Blood flow restriction training (also called Occlusion Training, BFR, or BFRT) is the combination of partial blood flow restriction within a limb and light intensity exercise.
BFR training is effective at improving physical performance amongst injury prone and healthy cohorts; including elite athletes.
A research paper published by Kansas State and Ohio State University demonstrated a 12.7% – group effect – strength increase amongst elite athletes using supplementary BFR training in only 7 weeks!
How does blood flow restriction training work?
There are two main mechanisms:
- Increased Metabolic Stress: BFR training induces high metabolic stress on muscles. As reported by the American Society for Strength and Conditioning, this results in increased muscle size, aerobic performance, and strength.
- Recruitment of Type 2 Muscle Fibres: Like high intensity exercise, BFR training recruits fast twitch (T2) muscle fibres. T2 muscle fibres are recruited due to the restricted oxygen received by muscle. T2 fibres have the great capacity to grow in size and provide the ability to generate short bursts of force (strength/power).
Researchers from the university of Copenhagen demonstrated cyclists could improve endurance 11% more using BFR training – find out how.
How can I use it?
The use cases of BFR training depend on outcome.
Some examples include:
- To improve squat strength; supplement normal resistance training with light load (20% 1 rep max) back squats a minimum of 3 times a week. Recreational athletes improved by 17% using a 3 x 15 set/rep protocol.
- To improve aerobic capacity include BFR cardio. Paton et al demonstrated running on a treadmill 2 times a week whilst restricted improved endurance.
Find more examples linked here.
Does it replace normal exercise?
Not for healthy athletes. As a supplement to normal exercise BFR training can improve physical performance more than normal exercise alone: We’ve identified over 50 peer reviewed medical publications supporting this claim!
However, if being used by injury prone individuals who cannot tolerate normal exercise BFR training is an extremely effective replacement.
Hopefully this blog acts as an effective introduction to blood flow restriction (BFR) training. Sign up here to be informed of new blog posts!