Acute and chronic effect of sprint interval training combined with post-exercise blood flow restriction in trained individuals

New Findings What is the central question of this study? Does the combination of sprint interval training with postexercise blood-flow restriction enhance maximal aerobic physiology and performance in trained individuals? What is the main finding and its importance? We demonstrate the potency of combining blood-flow restriction with sprint interval training in increasing maximal oxygen uptake in trained individuals; however, this did not translate to an enhanced exercise performance. We also show that blood-flow restriction combined with sprint interval training enhanced postexercise hypoxia-inducible factor-1α mRNA expression, suggesting the possibility for greater hypoxia-mediated adaptations, such as enhanced capillary growth, with this intervention. This investigation assessed the efficacy of sprint interval training (SIT) combined with postexercise blood-flow restriction as a novel approach to enhance maximal aerobic physiology and performance. In study 1, a between-groups design was used to determine whether 4 weeks (2 days per week) of SIT (repeated 30 s maximal sprint cycling) combined with postexercise blood-flow restriction (BFR) enhanced maximal oxygen uptake (inline image) and 15 km cycling time-trial performance (15 km TT) compared with SIT alone (CON) in trained individuals. The inline image increased after BFR by 4.5% (P = 0.01) but was unchanged after CON. There was no difference in 15 km TT performance after CON or BFR. In study 2, using a repeated-measures design, participants performed an acute bout of either BFR or CON. Muscle biopsies were taken before and after exercise to examine the activation of signalling pathways regulating angiogenesis and mitochondrial biogenesis. Phosphorylation of p38MAPKThr180/Tyr182 increased by a similar extent after CON and BFR. There was no difference in the magnitude of increase in PGC-1α, VEGF and VEGFR-2 mRNA expression between protocols; however, HIF-1α mRNA expression increased (P = 0.04) at 3 h only after BFR. We have demonstrated the potency of combining BFR with SIT in increasing inline image in trained individuals, but this did not translate to an enhanced exercise performance. Sprint interval training alone did not induce any observable adaptation. Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, we present preliminary evidence that BFR leads to enhanced HIF-1α-mediated cell signalling.