Cycle training is widely performed as a major part of any exercise program seeking to improve aerobic capacity and cardiovascular health. However, the effect of cycle training on muscle size and strength gain still requires further insight, even though it is known that professional cyclists display larger muscle size compared to controls. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to discuss the effects of cycle training on muscle size and strength of the lower extremity and the possible mechanisms for increasing muscle size with cycle training. It is plausible that cycle training requires a longer period to significantly increase muscle size compared to typical resistance training due to a much slower hypertrophy rate. Cycle training induces muscle hypertrophy similarly between young and older age groups, while strength gain seems to favor older adults, which suggests that the probability for improving in muscle quality appears to be higher in older adults compared to young adults. For young adults, higher-intensity intermittent cycling may be required to achieve strength gains. It also appears that muscle hypertrophy induced by cycle training results from the positive changes in muscle protein net balance.
To investigate the relationships between site-specific muscle loss in the thigh, muscle quality and zigzag walking performance, 40 men and 41 women aged 65–79 years had muscle thickness (MTH) measured by ultrasound at nine sites on the anterior and posterior aspects of the body. Skeletal muscle mass (SM) was estimated from an ultrasoundderived prediction equation. Site-specific thigh sarcopenia was calculated using ultrasound-measured MTH at the anterior/posterior aspects of the thigh (AP-MTH ratio). Zigzag walking time (ZWT) and maximum isometric knee extension (KE) and flexion (KF) torques were measured. Muscle quality (torque/thigh SM) and knee joint strength index (torque/body mass) were calculated. There were no significant correlations between SM index and ZWT. However, AP-MTH ratio was inversely correlated (P < 0.05) to ZWT in men (r = −0.335) and women (r = −0.309). ZWT was also inversely correlated (P < 0.05) to KE-strength index in both sexes (men, r = −0.328; women, r = −0.372). Similarly, ZWT was correlated to KF-strength index (r = −0.497) and muscle quality (r = −0.322) in women, but not in men. After adjusting for age, height and body mass, AP-MTH ratio was inversely correlated to ZWT in men (r = −0.325) and tended to be correlated to ZWT in women (r = −0.263). Zigzag walking performance may be associated with site-specific thigh sarcopenia in older men and women.
To remain independent and healthy, an important factor to consider is the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass. Inactivity leads to measurable changes in muscle and bone, reduces exercise capacity, impairs the immune system, and decreases the sensitivity to insulin. Therefore, maintaining physical activity is of great importance for skeletal muscle health. One form of structured physical activity is resistance training. Generally speaking, one needs to lift weights at approximately 70% of their one repetition maximum (1RM) to have noticeable increases in muscle size and strength. Although numerous positive effects are observed from heavy resistance training, some at risk populations (e.g. elderly, rehabilitating patients, etc.) might be advised not to perform high-load resistance training and may be limited to performance of low-load resistance exercise. A technique which applies pressure cuffs to the limbs causing blood flow restriction (BFR) has been shown to attenuate atrophy and when combined with low intensity exercise has resulted in an increase in both muscle size and strength across different age groups. We have provided an evidence based model of progression from bed rest to higher load resistance training, based largely on BFR literature concentrating on more at risk populations, to highlight a possible path to recovery.
Previous studies reported that aerobic-type exercise such as walking or cycling with blood flow restriction (BFR) has been shown to elicit increases in leg muscle hypertrophy and strength, as well as improved aerobic capacity. Although previous studies investigated cardiovascular responses during a relatively short duration of exercise (∼5 min), the effects of prolonged leg muscular BFR have remained unknown. The purpose of this study was to examine the cardiovascular effects of longer duration low intensity exercise combined with BFR. Eight men performed 30 min of exercise at 40% of a predetermined maximal oxygen uptake under both BFR and normal flow (CON) conditions. Cardiovascular parameters were measured at rest and every 10 min during exercise. The main findings were that 1) the SV and HR did not change significantly between 10 to 30 min of exercise in BFR and CON conditions, although BFR-induced reduction of SV and increased HR were found at 10 min exercise compared with normal flow, 2) blood pressure was increased at 10 min of exercise in BFR compared to the CON, however the blood pressure decreased gradually with BFR from 10 to 30 min of exercise, and 3) blood lactate and RPE increased gradually during exercise with BFR. In conclusion, our results suggest that the BFR-induced reduction of SV and increased HR within the first 10 min of exercise are representative of changes in these parameters.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the potential mechanisms behind the blood flow restriction (BFR) stimulus in the absence of exercise. Nine participants completed a 10 minute time control and then a BFR protocol. The protocol was five, 5-minute bouts of inflation with 3-minutes of deflation between each bout. The pressure was set relative to each individual’s thigh circumference. Significant increases in muscle thickness were observed for both the vastus lateralis (VL) [6%, p = 0.027] and rectus femoris (RF) [22%, p = 0.001] along with a significant decrease in plasma volume [15%, p = 0.001]. Ratings of discomfort during the BFR protocol peaked at 2.7 (light discomfort). There were no significant changes with whole blood lactate, electromyography (EMG), or heart rate (HR), however, there was a trend for a significant increase in HR during the 5th inflation (p = 0.057). In conclusion, this is the first study to demonstrate that the attenuation of both muscle atrophy and declines in strength previously observed with brief applications of BFR may have been mediated through an acute fluid shift induced increase in muscle size. This is supported by our finding that the changes in muscle thickness are maintained even after the cuffs have been removed.
Blood flow restriction (BFR) combined with low load resistance training has been shown to result in muscle hypertrophy similar to that observed with higher loads. However, not all studies have found BFR efficacious, possibly due to methodological differences. It is presently unclear whether there are differences between cuffs of similar size (5 cm) but different material (nylon vs. elastic). The purpose was to determine if there are differences in repetitions to fatigue and perceptual ratings of exertion (RPE) and discomfort between narrow elastic and narrow nylon cuffs. Sixteen males and females completed three sets of BFR knee extension exercise in a randomized cross-over design using either elastic or nylon restrictive cuffs applied at the proximal thigh. There were no differences in repetitions to fatigue (marker of blood flow) or perceptual ratings between narrow elastic and narrow nylon cuffs. This data suggests that either elastic or nylon cuffs of the same width should cause similar degrees of BFR at the same pressure during resistance exercise.