Blood flow restriction training (BFR) is a resistance training variant shown to be effective in improving muscle mass and strength, while using very light weights (30% of 1RM), therefore reducing stress on the joints.
BFR involves occluding the limb being trained, allowing blood to flow to the muscle (arterial blood
flow), but not to return (venous return) causing blood to pool in the area below the occlusion. This
causes fast twitch muscle fibre activation, metabolic by product accumulation, improved post
exercise muscle protein synthesis and higher growth hormone elevation.
In research, a specialised cuff or torniquet is generally used, occluding the limb at a specific pressure. This equipment can be costly and inconvenient for general use, so research has been performed on “Practical Blood Flow Restriction Training (PBFR)”, which involves using weightlifting knee wraps wrapped at a perceived tightness of 7/10. Studies have found that PBFR using knee wraps is sufficient to get the same response as using medical cuffs or torniquets.
The wraps are placed on the most proximal part of the limb and are kept on for the duration of all sets and reps of the exercise being performed. BFR has been used in research and practice and shown to be effective with isotonic exercises.
For hypertrophy and muscular strength, the evidence supports:
A survey of 12,462 people who had received an occlusion cuff for BFR training.
The incidence of side effects: venous thrombus (0.055%), pulmonary embolism (0.008%) and rhabdomyolysis (0.008%).
A pre screening questionnaire has been compiled by the British Olympic Medical Institute to screen for risk factors:
British Olympic Medical Institute pre training screening questionnaire
Absolute contraindications: deep-vein thrombosis, pregnancy, varicose veins, high blood pressure, and cardiac disease
If any risk factors are identified from the questionnaire or table below or if unsure, medical clearance is advised. BFR is generally safe for those without any risk factors.
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