Objectives: To compare the short- and long-term effects of low load blood flow restriction (LL-BFR) versus low- (LL-RT) or high-load (HL-RT) resistance training with free blood flow on myoelectric activity, and investigate the differences between failure and non-failure protocols.
Data Source: We identified sources by searching the MEDLINE/PUBMED, CINAHL, WEB OF SCIENCE, CENTRAL, SCOPUS, SPORTDiscus, and PEDro electronic databases.
Study Selection: We screened titles and abstracts of 1048 articles using our inclusion criteria. A total of 39 articles were selected for further analysis.
Data Extraction: Two reviewers independently assessed the methodological quality of each study and extracted data from studies. A meta-analytic approach was used to compute standardized mean differences (SMD ± 95% confidence intervals (CI)). Subgroup analyses were conducted for both failure or non-failure protocols.
Data Synthesis: The search identified n = 39 articles that met the inclusion criteria. Regarding the short-term effects, LL-BFR increased muscle excitability compared with LL-RT during non-failure exercises (SMD 0.61, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.88), whereas HL-RT increased muscle excitability compared with LL-BFR regardless of voluntary failure (SMD −0.61, 95% CI −1.01 to 0.21) or not (SMD −1.13, CI −1.94 to −0.33). Concerning the long-term effects, LL-BFR increased muscle excitability compared with LL-RT during exercises performed to failure (SMD 1.09, CI 0.39 to 1.79).
Conclusions: Greater short-term muscle excitability levels are observed in LL-BFR than LL-RT during non-failure protocols. Conversely, greater muscle excitability is present during HL-RT compared with LL-BFR, regardless of volitional failure. Furthermore, LL-BFR performed to failure increases muscle excitability in the long-term compared with LL-RT.