Blood Flow Restriction Training for Everyone?
One of the hottest trends in fitness right now is blood flow restriction training (BFR), also called occlusion training. It’s helping people everywhere get results! Kusha stops by to give us the blood flow restriction training breakdown!
The Nuts and Bolts of BFR Training
When I first heard about blood flow restriction training (BFR) a few years ago, I thought ‘no way, this can’t be good for you.’ But then I started seeing study after study published on the safety and efficacy of BFR training in all populations.
Men, women, young, old, athlete, injury rehab – all different types of people with different goals were benefiting from the use of BFR.
To date, there have been over 200 research studies to prove this training methodology as an effective way to gain muscle and get lean and tone.
Not to mention that studies such as the one on Blood flow-restricted exercise in space suggests that “it is evident that this type of training could be applicable as an adjunct countermeasure to combat musculoskeletal and cardiovascular dysfunctions during missions beyond low-earth orbit.”
Now, let’s talk about why anyone would adopt BFR training. First off, learning how to get more from less is fundamentally human nature – I mean, who wouldn’t want to get more muscle from their workout? BFR bands are a supplemental weightlifting tool that you can add to your existing routine that will allow you to lift less, but gain more muscle.
Still skeptical? Check out a recent study that highlights the benefits we will talk about today: https://goo.gl/nd5a2q .
As a technique for weight training, BFR involves restricting venous blood flow from the muscle group that you are focusing on. The intent is to allow the venous blood to “pool” in the region of the body you’re training (i.e. upper or lower limbs).
By doing this, the body will naturally trigger several hormone responses that cause an anabolic push to the large fast twitch muscles. Because they are the largest muscle group, they are the most likely to gain mass and tone quickly.
BFR Training 101
The occlusion training bands should be applied right below the deltoid for the arms, or right below the hips on the quads. Also, they shouldn’t feel terribly uncomfortable (a level 7 out of 10 in terms of tightness), and you shouldn’t completely restrict all blood flow.
Most studies conducted on the value of occlusion training are similar to what you probably know as high-load training in terms of results. Studies show that, when compared to other types of training, occlusion training results in greater development of muscle mass than without.
Blood flow restriction training also appears to increase muscle strength as well.
BFR Training Bands and How They Work
So, how does it work? The premise is simple. When you workout using conventional methods, all of the metabolic byproducts of the workout move through and out of your body.
With BFR training, the movement of the exertion hormones and byproducts are restricted from leaving the limbs, forcing them to pool in or near the trained region. By doing this, several things occur in your body.
First, your body will interpret this occlusion and, in an attempt to compensate, will release more of the anabolic growth hormones.
The production of protein is also increased. Restricting blood flow during your workout also has been shown to aid in the repair of cells and tissues that are broken down during the workout cycle.
Second, by restricting blood flow to the muscles that you are focusing on, the smaller slow-twitch muscles fibers which rely on oxygen for energy starve out quickly, forcing the use and muscle damage of the fast twitch fibers – the fibers with the highest potential for growth.
TypeII fast twitch muscle fibers are typically used during the final phase of a muscle contraction, not using oxygen, but by restricting blood flow the body must begin using the fast twitch fibers much sooner.
Occluded Blood Flow Technique
So, how should you train using this restrictive blood flow technique? Using your occlusion training bands, occlude the limbs of the area of the body you are focusing on.
Tie it tight enough that it is mildly uncomfortable but not completely restricting all blood flow. This weightlifting technique is best used for a cycle of 48 weeks, or during the last week of each month as a deload week to prevent overtraining.
BFR training is an extremely successful way to maximize your workout, allowing you to lift less weight and gain more muscle mass. It can be extremely painful and sometimes difficult, even when the load is light.
It is an excellent way to grow and tone thigh, calf, and arm muscles. Studies have also shown that removing the occlusion during the workout to allow for a rush of the blood back to the muscle and the occluding it again does not produce a greater result, so it is better to leave the occlusion on during the entire workout.
The recommended load to lift during BFR is at least 30% (and no greater than 70%) of your maximum to achieve hypertrophy in the muscle and achieve the desired results.
Considering several studies pertaining to this type of training, BFR training makes sense because major imbalances between muscle protein synthesis and muscle breakdown are the process that occurs during hypertrophy, the load lifted during the exercise is less important than what is actually occurring inside your body.
One other important key factor to consider is the release of various hormones as described previously. Several naturally occurring hormones are produced at an elevated rate during BFR.
This elevation of hormone production has always been associated with acute resistance exercise routines with or without the restriction of blood flow, but the same product can be achieved with less work and to a higher degree.
BFR Training for Distant Muscle Groups
Muscle hypertrophy is what blood flow restriction training studies have focused on.
However, if you want to develop muscle groups apart from the occlusion sites like occlusion bands on upper arms, it may be good for you to use occlusion training.
This will be suitable if you want to increase your bench press strength and increase your chest muscle mass especially if you have an injury. Although it involves lighter weights, a new study has claimed that occlusion bench press helps to increase your muscle mass and strength if you have an injury or during inactivity.
Published in the Journal Clinical Physiology & Functional Imaging, the study examined the effect of restricting blood flow to the upper arm muscles especially during a low intensity bench press workout. The study divided the volunteers into two groups.
One group was a control group while the other was a blood flow restricted group. For four weeks and six days every week, the two groups bench pressed 30 percent of their 1 repetition max (1RM) two times daily. There was a total of 75 repetitions during the workouts.
The group with the blood flow restricted bench pressed with elastic cuffs on both arms. It was noted that the pressure increase progressively on the two arms. External compression experienced an increase of 60 mmHg starting at 100 mmHg and ended at 160 mmHg.
The blood flow restriction training group showed amazing results with an increase in muscle thickness experienced in the triceps, pectorals major ad an increase in the bench press strength.
The triceps muscle thickness increased at a rate of 8%, the pectorals major 16% and the bench press increased to 6%. The control group 1RM bench decreased by 2%.
This study is applicable to individuals having an injury that affects their workout. The two groups in this study it should be noted were novices.
With an injury, no advanced bench presser rains with 30% of his 1RM. When novices start their training, initial strength gains are neural. They get even better the movement pattern. Strength gain will take much longer because of the increased muscle mass.
Restricting blood flow to the upper arms while lifting light weights helps the bench presser to retain his or her muscle hypertrophy and also reach their maximum limit bench pressing strength. Those people who are mostly travelling and cannot easily find heavy weights can also benefit from this.
By incorporating blood flow restriction training into your workout, you can use light weights and still gain muscle mass.
So – what do we take from all of this? Blood flow restriction training can produce the same or better results with less work. Joints that are directly above the muscle groups that are the focus of the workout are tied off using occlusion bands allowing some blood flow.
This type of exercise should only be augmentation, not a long-term replacement for traditional strength training.
That being said, you can “get more for less” by adding this as a supplemental workout to your regular routine. Now get after it!