coming back from injury

A Look at Blood Flow Restriction Training

It doesn’t necessarily matter how careful you are and how many preventative measures you take, injuries can still happen. But can training help improve recovery time from injuries?? 

The answer is YES! Blood flow restriction training (aka BFR)  has recently gained popularity among the training community. BFR allows you to continue to build strength without the heavy loads normally required. With this type of training, you can make the same strength gains in 2-4 weeks that would normally take 8-12 weeks! 

Blood flow restriction training involves using bands or cuffs placed at the upper arm or leg to restrict blood flow to the limb. While training, your muscles will have to work harder to pump blood back to the heart in the restricted area, causing the muscle fibers to work harder. In a nutshell, BFR helps to increase strength and hypertrophy using a fraction of the weight.  

How to use?

Coming back from an injury or surgery is difficult enough, but using BFR has the potential to help you heal faster. 

To implement this style of training effectively, it’s recommended to use a pressure cuff to ensure occlusion occurs properly and the pressure is consistent. If you use a band that is too tight, it could cause permanent nerve and vascular damage. If the band is too loose, you won’t make any progress. You’ll want to use 20-40% of your 1RM with short rest periods (about 30-60s) and high volume (50-80 reps per exercise).

Additionally, the cuff width and pressure required for each limb is specific for BFR to work. Because there are so many different variables at play and this training method is experimental, we HIGHLY suggest you get help from a professional before trying it on your own. The results could be great, but the damage if done incorrectly could be greater. 

Is it right for you?

BFR training has many amazing benefits that can help you recover from injury faster. Other uses of this training include: athletic performance, sarcopenia, before PRP treatments, and bodybuilding.

If you are unable to lift heavy right now, are trying to decrease your recovery time without your performance being affected, or have a medical condition that could benefit from increased blood flow or hypertrophy, it might be worth looking into. Definitely get some help from a professional before jumping in though.

Ferraz RB, Gualano B, Rodrigues R, Kurimori CO, Fuller R, Lima FR, DE Sá-Pinto AL, Roschel H. Benefits of Resistance Training with Blood Flow Restriction in Knee Osteoarthritis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 May;50(5):897-905. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001530. PMID: 29266093.

Ozaki H, Sakamaki M, Yasuda T, et al. Increases in thigh muscle volume and strength by walk training with leg blood flow reduction in older participants. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011;66(3):257–63.

Patterson SD, Hughes L, Warmington S, et al. Blood Flow Restriction Exercise: Considerations of Methodology, Application, and Safety [published correction appears in Front Physiol. 2019 Oct 22;10:1332]. Front Physiol. 2019;10:533. Published 2019 May 15. doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00533

Yasuda T, Ogasawara R, Sakamaki M, Ozaki H, Sato Y, Abe T. Combined effects of low-intensity blood flow restriction training and high-intensity resistance training on muscle strength and size. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Oct;111(10):2525-33. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-1873-8. Epub 2011 Mar 1. PMID: 21360203.

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