INTRODUCTION: Ischemic preconditioning enhances ergometer cycling and swimming performance. We evaluated whether ischemic preconditioning of one forearm (four times for 5 min) also affects static breath hold and underwater swimming, whereas the effect of similar preconditioning on ergometer rowing served as control because the warm-up for rowing regularly encompasses intense exercise and therefore reduced muscle oxygenation. METHODS: Six divers performed a dry static breath hold, 11 divers swam underwater in an indoor pool, and 14 oarsmen rowed "1000 m" on an ergometer. RESULTS: Ischemic preconditioning reduced the forearm oxygen saturation from 65% ± 7% to 19% ± 7% (mean ± SD; P < 0.001), determined using spatially resolved near-infrared spectroscopy. During the breath hold (315 s, range = 280-375 s), forearm oxygenation decreased to 29% ± 10%; and in preparation for rowing, right thigh oxygenation decreased from 66% ± 7% to 33% ± 14% (P < 0.05). Ischemic preconditioning prolonged the breath hold from 279 ± 72 to 327 ± 39 s, and the underwater swimming distance from 110 ± 16 to 119 ± 14 m (P < 0.05) and also the rowing time was reduced (from 186.5 ± 3.6 to 185.7 ± 3.6 s; P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that while the effect of ischemic preconditioning (of one forearm) on ergometer rowing was minimal, probably because of reduced muscle oxygenation during the warm-up, ischemic preconditioning does enhance both static and dynamic apnea, supporting that muscle ischemia is an important preparation for physical activity.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2014, Vol 46, Issue 1, p. 151-155