There is no doubt that athletes get more “in the know” advice from all the experts that are surrounded by them, but thankfully, more of the tools that they use are being made public knowledge and are becoming more accessible.
One training practice that has been used for over 40 years is blood flow restriction training, and thanks to companies like SAGA Fitness, they are now becoming mainstream and more accessible for everyone else.
Blood flow restriction (BFR or also known as occlusion training) helps you increase the magnitude of your strength training. A highly researched training method, BFR involves placing a band or tourniquet around the proximal limb while performing the low-intensity exercise, which reduces blood flow from the working muscle. This creates an oxygen mismatch in the working muscle which accelerates type II muscle fibers and the release of growth hormones. The result is increased muscle size and strength – all achieved quickly and by using lighter weights.
The style was first discovered in Japan in the 1960s and since then, over 5000 research articles have been published, validating BFR’s ability to increase muscle strength and size. Military personnel, elite athletes, and even astronauts have used BFR in their training. Only recently with the invention of new technology such as The BFR Cuffs from SAGA Fitness, has this type of training become accessible to the fitness market, being adopted by bodybuilders, CrossFitters, and MMA athletes alike. Prior, it was a little difficult to use unless you really understood it
What do I need to do before starting this kind of training, is it appropriate for beginners?
If you are familiar with resistance or strength training, then blood flow restriction would be a great addition for you. Typically, you would add BFR to any type of strength or hypertrophy exercise – i.e. bicep curls, squats, push-ups.
Research recommends using a lighter load when performing BFR, such as 20% of your 1 repetition max. You would then complete The BFR Workout, which is 30-15-15-15 repetitions. This protocol is used to quickly build up metabolic accumulate and fatigue the muscle.
This causes maximal activation of the muscle, therefore better results. Due to the metabolic accumulate, you may experience a burning sensation in the muscle – it could be likened to lactic acid accumulation experienced in high-intensity intervals.
We won’t put it lightly – BFR can be tough and if not, slightly uncomfortable, therefore it may not be for the faint-hearted trainer.
What results can I expect?
On first use, you will immediately experience what is known as ‘the pump’ – a term used to describe the sensation of fluids accumulating in your muscles – this accumulation also makes your muscles look and feel bigger.
After two weeks of consistent use (at least 3 times per week), you will experience increases in muscle size and strength, results which are validated by various studies. In some incidences, the muscle growth experienced from using BFR with light weights has been even more significant than using only heavyweights.
Are there any risks associated with it?
Whilst there are some risks associated with blood flow restriction training, the degree of risk is no different than commencing a weight or fitness program. The biggest risk in fact comes from improper application of the cuffs, either the cuff position is too low on the limb or too close to the elbow or knee joints.
Using elastic bands or manual straps can also increase the risk of bruising, muscle tissue damage, or cutting off circulation completely. This because manual straps don’t provide you with the to accurately measure the occlusion pressure.
The BFR Cuffs by SAGA Fitness however are the world’s only wireless, auto-inflating BFR cuffs that accurately inflate to an individual’s personalized occlusion zone – removing any guesswork when it comes to occlusion pressure. The cuffs also use a sweat-resistant cuff with a quick-release Velcro strap – which makes them not only effective but a safe training tool.
BFR is a very versatile training tool.
Blood flow restriction training is great for people who might experience joint pain or are unable to use heavy weights during exercise. This is because BFR can still increase muscle size and strength without requiring heavy loads that put stress on the body.
Further, because BFR creates hypertrophy primarily through metabolic stress in the muscle, the recovery periods for training with BFR are actually shortened, as the muscle isn’t as fatigued as it would be from training with heavy weights and high mechanical stress.