What is it Blood Flow Restriction Training?
Blood flow restriction (BFR) involves wrapping a cuff around the upper portion of a limb to restrict blood flow out of the working muscle. When applied correctly, blood flow is allowed to enter the muscle, but the blood is partially restricted from leaving the working muscle.
BFR creates a buildup of the metabolites, such as lactic acid, in the muscles. These metabolites have been shown to have an effect of stimulating muscle growth.
How Does It Work?
When performing BFR, the cuff is placed around the appropriate limb and inflated to a set pressure (mmHG just like when using a blood pressure cuff). Light intensity exercises (typically less than 50% of a 1 rep max) are then performed for multiple sets to achieve the desired response.
Typically the time in the cuff is relatively short and usually ranges around 10-20 total minutes in the cuff.
Will It Work For Me?
BFR may potentially work for you if you have an injury that needs to be protected while it heals while you will want to improve and maintain strength and performance.
For example: You are limited after a knee surgery or shoulder surgery, but want to still try and progress while being limited in the amount of weight you can lift.
Another example: You pulled a hamstring and it is painful to exercise, but you still want to be able to work on strength and work your training program to help get back to activity faster.
Is it Safe?
BFR has been shown to be safe when performed appropriately. The potential negatives that have been seen with the use of BFR come from when the cuff has been placed too tightly, blocking both arterial (blood flow coming to the limb) and veinous (blood flow leaving the limb). When this occurs, it also shows a potential weakening of the limb and not an improvement.
Does It Hurt?
BFR is not painful when performed correctly. There is a tightness with the cuff around the limb, but no pain. The most discomfort that occurs is from the feeling of the “muscle pump” and fatigue that occur earlier with BFR training.
What Are The Ways Blood Flow Restriction Training Is Used?
Because of the benefit of eliciting the muscle growth stimulation with the much lower intensity, BFR has become popular for a variety of uses including body building, general muscle development, and injury recovery especially when restrictions only allow for light loads such as after a surgery. There is has even been studies that have used BFR with trying to aid in recover from spinal cord injuries.