How to hack your brain and never skip a workout

We all know the feeling that tends to creep up on you when you are about to go to the gym as planned but realize that you just don’t feel like it today. All those heavy lifts suddenly seem a pretty bad deal compared to a chilled hour of Netflix on your sofa. You really want to stay in today, but your conscience is pricking you. You obviously know the consequences of skipping too many workouts, so what do you do to make sure you stick with your long-term goals for your training?

The main thing to realize is that you need to hack your brain or it will most likely get the better of you. And in order to do this, you first need a little basic knowledge about the biology of your brain. Actually, the modern human brain consists of three different layers or brains, and when it comes to classic struggles of conscience as the scenario mentioned above, particularly the second and third brains are of interest: The second brain is referred to as the limbic system, and this is where our emotions lie – in particular the ones that like things to be easy and fun. Because of this, humans are biologically wired to choose safe, well-known options and conserve energy. Consequently, Netflix seems a much better choice than sweating in the gym, muscles screaming and all. However, around the limbic system we have another, more modern brain called neocortex. This brain is unique to primates and humans and is where our thinking lies. And this is also your strongest weapon when trying to beat the carefree impulse to eat that bag of chips, stay in bed or watch Game of Thrones all day.

"Motivation is like food for the brain. You cannot get enough in one sitting. It needs continual and regular top ups."

Peter Davies

Basically, there are three things you should remember in your daily struggle against your baser instincts:

1: Stop waiting for motivation.

Any goal will inevitably contain a certain amount of suffering or sacrifice along the way. Too many people postpone the things they want to do because they just don’t feel motivated. Your limbic system is whispering to you that skipping one workout wouldn’t do any harm to your long-term goals because the limbic system would rather do something much more fun. This is when you must hack your own brain by using your neocortex instead. Simply remember the rational part of you that knows full well that skipping another workout will be bad for your long-term training goals and embrace the fact that in reality there is no such thing as motivation. You are more than capable of doing something even though you don’t feel like it – so do it.

2: Comfort yourself that with occlusion training you will be able to train with less weight and for a shorter period of time.

Your workout will be over before you know it, and then an hour of Netflix may be well-earned. Remember that the important thing is to build consistency: instead of skipping a workout entirely, it is better to train for a shorter period of time. Many BfR users also report a psychological rush that might best be described as elation or pride when seeing and feeling the unique pump which arises during occlusion workouts. No matter how you felt prior to your workout, you will surely leave the gym feeling content and relaxed, with endorphins swimming around your body.

3: Choose to do your workout at home.

If you can’t be bothered to make it to the gym, why not train in the comfort of your own home? It will enable you to ‘cheat’ your limbic system by simply choosing an easier option. (Remember that your brain prefers things to be easy and comfortable). With the BfR products, this is all possible. As an example, the new BfR Glute Builder enables you to perform a wide range of exercises for your legs and buttocks – and you don’t even need any weights.

Once you get the hang of catching yourself or hacking your own brain whenever it only wants to do what is easy, there is no stopping you. It is all a matter of understanding the psychology as well as the biology behind it all and exploiting that knowledge to your own advantage on a daily basis. And the more you do it, the easier it will become. Building the right mental state will enable you to take it to the next level!

 

Links for further inspiration:

The structure of your brain, read more here.

Mel Robbins on motivation, read more here.

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Adi Moldovan

Train like a champion

Looking for inspiration for your next gym session?

You came to the right place. We found the exercise routine of the Romanian fitness champion - Adi Moldovan who has been a regular at the gym for the last six years, but he actually entered the sports world at the age of three with gymnastics continuing with football and with later martial arts for six years.

What is your exercise routine?*

Monday

Hammer curls with BfR Pro ARMS - set 1: 30 reps, set 2: 25 reps, set 3: 20 reps, set 4: 15 reps / 30 seconds break between sets.

Tuesday

Lying barbell triceps extension - 4 sets of 20 reps with BfR Pro ARMS. 

Wednesday

Leg press calf raises - 5 sets of 12 reps with BfR Pro ARMS. 

Thursday

Two Arm High cable curls - 4 sets of 15 reps with BfR Pro ARMS

Friday

Rope push downs - set: 30 reps, set 2: 25 reps, set 3: 20 reps, set 4: 15 reps with BfR Pro ARMS

Saturday

Standing calf raises - 4 sets of 15 reps with BfR Pro ARMS

What tips do you have for those that want to start going to the gym?

To be persistent and remember that the results will not always come fast, you have to know that you have to work hard, so a lot of work and patience is needed.

Also, it is a lifestyle, you cannot just go to the gym and eat right for a month and then stop. To move forward and stay ahead you need a plan.

It is necessary to have a plan, otherwise you will fail fast. At the same time, you also have to ask for help, always, because you never know it all. You always have to search for information.

Who did you ask for help?

