Blood Flow Restriction Training article by Core Health intern Daniel Hounjet
What is blood flow restriction training (BFRT) you ask?
BFRT is when you place a cuff similar to a blood pressure cuff around your arm or leg and perform certain exercises. Once the cuff is placed on the arm or leg you pump the cuff up to the point where you are restricting 80% of the blood that is trying to return to the heart (venous blood flow), while allowing the blood to reach the area of treatment (arterial blood flow). The reason it only restricts flow returning to the heart is because veins that are being restricted are closer to the surface of the skin in comparison to the arteries, therefore the cuff only affects the vessels that are close to the surface of the skin.
BFRT allows individuals to exercise with 20-30% of their 1 repetition maximum (1RM) while going through a specified exercise. BFRT allows for significantly less strain on the joint while still achieving the benefits that you would see with traditional strength and mass gaining exercises.
The exact mechanism is yet to be determined, but personal testimonials and current research suggests that there is proof in the pudding. BFR can be utilized by a broad range of individuals some of which include athletes, weekend warriors, wounded soldiers and elderly. Some of the measured benefits include;
- Decreased recovery time post-surgery
- Decrease bone healing time and decrease in muscle loss when a limb is immobilized.
- Allows for a decreased strain on the joints and surrounding soft tissue while obtaining the benefit of heavy loads
- Increased athletic performance due to increased muscle activation and increased protein synthesis
BFR has shown a decreased recovery time from surgeries such as ACL replacement, patella tendon rupture or Achilles tendon reattachment. One of the big reasons for BFR benefit in individuals who are recovering post-operation is that they are able to begin rehab earlier and are able to regain their strength without heavy loads. BFRT has been turning heads and is now used by several NFL players, some of which include Adrian Peterson and Jadeveon Clowney.
With the increased research and success that BFR patients are seeing, it is no wonder it is quickly becoming a staple in many rehab and performance clinics
BFR is exceptionally safe and can be utilized by a broad range of individuals as previously mentioned. As BFR becomes more known and researched it will surely become clearer what the exact mechanism is that causes these benefits.
There are a few contraindications which include; deep vein thrombosis, pregnancy, varicose veins, high blood pressure or cardiac disease. If you have any of these conditions be sure to consult your physician or trained health care provider.