By James Ruckley – Future Chiropractor & BfR Professional Ambassador UK
BFR training is a long-established training protocol combining the closing off a blood vessel and intense high rep training to alter the physiological environment in which a muscle is working. BFR is known by many names including occlusion training, vascular reduction (VR) and KAATSU training, so named by its ‘inventor’ Yoshiaki Sato. It involves obstructing the venous system by using a form of compression to partially close a vein, reducing venous blood return to the heart altering the vascular system and muscle’s bio-physiological chemistry. BFR training should not ever impede the artery. The most common forms of compression used include knee wraps and KAATSU Cuffs, with the latter being considerably more scientific but expensive, or even the use of cut floss band to save on costs. The latter here is however very uncomfortable, difficult to use and almost impossible to take off when your arms are weak and shivering. A fate I faced many times until BfR Professional came along and introduced their new velcro-based straps.
Easy to put on, comfortable and durable, they allow full range of movement without shifting or impeding on the muscle. Once the working set is complete, their velcro design allows quick removal; a feature you will only appreciate once you have trained this way.
A bit more about BFR. It was discovered in 1966 by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato as an 18-year-old while he was attending a Buddhist festival. While kneeling, he suffered a reduction in blood flow to his calves leading to a painful increase in pressure in his lower limb muscles. Massaging them out he noted the similarity to that of a ‘pump’ after an intense workout, including calf raises. He has since spent the next 50 years researching and perfecting his methods, tutoring and exploring new applications, gaining honorary degrees from the Medical Research Center at The University of Tokyo among others.
In that time, the training techniques and its application have developed rapidly, and it is now used in bodybuilding, rehab and medical interventions around the world. Similarly, the understanding of what mechanisms of change it creates within the body have developed in recent years allowing more precise use of the technology and now being used by many elite athletes and their coaches.
By restricting the veins during muscular contraction, a number of changes happen. Blood is still able to enter the muscle supplied by the deeper laying arteries but unable to leave through the superficial veins. Because of this, an increase of pressure builds within the capillaries shunting hydrostatic fluids across endothelial membranes of the circulatory system and into the surrounding tissues, i.e. muscle fibers. This increase in fluids within the tissue draws nutrients from the blood vessel down a concentration gradient and into the tissue. Blood begins to pool in the veins while it backs up in the artery, decreasing flow as metabolites build up throughout the system. The muscle swells as you actively contract it with the increased volume of each muscle fiber acting in the short term to increase strength. These already swollen fibers will continue to increase in size due to the hydrostatic pressures exerted by the artery until you either remove the venous block forcing them to either adapt and grow in size or burst. Since the intention of a resistance training is to damage muscle cells forcing them to repair and grow larger and stronger than before, this is a useful tool to consider when training.
Within these blood vessels the endothelial cells react to the changing PH levels of the blood releasing an increased amount of Nitric Oxide. This chemical is found in most pre-workout formulas and marketed alone as a supplement used to increase the vasodilation of the vessels transporting blood to and from the muscles as well as giving you that ‘pumped’ feeling. This is desirable for athletes as an increase in blood pressure directly raises the hydrostatic pressure and movement of fluids out of the blood and into the cells within the body. Similarly, Nitric Oxide has been shown to increase both permeability and elasticity of blood vessels when consumed or produced in higher quantities over extended periods of time maintaining vascular health.
With those extracellular changes occurring, it is no surprise to find that intracellular changes are abundant, too. Before we look into those, we must consider that muscle as a whole can be broken down into many levels with varying fiber types. There are 3 types of skeletal muscle fiber: Slow Twitch fibers (Type 1) are utilized by endurance athletes and can only function in the presence of oxygen. Fast Twitch Oxidative (Type 2a) are a much more explosive variety yet also utilize the oxidation of O2 to produce energy resulting in an explosive fiber with a resistance to fatigue in the medium term. The final fiber is Fast Twitch Glycolytic (Type 2b) which is only able to metabolize via the anaerobic glycolysis pathway without the use of O2. This drastically increases recovery time and reduces its ability to function beyond the most explosive of activities, i.e. intense weight lifting and sprinting.
During occlusion training the Type 1 and 2a fibers are starved of oxygen decreasing their work capacity. This increases a neural stimulation to other fibers of the same type that may be inactive and increases motor recruitment. That is to say, when we actively contract the muscle we only ever activate a percentage of its contained fibers. The percentage activated will vary from person to person but will never reach 100% of the muscle without external intervention from devices such as a Compex Muscle Stimulator which uses electrical impulses to stimulate 100% of motor units and in turn muscle fibers. By activating more fibers through occlusion training, we are better able to train more of the muscle to the demands of our sports than we would likely be able to through standardized training alone. Once the Type 1 and 2a fibers are depleted and fatigued, we recruit Type 2b fibers to continue the exercise in the absence of oxygen.
