For who? researchers, Baby Boomers, retirees, student-athletes
For what? Strength, stamina, functional movement, mobility, flexibility, recovery
Over 10 years ago, academic researchers from Japan confirmed what KAATSU Specialists have long known: that low-intensity exercise with KAATSU Air Bands leads to muscle growth and strength gains.*
These results had long been known to KAATSU Specialists and users since the 1980s.
Many researchers between 2000 – 2005 tested KAATSU Walking with MRI-measured muscle size and strength (maximum dynamic or one repetition maximum) and isometric strength along with blood hormonal parameters. Testing was done on both control groups and experimental groups of subjects ranging from young men to older women.
The testing was done using 20-minute bouts of treadmill speed of 50 meters per minute.
The researchers found a multitude of benefits and changes among the experimental KAATSU users while there was no change in muscle size and dynamic and isometric strength in the control group..
- Serum growth hormone was elevated after KAATSU Walking with the experimental group, but not with the non-KAATSU control group.
- MRI-measured thigh muscle cross-sectional area and muscle volume increased by 4 – 7%.
- One repetition maximum and maximum isometric strength increased between 8 – 10%
Furthermore, indicators of muscle damage (creatine kinase and myoglobin) and resting anabolic hormones did not change with both groups. The researchers concluded that KAATSU Walking induces muscle hypertrophy and strength gain despite the minimum level of exercise intensity after 3 weeks, and that KAATSU Walking may be a potentially useful method for promoting muscle hypertrophy for a wide range of the population including the frail and elderly.
While these benefits have long been known in Japan, there have been many other applications that have since been developed and researched that address age-related skeletal muscle loss (sarcopenia) that inhibits mobility and increases the risk of developing several diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.
As the implications of KAATSU protocols began to be appreciated by the United States military, researchers like Dr. William Ursprung at Texas A&M University studied the effects of KAATSU Walking to improve aerobic capacity. Dr. Ursprung evaluated the effects of KAATSU Walking on VO2max, 1.5 mile run times, and muscular size at low training volumes and intensities with airman from the U.S. Air Force 350th Special Operations and Tactics Training Squadron.
After three weeks of lower extremity KAATSU Walking, the test found significant improvements in VO2max, significant decreases in 1.5 mile run time, and significant increases in thigh muscle cross sectional area and the researchers concluded that KAATSU Walking represents a methodology for improving aerobic capacity, endurance and muscular size at low training volumes and intensities.
This conclusion mirrored the applications for KAATSU that many far forward-thinking coaches and trainers have known and used. For military personnel and athletes who are looking for concurrent improvements in strength and endurance, they do not always have to move, run, swim, cycle or row at maximum intensity if they strategically use KAATSU equipment.
While movement or exercises with KAATSU equipment performed with intensity will result in significant physiological and athletic improvement, it is always unnecessary.
“As long as their technique and athletic form is correct, athletes and military personnel can realize benefits with KAATSU by moving more slowly (i.e., walking versus running or swimming at a moderate pace versus swimming at maximum speed) rather than always going all-out,” explains Steven Munatones. “Perhaps this lowered intensity is appropriate after injuries or immediately after a competition or during a taper phase of training. Perhaps this slower pace or raw speed is simply more appropriate during different parts of any specific workout when an athlete is working on their technique or form.”
This phenomena means that the implications and applications of KAATSU usage expands significantly. When benefits and improvements can be achieved at any speed, pace or level of intensity, coaches and athletes can be much more flexible and creative in their training decisions.
For example, instead of only going all-out sprints with KAATSU, runners, cyclists, swimmers, rowers and skiers can practice at more moderate pace – which means that KAATSU can be done more frequently and with less resultant fatigue.
The same effects of KAATSU have been found with other KAATSU-using mammals like horses, mice, rats, and goats in testing performed in Japan and China.
The photo above show Chinese scientists attaching standard KAATSU Air Bands on the hind legs of goats in northern China under the auspices of China’s State General Administration of Sports, the government agency responsible for sports in China that also administers the Chinese Olympic Committee.
Kenneth McKeever, Ph.D., FACSM serves as the Associate Director of Research and is a Professor of Animal Sciences at The Rutgers Equine Science Center. The Center is part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and is dedicated to better horse care through research
and education to advance the well-being and performance of horses and the equine industry.
Since 1995, Professor McKeever has proceeded to build, develop, and coordinate one of the most active Equine Exercise Physiology laboratories in the USA. One of the most interesting studies that Professor McKeever conducted in collaboration with his colleagues Professors Abe, Kearns, Filho and Sato of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the Tokyo Metropolitan University and the Department of Ischemic Circulatory Physiology at The University of Tokyo in Japan.
His study on this topic of using standard KAATSU Air Bands – the same used on humans – is entitled Muscle, tendon, and somatotropin responses to the restriction of muscle blood flow induced by KAATSU-walk training that was published in Equine Exercise Physiology.
Professor McKeever and his fellow researchers delved into the efficacy of KAATSU being used as both as a therapeutic method as well as a training aid. The purpose of their study was to investigate the effects of slow KAATSU Walking on muscle and tendon size.
They studied 6 healthy, unfit Standardbred mares performed walking (240 meters/minute for 10 minutes and then a 5-minute recovery) with KAATSU, and 6 mares performed walking without KAATSU. The KAATSU Air Bands – the same model and type that were used by humans and with the goats in China – were inflated using KAATSU equipment and placed at the most proximal position of the forelegs and inflated to a pressure of 200-230 mmHg throughout the KAATSU walking and recovery sessions.
The training was conducted once a day, 6 days/week for 2 weeks. Skeletal muscle thickness and tendon thickness were measured using B-mode ultrasound at baseline and after 2 weeks of training. Venous blood samples were obtained before the first acute exercise and 5, 15 and 60 minutes afterwards. Serum somatotropin concentration was determined using a commercially available equine-specific ELISA kit.
The professors found that the acute increase in plasma somatotropin was 40% greater (P<0.05) in the KAATSU Walking group than in the Control-walking group 5 minutes after exercise and remained elevated (P<0.05) at 15 and 60 minutes post exercise compared with the Control-walking group. After 2 weeks of training, muscle thickness increased (P<0.05) 3.5% in the KAATSU Walking group, but did not change in the Control-walking group (0.7%). Tendon thickness did not change (P>0.05) in either group.
They concluded that these data demonstrate that KAATSU can induce muscle hypertrophy in horses and suggest that KAATSU may provide significant therapeutic/rehabilitative value in horses, as has been shown in humans.
* Muscle size and strength are increased following walk training with restricted venous blood flow from the leg muscle, Kaatsu-walk training by Professor Abe and Professor Kearns of Tokyo Metropolitan University and Professor Sato of the University of Tokyo.
** The Effects of Blood Flow Restriction Training on VO2Max and 1.5 Mile Run Performance by William Ursprung, published in the International Journal of Exercise Science.