The influence of participant characteristics on the relationship between cuff pressure and level of blood flow restriction

Purpose: Previous investigations to establish factors influencing the blood flow restriction (BFR) stimulus have determined cuff pressures required for complete arterial occlusion, which does not reflect the partial restriction prescribed for this training technique. This study aimed to establish characteristics that should be accounted for when prescribing cuff pressures required for partial BFR. Methods: Fifty participants were subjected to incremental blood flow restriction of the upper and lower limbs by proximal pneumatic cuff inflation. Popliteal and brachial artery diameter, blood velocity and blood flow was assessed with Doppler ultrasound. Height, body mass, limb circumference, muscle–bone cross-sectional area, adipose thickness (AT) and arterial blood pressure were measured and used in different models of hierarchical linear regression to predict the pressure at which 60 % BFR (partial occlusion) occurred. Results: Combined analysis revealed a difference in cuff pressures required to elicit 60 % BFR in the popliteal (111 ± 12 mmHg) and brachial arteries (101 ± 12 mmHg). MAP (r = 0.58) and AT (r = −0.45) were the largest independent determinants of lower and upper body partial occlusion pressures. However, greater variance was explained by upper and lower limb regression models composed of DBP and BMI (48 %), and arm AT and DBP (30 %), respectively. Conclusion: Limb circumference has limited impact on the cuff pressure required for partial blood flow restriction which is in contrast to its recognised relationship with complete arterial occlusion. The majority of the variance in partial occlusion pressure remains unexplained by the predictor variables assessed in the present study.