This lack of oxygen creates a hypoxic environment within the tissue causing the release of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). This signaling protein chemical is responsible for the creation of new blood vessels and their supporting networks. Blood vessels once complete will increase the surface area ratio of diffusion within the tissue allowing more oxygen and key nutrients to the tissue in the future along with increased lactate threshold.
With occlusion training reducing levels of oxygen available to working muscles, a lactic acid / lactate build-up occurs dramatically quicker than expected. This chemical soup build-up is counteracted by the body converting it back to pyruvate as previously mentioned, but with training the body is better able to hold off and endure this acidic state for longer periods of time. While more applicable for those completing High Intensity Endurance Exercise (HIEE) its applications are useful into a variety of sports. Studies have shown that the change of intramuscular environment to an acidic state causes a vast increase in the release of Growth Hormones (GH), Myostatin (GD8), Heat Shock Protein (HSP) and Nitric Oxide Synthase-1, all of which are key regulators in hypertrophy and protein synthesis.
With all that considered, it is clear that occlusion training should be a key technique in any athlete’s armory. However, it has one final trick up its sleeve. Occlusion training should be completed using only 20% of an individual’s 1 rep max and completing more repetitions per set, usually until failure. This reduced weight dramatically reduces the stress placed on joints which enables it to be used in rehabilitation or through minor injuries.
In summary, BFR training has been shown in research to effect:
Can you really afford to ignore it?
Read the full article and find the resources used at James' personal blog here.
Since we launched BfR Professional using the world’s largest crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter to distribute our premium product for blood flow restriction (BFR)/occlusion/kaatsu training, we’ve been asked quite a few times about why you can’t just use a rope or regular elastic band?
Of course, it all comes down to preferences, but we have tried a lot of different alternatives ourselves over the past two years and the design and comfort of the strap/band/cuff matters!
Below are some of the things we have taken into consideration as we designed the BfR Pro ARMS for ourselves and you…
As BFR training becomes increasingly popular within fitness and for rehabilitation more products will naturally hit the market, but the quality of them varies greatly. Most of the current products comes in a “one-size fits all” mentality which may be fine for you.
However, we decided to focus on offering a product in different sizes to match the needs of the individual which makes it not only more comfortable to wear but also a lot nicer to look at from an aesthetic point of view without half of the band flapping around your arm as you work out.
To find the correct size remember to measure the area below your shoulder but above your biceps and triceps – not the area around the middle of your biceps where the circumference is naturally larger.
Question: “I’m borderline between two different sizes, so which one should I choose?” We always recommend the largest size since it is better to apply a lower pressure than too hard of a pressure which can have a negative effect on your muscle building and in worst cases cause an injury.
One of the major challenges using knee wraps or other one-size occlusion bands can be to even strap it on without the assistance of a buddy since the product is so long and unhandy.
Often this can cause an uneven pressure to be applied which may decrease the actual physiological effect of your training.
We solved this by designing a product that you can strap on and release with one hand making it even more simple to use leaving you to focus on finding and applying the right pressure for you.
In doubt about how to apply the correct pressure? Read this post with 4 tips that can help you.
Anti-slip technology – Don't worry, we got you
The white anti-slip stripes embedded in the specialized elastic band support the single-handed fitting as it grabs on to your skin once you tighten the strap the first time around your arm.
This eases the use and comfort of conducting BFR training which should push you and take your training to the next level, but avoid the hassle of even strapping on the product.
Width – Wider is not always better
Unlike most other products available for occlusion training on your upper-body, we decided to make our strap with a width of 3 cm. According to the latest scientific research done on the practical application of BFR training, it is recommended that the straps used on your upper-body extremities (meaning your arms) should be between 3-5 cm wide.
After hours of testing ourselves in the gym and outside doing functional training, we found that applying a wider strap was less comfortable and often annoyed, especially your biceps, during sets.
To see our product BfR Pro ARMS in action visit our 3 min long Kickstarter campaign video here.
All the best,
Team BfR Professional
In a featured article written by BfR Professional in November, we outlined how practical blood flow restriction (BFR) or occlusion training works in simplified terms and what effects this training method can have and what results this might bring to your body.
Moreover, we also talk about how to perform practical BFR training with our 4 tips on how to apply the correct pressure, which we have outlined here on our own blog as well not long ago – read more here.
All our recommendations are made based on our own practical experience over the past two and a half years doing occlusion training combined with studying the scientific research within this topic globally, which is a body of work increasing continuously.
