Blood flow restriction training was originally performed using an inflatable cuff, known as a KAATSU band, that was linked to an electronic monitor. Unfortunately, KAATSU devices are expensive, complicated to use and not easily transportable.
It is possible to use knee wraps or a similar elastic bandage; however, it is difficult to achieve a correct and even pressure when using these solutions since they are often too long to handle (2+ meters).
Instead, we recommend using a purpose designed strap or band for BFR training. That way, you are able to more accurately control the pressure and easily replicate it in future workouts.
Moreover, you avoid having to deal with the unnecessary slack dangling around your arms or legs when doing your exercises which is often the case when using knee wraps.
Advocates for using Kaatsu equipment argue that you will never be able to find as accurate a pressure when using practical BFR training bands compared to Kaatsu equipment.
Even though that might be true, we believe it comes down to a matter of practicality and affordability. Just always remember to follow the appropriate guidelines and rather apply a lower pressure compared to a higher pressure, if you are in doubt.
The researchers within the field of BFR training now broadly agree that the correct placement for the band or strap is proximal to the torso meaning as close to the heart as possible.
For the upper body, place the strap just below your armpit, between your shoulder and bicep/triceps muscles. For the lower body, place the strap at the top of your thigh just below your glutes.
Note: if you are using knee wraps rather than a BfR Pro LEGS, make sure that when you wrap you do not end up wrapping the entire thigh – as this increases the risk of completely occluding the arteries. Wrap the band whilst trying to keep the pressure as even as possible as you add each layer.
For both your upper and lower body, it is suggested that you wrap to 4-7 out of 10 in tightness; with 10 being as tight as possible. You shouldn’t feel any numbness or tingling once you’ve applied the strap.
If you are not feeling and numbness or tingling but are still unsure whether you’ve wrapped too tight, you can easily check by doing a capillary refill test. Once you’ve applied your strap, press down on the palm of your hand with one finger until your skin turns white. If you have your straps applied correctly, you should see normal colour return in no more than 2 seconds.
When you are first starting with blood flow restriction training and not 100% sure on your pressures, it’s safer to be a little loose than too tight. Researchers wrapped subjects at either 40 or 80% tightness and measured the effect on muscle growth & strength.
Interesting, both pressures produced the same amount of gains. So wrapping a little lighter will still give you the gains you’re after without running the risk of complete arterial occlusion.
Team BfR Professional
This means that you might have started planning your great escape to warmer destinations in the cold winter months, if you live in Northern Europe or North America like we do.
Or maybe you actually love the snow and cold weather so you're planning to pack up the car and go skiing in the alps somewhere around Europe.
But maybe there’s one thing you’re still worried about… disrupted gym schedules, unhealthy food tempting you at every turn and not an adequately stocked gym anywhere in sight.
How could you possibly keep up a consistent routine and stay in shape whilst travelling?
Well, there is no need to fear any longer; so long as you don’t leave your workouts to chance. Simply grab our popular Traveller Pack with the BfR bands and Elastic Training Tube – designed to fit easily into your carry-on luggage allowing you to stay fit, wherever your travels take you.
Elastic resistance tubes have long been the preferred piece of equipment for any travel workout routine. They’re lightweight, incredibly easy to set-up & allow you to perform just about any strength training exercise.
By adding in blood flow restriction techniques into your resistance tube training, you can take your travelling workout to the next level. Here’s how.
Blood flow restriction training allows you to complete a high impact workout in an extremely short amount of time by rapidly increasing muscle protein synthesis. This type of training activates both type I and II muscle fibers even though the workout protocol for BFR training is light weights (20-50% of 1RM). Despite this fact, it has been proven time and time again that this method is very efficient for hypertrophy (building muscle).
Based on the latest scientific research within the field, we recommend working out with continuous pressure keeping the bands strapped on for a maximum of 10-15 minutes. Combine low-load BFR training with traditional heavy load strength training to maximise results.
With only around 20% of your one-rep max, BfR straps allow you to get the same results as if you were lifting 70% 1RM; making it the perfect companion to use alongside an elastic resistance tube workout.
