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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and Perceived Exertion After Blood Flow Restriction Exercise

Brandner, Christopher R.1,2; Warmington, Stuart A.1

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: November 2017 - Volume 31 - Issue 11 - p 3101–3108
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001779
Original Research

Brandner, CR, and Warmington, SA. Delayed onset muscle soreness and perceived exertion after blood flow restriction exercise. J Strength Cond Res 31(11): 3101–3108, 2017—The purpose of this study was to determine the perceptual responses to resistance exercise with heavy loads (80% 1 repetition maximum [1RM]), light loads (20% 1RM), or light loads in combination with blood flow restriction (BFR). Despite the use of light loads, it has been suggested that the adoption of BFR resistance exercise may be limited because of increases in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and perceived exertion. Seventeen healthy untrained males participated in this balanced, randomized cross-over study. After 4 sets of elbow-flexion exercise, participants reported ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), with DOMS also recorded for 7 days after each trial. Delayed onset muscle soreness was significantly greater for low-pressure continuous BFR (until 48 hours postexercise) and high-pressure intermittent BFR (until 72 hours postexercise) than for traditional heavy-load resistance exercise and light-load resistance exercise. In addition, RPE was higher for heavy-load resistance exercise and high-pressure intermittent BFR than for low-pressure continuous BFR, with all trials greater than light-load resistance exercise. For practitioners working with untrained participants, this study provides evidence to suggest that to minimize the perception of effort and postexercise muscle soreness associated with BFR resistance exercise, continuous low-pressure application may be more preferential than intermittent high-pressure application. Importantly, these perceptual responses are relatively short-lived (∼2 days) and have previously been shown to subside after a few exercise sessions. Combined with smaller initial training volumes (set × repetitions), this may limit RPE and DOMS to strengthen uptake and adherence and assist in program progression for muscle hypertrophy and gains in strength.

1Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne Campus at Burwood, Victoria, Australia; and

2Sport Science Department, Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence, Doha, Qatar

Address correspondence to Dr. Christopher Brandner,

Copyright © 2017 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.