In our previous blog on post operative rehabilitation we talked about different tools that we use to enhance recovery, one of them being blood flow restriction (BFR) training. 

What’s the big deal about it?

BFR is a unique tool that can maintain or stimulate muscle growth without requiring significant stress to the muscles and joints. Traditionally, in order to stimulate muscle growth, heavy load is a requirement lifting 60-80% of your maximum output; however, BFR works in the opposite direction. By applying a specifically measured amount of pressure around the extremity, we can train with loads of 20-30% of your maximum output in order to obtain muscle growth.

Because of this effect, there are many ways we can apply BFR to help an individual.

  • Rehabilitation: during the rehabilitation stage, we want to minimize muscle loss and increase muscle strength. However, due to pain, it may limit the body’s ability to handle heavier loads. By using BFR, we can minimize muscle loss and increase muscle strength while the pain is being worked out. Examples of conditions that can benefit: Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, tennis elbow, muscle strains, and post operative repairs.
  • Weak or under-developed muscles: with traditional resistance exercise, typically 2-3 months of work is required before seeing significant improvements in muscle growth; however, with BFR muscle growth can occur in as early as 2 weeks.
  • Deload: whether participating in sports or lifting weights, our bodies need rest and breaks from working hard. BFR is an alternative to give your muscles and joints a break, while still maintaining the strength and muscle growth gained from training.
  • Endurance athletes: Using BFR can also work towards improving overall endurance and maximal rate of oxygen consumption (V02 max). Examples of individuals who can benefit: tri-athletes, runners, and cyclists.

How does it work?

A pneumatic cuff (like a blood pressure cuff) is wrapped above the muscle that is being trained. The cuff is then inflated to a specific pressure with the goal of causing complete occlusion of the vein. With the veins being completely blocked off, no blood below the cuff returns to the heart. This leads to metabolic stress due to the lack of oxygen and accumulation of lactic acid and swelling. Consequently, this promotes hormone release that stimulates muscle growth.

For an example of BFR, watch the video below:

BFR is one of the many tools that we use at Movement Performance Centre to optimize your health. To learn more about how we can help you through BFR, message us or give us a call, and we’ll be glad to answer your questions.

Author: Zachary Hum