Low-load blood flow restriction training induces similar morphological and mechanical Achilles tendon adaptations compared to high-load resistance training

Review written by Dr Nicholas Rolnick info

Key Points

  1. For the first time, low-load training (20-35% 1RM) with blood flow restriction was shown to improve Achilles tendon physical properties (stiffness and cross-sectional area) to a similar degree as high-load training (> 70% 1RM).
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BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE

Typical recommendations for improving the physical properties of tendons (such as cross-sectional area and stiffness) include resistance training above 70% 1RM (1). Low-loads have been shown to be ineffective at improving the physical properties of tendons (2). However, a new form of low-load training called blood flow restriction (BFR) training has been shown to provide similar benefits to muscle mass and strength as heavier resistance training (>70% 1RM) (3). Not much is known about whether BFR can improve the physical properties of tendons at similar low-load protocols. The authors of this paper set out to investigate!

Low-load blood flow restriction training has been shown to provide similar benefits to muscle mass and strength as heavier resistance training (>70% 1RM).
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This study raises questions about our current understanding of tendon physiology and provides a potential new avenue to utilize low-load blood flow restriction training in the clinical setting to elicit positive tendon adaptations.

METHODS

This study examined the effects of low-load BFR (20-35% 1RM) on in vivo Achilles tendon (AT) properties (stiffness, cross-sectional area (CSA) and Young’s Modulus) and muscle adaptations (Gastrocnemius CSA and plantarflexion torque) and compared them to traditional high-load (70-85% 1RM)

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