Leg- vs arm-cycling repeated sprints with blood flow restriction and systemic hypoxia

  • Sarah J. WillisEmail author
  • Fabio Borrani
  • Grégoire P. Millet
Original Article



The aim was to compare changes in peripheral and cerebral oxygenation, as well as metabolic and performance responses during conditions of blood flow restriction (BFR, bilateral vascular occlusion at 0% vs. 45% of resting pulse elimination pressure) and systemic hypoxia (~ 400 m, FIO2 20.9% vs. ~ 3800 m normobaric hypoxia, FIO2 13.1 ± 0.1%) during repeated sprint tests to exhaustion (RST) between leg- and arm-cycling exercises.


Seven participants (26.6 ± 2.9 years old; 74.0 ± 13.1 kg; 1.76 ± 0.09 m) performed four sessions of RST (10-s maximal sprints with 20-s recovery until exhaustion) during both leg and arm cycling to measure power output and metabolic equivalents as well as oxygenation (near-infrared spectroscopy) of the muscle tissue and prefrontal cortex.


Mean power output was lower in arms than legs (316 ± 118 vs. 543 ± 127 W; p < 0.001) and there were no differences between conditions for a given limb. Arms demonstrated greater changes in concentration of deoxyhemoglobin (∆[HHb], − 9.1 ± 6.1 vs. − 6.5 ± 5.6 μm) and total hemoglobin concentration (∆[tHb], 15.0 ± 10.8 vs. 11.9 ± 7.9 μm), as well as the absolute maximum tissue saturation index (TSI, 62.0 ± 8.3 vs. 59.3 ± 8.1%) than legs, respectively (p < 0.001), demonstrating a greater capacity for oxygen extraction. Further, there were greater changes in tissue blood volume [tHb] during BFR only compared to all other conditions (p < 0.01 for all).


The combination of BFR and/or hypoxia led to increased changes in [HHb] and [tHb] likely due to greater vascular resistance, to which arms were more responsive than legs.


Occlusion BFR Perfusion pressure Blood volume Altitude 



American College of Sports Medicine


Blood flow restriction


Effect size




Near-infrared spectroscopy




Respiratory exchange ratio


Rate of perceived exertion


Repeated sprint ability test to exhaustion


Percent decrement in RST


Highest mean power of either of the first two sprints in RST


Pulse oxygen saturation


Total hemoglobin


Tissue saturation index


Minute ventilation


Maximal oxygen uptake

Delta change over time



The authors would like to thank all participants for their efforts, patience, and cooperation with this study.

Author contributions

SJW, FB, and GPM conceived and designed research. SJW conducted experiments. SJW and FB analyzed data. SJW, FB, and GPM wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sport Sciences, Building Synathlon, Quarter UNIL-Centre, Faculty of Biology and MedicineUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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