Simply adjust the resistance of the elastic training tube by either moving further away from the place where the tube is mounted in pull/push (e.g. around a pole or pillar). Or in exercises where you stand on the tube then simply increase the width between your legs to adjust the strength making it tougher to pull against yourself.
Shorter Recovery Times:
Blood flow restriction training techniques also have much faster recovery times; meaning DOMs aren’t going to get in the way of enjoying your trip.
However, start with only 20% of what you believe to be your one-rep maximum and do one exercise with straps on while combining it with normal exercises without straps.
After a couple of weeks you're muscles will adapt to this new type of training and then you will be able to do more BFR exercises without it being too painful.
As a result, you’re able to get more from your resistance workout in less time; giving you more time to spend basking in the sun or hitting the slopes.
Check out our training video below for inspiration on how to use the Traveller Pack.
With all the popularity and hype which blood flow restriction (BFR) training is receiving for its accelerated development of both muscle strength and mass, you’ve probably heard the terms blood flow restriction training, occlusion training or KAATSU training floating around online or in your local gym.
If you’re still unsure exactly what BFR training is or how to perform it, then this post is for you.
For safety reasons, we need to first quickly address a few terminology issues.
You may see the terms blood flow restriction training, occlusion training and KAATSU training being used interchangeably – but that’s not strictly correct.
Occlusion training involves completely stopping the flow of blood into a part of the body. Occlusion training is extremely discouraged as it can result in damaged arteries, nerves, muscles, veins and an increase in risk of blood clots.
Whilst both blood flow restriction training and KAATSU training differ by only modifying blood flow rather than stopping it. KAATSU training uses expensive pneumatic tubes, cuffs and electronic monitors and requires a certified specialist to monitor you during your workout.
Blood flow restriction solutions, such as BfR Pro ARMS or LEGS, on the other hand, are simple to use and can easily be added to your workouts to maximise results. In other words, this is practical BFR training which means you adjust the pressure of the bands or straps yourself.
KAATSU training was originally discovered in the 1960’s in Japan by scientist Yoshiaki Sato. Since then, there have been now hundreds of scientific studies from Japan, Denmark, Norway, England and USA researching the effects of blood flow restriction training.
The research to date has found that BFR training promotes muscle hypertrophy and strength gains more effectively compared to traditional low load weight lifting (10-30% of 1RM). In some research it has even provided better results than heavy load weight lifting (60-85% of 1RM) but the best response has been proven to be by combining low load BFR training with high load strength training.
A simple Google Scholar search about blood flow restriction training will provide you with plenty of academic articles on the topic to browse through.
Blood flow restriction training is a technique using straps around the top of your limbs in order to restrict blood flow to the veins but not your arteries. By doing so, you are allowing blood to enter into the muscle but not letting it leave again. This results in a massive increase in cell swelling (or “pump”) and a "danger" response in the muscle cells triggering it to restructure and become larger.
BfR straps also work to trap lactic acid within the muscle, creating an additional anabolic response which turns on protein synthesis. This metabolic stress is believed to play an important role in the beneficial effect of BFR training. These metabolites are implicated in creating a hypertrophic response including lactate, inorganic phosphate, and hydrogen ions.
Read more about how muscle fibres react during blood flow restriction.
Read more about blood flow restriction training and muscle hypertrophy.
There have been numerous studies conducted into the benefits and efficacy of blood flow restriction training. Of interest to most people are the increased speeds with which muscle growth can be achieved.
A Danish study in 2012 researched whether BFR training could produce more efficient results than traditional resistance training (normally resulting in 15-25% muscle increase after 3 months). The study found that the subjects undergoing training with blood flow restriction achieved 35-40% muscle increase in only 3 weeks.
A similar study conducted with British elite rugby players in 2014 compared regular resistance training with the same training with added blood flow restriction. The study found that BFR training resulted in players’ squat strength, bench press, jump power and sprint time improving by 200% (Cook et al, 2014).
The short answer is: Yes, blood flow restriction training is safe; but there are a two key precautions you should take to avoid the potentially harmful effects which can come from accidently occluding your muscles or over training.
