Blood Flow-restricted Exercise Does Not Induce a Cross-Transfer of Effect: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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© 2019 by the American College of Sports Medicine. Purpose The goal of this trial was to determine whether low-load blood flow-restricted (BFR) exercise of appendicular muscles induces a cross-transfer of effect to the trunk extensor (TE) muscles, such that low-load TE exercise would enhance TE size and function to a greater extent than standard low-load exercise in people with recurrent low back pain (LBP). We also investigated the direct effects of BFR exercise in the appendicular muscles. Methods Thirty-two adults with recurrent, nonspecific LBP were randomized into two groups: Appendicular BFR exercise (BFR exercise) or control exercise (CON exercise). All participants trained (two times per week) for 10 wk, with a 12-wk follow-up. Participants performed three sets of leg extension (LE), plantar flexion (PF), and elbow flexion (EF) exercises followed by low-load TE exercise without BFR. Outcome measures included magnetic resonance imaging-derived muscle size (quadriceps and TE), strength (LE, PF, EF, and TE), and endurance (LE and TE). Results There was no evidence for a cross-transfer of effect to the TE. There was also no statistically significant enhancement of limb skeletal muscle size or function of BFR relative to CON exercise at any time point; though, moderate effect sizes for BFR exercise were observed for enhanced muscle size and strength in the leg extensors. Conclusions Low-load BFR exercise of the appendicular muscles did not result in a cross-transfer of effect to the TE musculature. There was also no significant benefit of low-load BFR exercise on the appendicular muscle size and function, suggesting no benefit from low-load BFR exercise in adults with recurrent, nonspecific LBP.