What is Blood Flow Restriction Training? (BFR)
BFR training is when inflatable pressurised cuffs around a limb (proximal to the muscle being trained) are used which limits blood delivery to and from the contracting muscles.
Why Would You Use It?
When high intensity/high load training is not possible or not indicated
- After An Injury
- After Surgery
- Joint Doesn’t Tolerate High Load/Exercise (Arthritic Joint or Cartilage Damage etc.)
- Pain Relief
- Nerve Related Injuries/Radiculopathy
- Patients over 40 yrs old who wish to supplement their current workouts without irritating their joints
Why Can BFR Help?
- Enhances muscle hypertrophy
- Increases Strength
- Improves Aerobic Capacity
- Attenuates Atrophy
- Less Stress on Joints Due to Lower Load
(Scott ’15, Heitkamp ’15, Patterson ’19, Bowman ’19, Hughes ’19, Korkmaz ’20, Head ’20)
What Is Our Clinic’s Experience/Results and Who Do We Use It For? Most Common Conditions:
- Post Knee Surgery
- Arthritic Knee (Allows you to strengthen the thigh without irritating the joint and reduces pain)
- Tennis Elbow
- Muscle Injury of arm or leg muscles
- Lumbar Radiculopathy (If used in the correct stage of rehab, can work really well)
Common Results and Use:
- If successful with a trial in the clinic, patients are given a take home device for 2-6 weeks
- Several patients use the device longer than 6 weeks as they are still making improvements, and some will buy the device for long term benefits
- We use this often in the clinic each week, but not for every patient
- One if the most effective rehabilitation strategies we use when indicated
What Are The Basics Of How It Is Used?
- 20-40% 1RM (one Repetition Max effort), which is usually light resistance for the patient
- Frequency: 2-3 times per week
- 30 second rest breaks between sets
- First set of exercise 30 reps followed by 3 sets of 15 reps for first exercise
- Following exercises 2-3 sets of 15 reps
- The application of BFR should be limited to less than 20 minutes for lower limb, and 15 minutes for upper limb, before allowing adequate time for reperfusion of tissues (3 min).
When Did BFR Start and How Much Research Is Available?
- Yoshiaki Sato originated the idea in the late 1960’s
- 1970’s body builders used it
- Mid 1990’s rehabilitation started using it
- Early 2000’s increased use by the medical field]
- 2010’s pro athletes started using it
- 2017 89 articles published on BFR
- 2020 160 plus articles published on BFR
- Now over 1,300 research articles related to BFR on pubmed
So How Does BFR Really Work?
It basically accelerated fatigue and tricks the muscle into thinking it is lifting heavier loads than what it is wheihc can lead to hypertrophy (muscle growth) response. You only need 20-40% of 1RM load to achieve the desired results! 40-80% limb occlusion pressure if often used
- Several Possibilities:
- Low Oxygen
- Metabolite Accumulation
- Increased Hormone Response
- Cellular Swelling (lack of venous return)
- Activation of Anabolic Pathways (Pearson ’15, Loenneke ’11)
- Markers damage markers are not increased with BFR (Loenneke ’12)
- It doesn’t appear to stimulate greatly neural, high loads most likely needed for this (Duchateau ’06, ’11)
What About Pain Relief and Using BFR?
- Reduction in pain in all tasks when compared with not using BFR (Hughes ’85, Kirakais ’18, Giles ’17, VanCant ’20).
Want To Know Even More About BFR? Watch This Video Below
Ways To Measure The Correct Pressure For Your Cuffs
Use the below calculator for the most accurate reading.
Measure Blood Pressure in Supine (safest and on the side of caution for positioning)
Additional Measures To Check Your Pressure Is Correct:
- When pumping up your cuffs, the perceived pressure should be no more than 7/10 (patient ranks the pressure, 10 is the most pressure, 0/10 is no pressure)
- Patient should be close to 7/10 pressure, but not more than 7.
- Capillary refill ( <0:03 seconds)
- Push on finger nail for 1-2 seconds, the whiteness should return to pink within 3 seconds. If not, you may have too much pressure.
- Check Pulse with Pulse Oximeter
- Pulse needs to be present when checking with Pulse Oximeter. If it is not, you likely have enough pressure for full occlusion. You should work out with no more than 50% of this pressure.