Training with blood flow restriction increases femoral artery diameter and thigh oxygen delivery during knee-extensor exercise in recreationally trained men

J Physiol. 2020 Jun;598(12):2337-2353. doi: 10.1113/JP279554. Epub 2020 May 10.


Key points: Endurance-type training with blood flow restriction (BFR) increases maximum oxygen uptake ( V̇O2max ) and exercise endurance of humans. However, the physiological mechanisms behind this phenomenon remain uncertain. In the present study, we show that BFR-interval training reduces the peripheral resistance to oxygen transport during dynamic, submaximal exercise in recreationally-trained men, mainly by increasing convective oxygen delivery to contracting muscles. Accordingly, BFR-training increased oxygen uptake by, and concomitantly reduced net lactate release from, the contracting muscles during relative-intensity-matched exercise, at the same time as invoking a similar increase in diffusional oxygen conductance compared to the training control. Only BFR-training increased resting femoral artery diameter, whereas increases in oxygen transport and uptake were dissociated from changes in the skeletal muscle content of mitochondrial electron-transport proteins. Thus, physically trained men benefit from BFR-interval training by increasing leg convective oxygen transport and reducing lactate release, thereby improving the potential for increasing the percentage of V̇O2max that can be sustained throughout exercise.

Abstract: In the present study, we investigated the effect of training with blood flow restriction (BFR) on thigh oxygen transport and uptake, and lactate release, during exercise. Ten recreationally-trained men (50 ± 5 mL kg-1 min-1 ) completed 6 weeks of interval cycling with one leg under BFR (BFR-leg; pressure: ∼180 mmHg) and the other leg without BFR (CON-leg). Before and after the training intervention (INT), thigh oxygen delivery, extraction, uptake, diffusion capacity and lactate release were determined during knee-extensor exercise at 25% incremental peak power output (iPPO) (Ex1), followed by exercise to exhaustion at 90% pre-training iPPO (Ex2), by measurement of femoral-artery blood flow and femoral-arterial and -venous blood sampling. A muscle biopsy was obtained from legs before and after INT to determine mitochondrial electron-transport protein content. Femoral-artery diameter was also measured. In the BFR-leg, after INT, oxygen delivery and uptake were higher, and net lactate release was lower, during Ex1 (vs. CON-leg; P < 0.05), with an 11% larger increase in workload (vs. CON-leg; P < 0.05). During Ex2, after INT, oxygen delivery was higher, and oxygen extraction was lower, in the BFR-leg compared to the CON-leg (P < 0.05), resulting in an unaltered oxygen uptake (vs. CON-leg; P > 0.05). In the CON-leg, at both intensities, oxygen delivery, extraction, uptake and lactate release remained unchanged (P > 0.05). Resting femoral artery diameter increased with INT only in the BFR-leg (∼4%; P < 0.05). Oxygen diffusion capacity was similarly raised in legs (P < 0.05). Mitochondrial protein content remained unchanged in legs (P > 0.05). Thus, BFR-interval training enhances oxygen utilization by, and lowers lactate release from, submaximally-exercising muscles of recreationally-trained men mainly by increasing leg convective oxygen transport.

Keywords: OXPHOS; aerobic metabolism; blood flow restriction; lactate; mitochondrial protein; oxygen transport; oxygen uptake; training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Femoral Artery
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Thigh*


  • Oxygen