If you’ve been at the gym recently and notice someone weightlifting with bands wrapped around their biceps, they are likely trying out a new training regimen called Blood Flow Restriction Training, or BFR. The strategy behind Blood Flow Restriction Training is to maintain arterial blood flow to a muscle, while preventing the venous return of blood. This form of training, also known as occlusion training, involves placing a wrap, band, or cuff around the leg or arm while exercising. This training regimen is beneficial because it can produce adaptations in the muscle at much lower loads. It is said that BFR offers many of the same results of heavy lifting without the muscle damage. Blood Flow Restriction Training also provides enhanced recovery after training and reduces atrophy during injuries.
BFR can be implemented in conjunction with other forms of exercise, such as walking, running or resistance training. In fact, exercise programs that include both BFR and low-load resistance training appear to have numerous positive effects on the muscle when compared to workouts that utilize resistance training alone. BFR appears to increase strength, promote hypertrophy (increased muscle size), increase muscle activity, and results in increased post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. The BFR and resistance training combination has also shown growth hormone elevations that are seen in conventional resistance training. Programs that incorporate resistance training with BFR and low loads (20 – 30% of 1RM) appear to increase strength.
If you are pregnant and/or have cardiac disease, high blood pressure, or varicose veins, you should consult a physician before trying Blood Flow Restriction Training.