evaluated at before and after training. A mixed-model analysis was performed, and the significance level was set at p ≤ 0.05. Both training regimes were effective in increasing pre- to post-training leg press 1RM (HRT: ∼54%, p < 0.001; LRT-BFR: ∼17%, p = 0.067) and quadriceps CSA (HRT: 7.9%, p < 0.001; LRT-BFR: 6.6%, p < 0.001); however, HRT seems to induce greater strength gains. In summary, LRT-BFR constitutes an important surrogate approach to HRT as an effective training method to induce gains in muscle strength and mass in elderly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arterial Pressure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / methods*
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / physiology*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / anatomy & histology
  • Quadriceps Muscle / blood supply*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Tibial Arteries / physiology