Blood Flow Restriction Training

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Blood flow restriction (BFR) is a training technique that uses pressurized cuffs, or wraps, to limit blood flow to the limbs during exercise. The goal of using a BFR system is to achieve improvements in muscle strength and hypertrophy with lower stress exercises. In the last few years, BFR’s popularity has spiked in the health and fitness industry and the research to date is promising.

BFR reduces vascular blood flow to the extremities which is thought to elicit a positive hormonal response increasing the body’s production of growth hormone, a necessary component for protein synthesis. Greater muscle protein synthesis and reduced muscle protein breakdown leads to increased muscle growth. The exact mechanism responsible for muscle strength and hypertrophy seen in BFR training have not been confirmed.

Image courtesy of liftersclinic.com

Image courtesy of liftersclinic.com

Traditional lifting practices require resistance training of at least 65% of your max effort for 6-12 repetitions to achieve muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. BFR training has shown muscle strength and hypertrophy gains with only 20-50% of your max effort. Resistance training at lower loads with BFR can offer an alternative for those who are unable to tolerate the higher stresses associated with traditional resistance lifting. In general practice, cuffs are placed at the upper arms or thighs and inflated to pressures between 50 – 200 mmHg. Exercises are performed for 3 to 5 sets at 15-30 repetitions with 30 second to 1-minute rest between bouts.

We are excited to introduce the Smart Tools Blood Flow Restriction system into our practice at Kauno. We see great potential in introducing this method of training to many of our patients including post-operative rehab and patients with actively inflamed tissues. Although BFR is considered a safe option for most, there can be risks associated with certain medical conditions. Before using BFR, be sure to consult with a a medical professional.

-Tiara Dunson, PT, DPT

Pope, Zachary K., et al. “Exercise and Blood Flow Restriction.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 27, no. 10, 2013, pp. 2914–2926., doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3182874721.

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