Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a somewhat new technique that has gained popularity in recent years for its ability to help athletes train and recover. By restricting blood flow to specific muscles during exercise, BFR training can enhance muscle growth and strength, improve endurance, and even aid in injury rehabilitation.
How Does Blood Flow Restriction Training Work?
What is Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training? Its exactly how it sounds. You cut off blood flow to one or several limbs. Cuffs or resistance bands provide the limb occlusion
The general concept of how this works is that by limiting blood flow to the muscles, the environment becomes hypoxic. This environment causes metabolic stress. This leads to the body initiating the healing response to promote muscle repair
TLDR You can get more stimulus to a muscle with less effort
Who Can Benefit From Blood Flow Restriction Training?
- People with boney injury
- In season athletes
Some of the best data for BFR is in older women with osteoporosis. They don’t have the ability to load their tissue as much to build strength. But what if your grandma could use BFR and a 5lb DB and get similar results to using 25lb DBs?
BFR is an excellent option for people that do not have the tolerance for traditional strength training. This is a restriction a lot of elderly have, making BFR an excellent option for them (source).
If your foot is broken, you can’t do much in terms of weight training But what if you could do BFR, do some simple toe/ankle movement and speed up healing?
There is also excellent data in using BFR in stress injuries. Read more about stress fractures here. If you have a stress fracture, BFR could be an excellent tool for rehab for you.
In Season Athletes
In season athletes Managing in season load is a task most people struggle with If you could load tissue enough to promote a healing response without actually causing stress/soreness, you’re in business
Essentially BFR is best suited for people that don’t have the capacity to train normally for whatever reason
Precautions With Blood Flow Restriction Training
I would not use bands for this BFR needs to be around 80% occlusion pressure for the lower extremity and 50% for the upper Occlusion pressure is just how much blood is actually being restricted
If you use bands, you have no way to gauge what the occlusion is You could be doing too little and getting no effect at all Could do too much and cause tissue damage Use cuffs that can actually measure the pressure
If you have the capacity for traditional strength training, I suggest doing that as BFR does not provide additional benefit in a healthy population