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Muscle Nerve. 2010 Oct;42(4):539-46. doi: 10.1002/mus.21721.

Low-volume resistance exercise attenuates the decline in strength and muscle mass associated with immobilization.

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  • 1Exercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1, Canada.


We determined the effectiveness of low-volume resistance exercise (EX) for the attenuation of loss of muscle mass and strength during leg immobilization. Men (N = 5) and women (N = 12, age 24 ± 5 years, body mass index 25.4 ± 3.6 kg/m(2)) were divided into two groups: exercise (EX; n = 12) and control (CON; n = 5). Subjects wore a knee brace on one leg that prevented weight bearing for 14 days. Resistance exercise (EX; 80% of maximal) was performed by the immobilized limb every other day. Immobilization induced a significant reduction (P < 0.05) in muscle fiber and thigh cross-sectional area (CSA), isometric knee extensor, and plantarflexor strength in the CON (P < 0.01) but not in the EX group. There were significant losses in triceps surae CSA in the CON and EX groups (P < 0.05), but the losses were greater in CON subjects (P < 0.01). A minimal volume (140 contractions in 14 days) of resistive exercise is an effective countermeasure against immobilization-induced atrophy of the quadriceps femoris but is only partially effective for the triceps surae.

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