I had the ability to attend a blood flow restriction training course by Owens Recovery Science
this past weekend. This is an amazing technique that is gaining traction and reputation in the
sports and therapy world. It has been around for quite some time and you may have even seen
stories about professional athletes, such as Dwight Howard, using this to help rehab from
injury. But what exactly is blood flow restriction (BFR) and can it help you?
BFR training involves using medical tourniquets to decrease the amount of blood flow that can
leave an arm or a leg. A high-tech medical device automatically determines the amount of
pressure required to occlude the blood flow leaving your limb, while also allowing new blood to
enter the limb. It feels quite a bit like a blood pressure cuff on your upper arm or leg. Don’t
worry, this may sound like a scary procedure, but it’s quite safe!
Why do we want to occlude the blood flow leaving a limb? Well to simulate high-intensity
training while actually using only about 20% of the load. High-intensity training is the gold
standard for improving strength, muscle size, bone strength, tendon and ligament durability,
and reducing pain. But often we are unable to utilize high-intensity training due to recovery
from injury or weakened tissues. By using BFR training, we are simulating the environment that
occurs with heavy lifting. So, you get all the benefits from high-intensity training without having
to lift heavy!
But what does BFR training look like? Well, we place the cuff onto your leg or arm, inflate it up
to the correct pressure, and then you will perform exercises. You will perform multiple sets of
the same exercise, with rest periods in between. Then, after a few sets, we deflate the cuff and
give a rest break before moving on to the next exercise. Another great benefit is reduced
muscle soreness following BFR as compared to heavy lifting!
What about safety? It may sound like this could predispose you to blood clots or injury, but this
is simply not the case. In fact, you have a reduced risk for blood clot after BFR compared to
before exercise! Also, since you are lifting only about 20% of your maximum, injury risk is
Who can benefit from BFR? Just about anyone! Anyone suffering from pain, weakness, atrophy,
detraining, stress-fracture, and post-surgery can receive excellent benefits.
In future blog posts we will review the physiology behind blood flow restriction and how it can
apply to each of these groups. If you fall within one of the groups listed above and are
interested in learning more and getting started with BFR, reach out to us today!
Thanks for reading,