Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2024) 23, 46 - 55   DOI:

Research article
The Improvement in Exercise Performance during Reduced Muscle Mass Exercise is Associated with an Increase in Femoral Blood Flow in Older and Younger Endurance-Trained Athletes
Toni Haddad1,2, , Angela L. Spence3,4, Jeremiah Peiffer5, Gregory M. Blain2, Jeanick Brisswalter2, Chris R. Abbiss1
Author Information
1 Centre for Human Performance, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, Australia
2 Université Côte d’Azur, LAMHESS, France
3 Curtin School of Allied Health, Exercise and Sport Science Discipline, Curtin University, WA, Australia
4 Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University, WA, Australia
5 Centre for Healthy Ageing, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, Australia

Toni Haddad
Centre for Human Performance, School of Medical and Health Sciences Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, WA, Australia 6027
Publish Date
Received: 09-10-2023
Accepted: 01-12-2023
Published (online): 01-03-2024

This study investigated whether the improved performance observed with maximal self-paced single-leg (SL), compared with double-leg (DL) cycling, is associated with enhanced femoral blood flow and/or altered tissue oxygenation. The hyperaemic response to exercise was assessed in younger and older athletes. Power output was measured in 12 older (65 ± 4 y) and 12 younger (35 ± 5 y) endurance-trained individuals performing 2 x 3 min maximal self-paced exercise using SL and DL cycling. Blood flow (BF) in the femoral artery was assessed using Doppler ultrasound and muscle oxygenation was measured using near-infrared spectroscopy on the vastus lateralis. SL cycling elicited a greater power output (295 ± 83 vs 265 ± 70 W, P < 0.001) and peak femoral BF (1749.1 ± 533.3 vs 1329.7 ± 391.7 ml/min, P < 0.001) compared with DL cycling. Older individuals had a lower peak BF in response to exercise (1355.4 ± 385.8 vs 1765.2 ± 559.6 ml/min, P = 0.019) compared with younger individuals. Peak BF in response to exercise was correlated with power output during SL (r = 0.655, P = 0.002) and DL (r = 0.666, P = 0.001) cycling. The greater exercise performance during SL compared with DL cycling may be partly explained by a greater hyperaemic response when reducing active muscle mass. Despite regular endurance training, older athletes had a lower femoral BF in response to maximal self-paced exercise compared with younger athletes.

Key words: Blood flow, muscle oxygenation, muscle mass, endurance, ultrasound, ageing

           Key Points
  • A transition from large to small muscle mass exercise (i.e., single-leg compared with double-leg cycling) allowed for a greater peripheral hyperaemic response in the locomotor muscles.
  • The ability to increase femoral blood flow during single-leg compared with double-leg cycling may partly explain the improvement in power output per leg observed in both, younger and older athletes.
  • Femoral blood flow in response to maximal exercise was lower in older compared with younger endurance-trained individuals regardless of the amount of muscle mass engaged.
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