We view BFR training as a healthy complementary training method to your traditional training routine – not as a replacement for more heavy load oriented training as this too has its merits on improving your physical shape.
The key is to be smart about your training and bring variation to the table, while being consistent over long periods of time. Preferably forever.
Read the full featured article on below link [article in Danish]:
To perform practical BFR training one need to adjust the pressure from a subjective standpoint, but we recommend following the below tips based on up-to-date scientific research on the topic of BFR/occlusion training.
4 tips on how to apply the right pressure:
The alternative to practical BFR training is to apply air pressure controlled equipment such as the patented KAATSU machinery. However, this very expensive equipment is not easily accessible or affordable for normal people, which makes this training method nearly impossible to reap the benefits from. Moreover, the people using this machinery still use the 4 tips described here to control for correct pressure.
As with any type of physical activity remember to listen to your body and keep a “trial and error” mindset to find out what really works for you.
Have a great week!
All the best,
Team BfR Pro
Most of us view our workouts as a break from our busy daily lives; a place where we can let go and work on ourselves.
At the same time, we want to see results faster and more efficiently – but how?
BFR training may certainly be the answer to many prayers as studies have now been carried out widely on an international scale leading sports scientists and highly respected phd’s to be more conclusive with regards to the benefits and overall potential of this new and upcoming way of training.
Meanwhile, the idea behind BFR training or occlusion training is actually not new, but was first discovered in Japan back in the 1960’s by a man named Yoshiaki Sato, who later became the inventor of the KAATSU training principle. Often these three names are used interchangeably to describe this form of training, but there are some variations.
The main idea is that by restricting part of the blood flow from your extremity like your arm or leg back to your heart, it will cause a pooling of blood to occur in your muscles along with increased levels of lactid acid triggering a state of hypertrophy (muscle growth) by increasing the level of growth hormone from your brain.
The muscles react to the decrease in oxygen level caused by the restricted blood flow forcing them to work harder and fatiguing also the fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers, which are the ones with the highest growth potential compared to the slow twitch (Type I).
The best part is that you should only do your sets using between 20-50% of your 1RM (meaning 20-50% of what you can lift one time only) in weights.
This means that your joints and ligaments - well, your whole body in the long run – will thank you for taking away large parts of the stress that traditional heavy lifting causes.
Therefore, BFR training is an awesome compliment to traditional training, but have also proven to be a very powerful tool in injury prevention and during rehabilitation.
In other words, BFR training is intelligent training where you trigger your body to naturally produce more out of less.
We can’t wait to be a part of your journey as you reach your physical goals and escape the plateau that you might find yourself on.
Take it to the next level with,
The BfR Pro Team
The idea behind BfR Professional all began more than two years back when one of our co-founders Martin first heard about the concept of blood flow restriction training and how it has the potential to revolutionize the way people do fitness today.
He enthusiastically shared this knowledge with his longtime friend Lars, who would later become the other co-founder, and thus the seeds of what would eventually become BfR PRO were sown.
The scientifically proven training method of blood flow restriction (BFR) has been rather extensively researched and especially within the recent decade. The thought of training with lower weights, while still gaining significant muscle strength and growth, is appealing to many of us.
However, we became increasingly frustrated about not being able to find any customized equipment for this new training method, so we decided to create our own product.
After many months of product development, tests, and redesign, we are now ready to introduce and share with you the first generation of our blood flow restriction gear. The product is named ARMS by BfR Professional, which is essentially a custom-made elastic anti-slip band designed to be used on your arms and calves for blood flow restriction training, which is also popularly known as occlusion training.
ARMS will come in four different sizes suitable for more or less everyone who wants to take on this new and upcoming way of training to complement their existing workout routine. Furthermore, we are already now planning to introduce the LEGS version specifically designed for blood flow restriction training, so stay tuned here on our blog and social media.
We will be launching our product and opening for sales this coming October through an online campaign using the world’s largest crowdfunding platform: www.kickstarter.com. Naturally, we will be posting and keeping you updated about our progress and details concerning the campaign continuously and urge you to stay tuned if this new and scientifically proven training method is something which you would like to try out for yourself. Obviously, we would love your support on kickstarter.com.
After all this time, we are more than keen to share our knowledge and our products with the world. We promise that we will aim to give all the guidance necessary both here on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook, where we will be talking about not only how our specific product can help you in connection with blood flow restriction training and reaching your physical goals, but also more generally how blood flow restriction training can benefit you. We simply want you to train smarter and better.
Take it to the next level with,
Lars & Martin
The BfR Pro Team