We’ve seen some YouTubers suggest using everything from knee wraps to bicycle inner tubes to restrict blood flow just to save a penny or two. But applying BfR straps correctly for accurate, consistent & even pressure on your muscles is easier said than done with make-shift straps (not to mention the risks you run of totally occluding the muscle!). Be sure to choose a quality-built product like the bands from BfR Pro which allow for easy application of strap to find the right tightness and quick release features, should you want to remove your straps in a hurry.
When performing a BFR workout, you are going to be dropping the weight considerably. Most blood flow restriction workouts utilise a weight of 20-40% of your one-rep max (1RM); or alternatively, around 40% of what you normally lift. You’ll also be focusing on a higher repetition range – around 15-30 reps per set – with short rest periods of around 30 seconds.
Take a look at our blood flow restriction workout suggestions for more ideas on how to incorporate BfR into your training. And don’t forget to share your personal success stories with the BfR family on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using @bfrpro and #bfrpro.
Team BfR Professional
You’ve probably heard of blood flow restriction (BFR) training; or perhaps seen someone performing BFR exercises in the gym. It’s one of the latest & greatest muscle-building techniques; but chances are you only have a rough idea about how it works.
In this article we are going to dive deep into the specifics of what’s happening to your muscles when you perform blood flow restriction workouts; and how it helps you achieve your goals of increased size and strength.
Increases in muscle strength and size occur when our muscle fibres are put under stress and the body is required to respond, repairing the damaged areas by making then stronger and larger.
Broadly speaking we have two types of muscle fibres, creatively named by scientists as Type I and Type II fibres. Type I muscle fibres are called slow twitch muscle fibers and are built for endurance and help enable long-endurance feats such as distance running, while fast-twitch muscle fibers (Type II) fatigue faster but are used in powerful bursts of movements like sprinting. Once fatigued, Type II fibres are activated and these type II fibres provide strength & contribute most to the appearance & size of your muscle.
Once you’ve applied the band, your arteries will still be open to deliver blood to the muscle, but because you have restricted blood to your veins. The veins are the ones transporting blood back to your heart so by restricting them, it means that the blood can flow to the muscles but cannot leave. From this moment, the muscle will begin to facilitate growth by stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
Metabolic stress is identified as one of the three primary causes of muscle hypertrophy (others being muscular tension and muscle damage). The muscular stress signals the muscles to grow and by using low load training with BFR you can significantly optimise your workout compared to low load without BFR and similar levels of metabolic stress compared to high load/intensity workout (>60% of your 1RM).
The best thing about occlusion training is that you can achieve the results of high load training but without the heavy lifting which may be too strenuous for some individuals. However, with that said, research show that you achieve the most optimal performance by combining low load with BFR and heavy load without BFR training.
As the BFR straps have stopped the veins from moving blood out of the muscle and you begin to lift, you’re going to start feeling the muscular pressure rising significantly. As the muscles become more engorged, they increase in size - roughly 11.5-12% directly after a BFR workout - and place additional stress on the cellular walls.
As you perform your workout, you will begin to produce muscle metabolic by-products such as lactic acid and hydrogen ions. Due to the positioning & effect of the BFR bands, the lactic acid also becomes trapped in the muscle. Fortunately, these metabolic by-products are in-fact anabolic and assist in protein synthesis to stimulate muscle growth.
In other words, due to the workout with occlusion bands it causes the level of fluids to increase in the muscles which will increase cellular swelling response. This stress leads to a protective response, releasing anabolic hormones and causing the muscle to adapt and grow.
In this study, low-load BFR training to failure caused an increase in growth hormone 290x higher than resting levels, and approximately 4x higher than low-load training to failure without BFR. These are quite remarkable results which should be taken into consideration before deciding that BFR training is "not something for me".
The accumulation of these by-products limits the working muscles’ ability to use oxygen; and when a muscle is increasingly deprived of oxygen, the body’s rate of anabolic response increases.
By continuing to train whilst exposing the muscles to a build-up of lactic acid and low oxygen levels for extended periods of time, the Type I muscle fibres experience rapid fatigue. As a result, Type II fibres are forced to activate, enabling you to begin working on causing muscle damage to Type II fibres easier and faster.
This is not an exhaustive list of the mechanisms that BFR has on the human body when working out but should give you an overview of some of the essentials for moving ahead and trying it out for yourself in practice.
Team BfR Professional