My good friend and mentor Mihai that had been going to the gym for a long time. He helped me a lot with everything and another thing to bear in mind is that you should always try to have someone to push you in your training sessions, it is such a crucial thing you cannot imagine. On the other hand, I have searched a lot of information on the Internet.

Continuously you have to think “how do I get better and smarter”, e.g. which exercises would be better and how to execute those exercises.

Do you have any examples of websites that you read often?

I do not have any website that I visit often, but I am looking at famous persons in the bodybuilding industry and I am trying to follow their advice and do their exercises but adjusted for my needs.  

How did you come across blood flow restriction (BFR) training?

I saw a guy called Anders at the gym using them and it caught my attention and afterwards he let me try his straps from BfR Professional. I saw a big difference in the pump and that was something I was always looking for.

Why do you like using BfR Pro ARMS in your training routine?

Especially for the pump that you get during training you always have to maintain yourself pumped and BfR Pro ARMS helps in achieving this in a great way. I have always associated pumping with muscle mass ratio and I had only to gain from it.

*See Adi’s complete weekly workout program here.

**This routine is only a recommendation, you should adjust it to your needs and current physical shape.

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Name of the Magazine

BfR Pro ARMS tested by industry experts

It is our joy to announce that Aktiv Træning has tested our BfR Pro ARMS, which is our customized straps for blood flow restriction (BFR) training and put together a product review for all their thousands of readers.  

Aktiv Træning is a Danish magazine known for guiding readers to live a healthy lifestyle with everything from fitness and running to proper dieting and sleep in order to optimize your physical shape. At the same time, Aktiv Træning aims to test and review the best products on the market and in their April issue of the magazine our BfR Pro ARMS was put to the test and received 4.5/6 stars.

English version of the review

"Occlusion training is a new trend in the strength training world. Many are using knee wraps for this training method, but the special occlusion bands here are clearly a more practical choice. Plastic buckle, velcro closing, and anti-slip material make it super easy to strap on, close it and tighten it. Except for the edges of the velcro which can be a little sharp then they are comfortable during training. It is nice that the whole band is sitting close to the arm, and with a width of just 3 cm, you avoid that the band is disturbingly hitting the muscle when for example you are doing biceps curls."

 

Conclusion

"A simple and relatively cheap solution for occlusion training. The straps are easy to handle, and you get without problems the pressure that you want to be applied"

The product received 4.5 stars out of 6, which means that it’s a really good product according to their ranking system. 

Below is the original review in Danish:

 Danish Review Original

Order right now!

 

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BFR training is tough but good!

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 a 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 for 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 of 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 complete more repetitions per set, usually until failure. This reduced weight dramatically reduces the stress placed on joints which enable it to be used in rehabilitation or through minor injuries.

In summary, BFR training has been shown in research to effect:

  • An increase in fluid volume within the muscle along with increasing nutrient uptake, strength, and natural growth hormone.
  • An increase in the body’s production of Nitric Oxide.
  • An increase in motor unit activation and muscle fiber recruitment.
  • An increase in VEGF leading to an increase in O2 delivery to tissue.
  • A decrease in strain placed on joints and supporting tissue.
  • An increase in lactic acid/lactate production leading to:
    • Lactate threshold improvement.
    • Increased secretion of GH, Myostatin GD8, HSP and Nitric Oxide Synthesis leading to an increased rate of Hypertrophy.
  • Plus, it can be used in recovery or rehab.

Can you really afford to ignore it?

Read the full article and find the resources used at James' personal blog here

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One-size doesn't fit all.

Why you should buy a premium product for occlusion/BFR training

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…

Different sizes

As BFR training becomes increasingly popular within the fitness and for rehabilitation more products will naturally hit the market, but the quality of them varies greatly. Most of the current products come 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.

Size guide

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.  

Single-handed fitting

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

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Occlusion training could be a paradigm shift within fitness

Occlusion training can be a paradigm shift within fitness

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]:

Link: http://blivstor.dk/okklusionstraening/

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Training tips

A Quick Guide To Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training

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:

  1. Correct pressure is 5-7 out of 10 (0 = no blood flow restriction and 10 = full restricted blood flow).
  2. Press down with one finger in the palm of your hand. Correct pressure will result in your skin changing color from white to normal skin color in max 2 seconds.
  3. Use the number of repetitions as a guide to adjust the pressure. Correct pressure will allow you to do 30 / 15 / 15 / 15 repetitions in each set in your first exercise. If this is not possible you should either release some of the pressure of the BfR Pro or use less weight.
  4. Correct pressure should not cause a tingly effect or numbness in the occluded limbs.

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

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Blood flow restriction training example

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) / Occlusion Training -  The New and More Efficient Workout

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 Ph.D.’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 lactide 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

 

Resources:

 

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Kick-Starting a Startup Success

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

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