In order to produce significant muscle hypertrophy, a training intensity of greater than 65% of the 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) is generally believed to be required. However, this concept has been challenged recently by data from studies that have combined 20%-50% 1-RM with restriction of venous blood flow from the working muscle, referred to as KAATSU-training. These studies have demonstrated significant gains in muscle size and strength in as little as 2 weeks in humans. The KAATSU-training model may have utility in models other than humans; several recent papers have investigated the safety and potential utility of KAATSU-training in an equine model. The purpose of this brief review is to discuss the horse as a viable model of KAATSU-training and discuss the available data using this model thus far.
KAATSU training is a novel training, which is performed under conditions of restricted blood flow. It can induce a variety of beneficial effects such as increased muscle strength, and it has been adopted by a number of facilities in recent times. The purpose of the present study is to know the present state of KAATSU training in Japan and examine the incidence of adverse events in the field. The data were obtained from KAATSU leaders or instructors in a total of 105 out of 195 facilities where KAATSU training has been adopted. Based on survey results, 12,642 persons have received KAATSU training (male 45.4%, female 54.6%). KAATSU training has been applied to all generations of people including the young (<20 years old) and the elderly (>80 years old). The most popular purpose of KAATSU training is to strengthen muscle in athletes and to promote the health of subjects, including the elderly. It has been also applied to various kinds of physical conditions, cerebrovascular diseases, orthopedic diseases, obesity, cardiac diseases, neuromuscular diseases, diabetes, hypertension and respiratory diseases. In KAATSU training, various types of exercise modalities (physical exercise, walking, cycling, and weight training) are used. Most facilities have used 5-30 min KAATSU training each time, and performed it 1-3 times a week. Approximately 80% of the facilities are satisfied with the results of KAATSU training with only small numbers of complications reported. The incidence of side effects was as follows; venous thrombus (0.055%), pulmonary embolism (0.008%) and rhabdomyolysis (0.008%). These results indicate that the KAATSU training is a safe and promising method for training athletes and healthy persons, and can also be applied to persons with various physical conditions.
The purpose of this study was to compare the EMG activity of blood flow restricted (limb) and nonrestricted (trunk) muscles during multi-joint exercise with and without KAATSU. Twelve (6 women and 6 men) healthy college students [means (SD) age: 24.1 (3.5) yrs] performed 4 sets (30, 15, 15, and 15 reps) of flat bench press exercise (30% of a predetermined one repetition maximum, 1-RM) during two different conditions [with KAATSU and without KAATSU (Control)]. In the KAATSU condition, a specially designed elastic cuff belt (30 mm wide) was placed at the most proximal position of the upper arm and inflated to a pressure of 100% of individual's resting systolic blood pressure. Surface EMG was recorded from the muscle belly of the triceps brachii (TB) and pectoralis major (PM) muscles, and mean integrated EMG (iEMG) was analyzed. During 4 sets of the exercise, gradual increases in iEMG were observed in both TB and PM muscles for the KAATSU condition. The magnitude of the increases in iEMG in the TB and PM muscles were higher (P<0.05) with KAATSU compared to the Control condition. In the first set, the mean exercise intensity from normalized iEMG was approximately 40% of 1-RM in both Control and KAATSU conditions. However, the mean exercise intensity of both muscles were 60-70% of 1-RM for the KAATSU condition and only about 50% of 1-RM for the Control condition, respectively, during the fourth set. We concluded that increases in iEMG in the trunk muscle during KAATSU might be an important factor for KAATSU training-induced trunk muscle hypertrophy.