Strength and muscle mass are largely important for not only human performance, but also for health a longevity. Studies have shown that muscle mass is a predictor of disease and mortality. For someone to make gains in strength and muscle mass, a person must lift weights at greater than 70% of their 1 rep maximum. However, there is another more convenient method which can be used to make strength gains.
Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a therapy tool used by physical therapists that has been proven safe and effective in improving strength and muscle mass. BFR involves applying a cuff-like tourniquet placed over the closest part of the arm or leg being strengthened.
The tourniquet is inflated, reducing blood flow from the muscle area. This creates increased oxygen demand for the muscles during exercise. This increased demand causes the muscle to work harder than normal to contract (so instead of 70%, only 20-35% of the 1 rep maximum or less is needed!)
When training with BFR, the user should never feel pain, numbness or tingling. Muscle “burn”, on the other hand, is expected. It may feel uncomfortable during the training process but will feel like you got a great workout after!
Here are some examples of when BFR training can be useful:
- Post surgery: strengthening when full weight bearing is prohibited, to retrain weakened muscles
- Elderly: safe strengthening to improve function and prevent falls
- Athletes: maintaining muscles mass during season
- General fitness
- Improve Aerobic Endurance
- Osteoarthritis: improve muscle function and prevent surgery
- And many more!