Upper-extremity blood flow restriction: the proximal, distal, and contralateral effects—a randomized controlled trial



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Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery


Background: Blood flow restriction (BFR) training with low weight is purported to induce similar physiological changes to high-weight regimens with the benefit of less tissue stress. We hypothesized that low-weight training with BFR would produce increased gains in strength and hypertrophy for muscle groups proximal, distal, and contralateral to tourniquet placement compared with low-weight training alone. Methods: In this prospective, randomized controlled trial, healthy subjects were randomized into a 6-week low-weight training program either with or without BFR on 1 extremity. Outcome measures included limb circumference and strength. Comparisons were made between the BFR and non-BFR extremities, BFR and control groups, and non-BFR extremity and control groups. Results: A total of 24 subjects (14 BFR and 10 control subjects) completed the protocol. Significantly greater gains were observed in dynamometric strength both proximal (shoulder scaption [30% greater], flexion [23%], and abduction [22%]) and distal (grip strength [13%]) to the tourniquet in the BFR limb compared with both the non-BFR extremity and the control group (P <.05). Arm and forearm circumferences significantly increased in the BFR limb compared with the non-BFR limb and control group (P =.01). The non-BFR extremity demonstrated greater grip strength than the control group (9%, P <.01). No adverse events were reported. Conclusion: Low-weight BFR training provided a greater increase in strength and hypertrophy in the upper-extremity proximal and distal muscle groups compared with the control group. The non-BFR extremity showed a significant increase in grip strength compared with the control group, indicating a potential systemic effect.

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