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Blood Flow Restriction Training: What You Need to Know

Blood Flow Restriction Training: What You Need to Know
Kevin Cleary

Whether it’s for rehabilitation or sports training, finding a training program that maximizes results is the ultimate goal. One possible available option is blood flow restriction (BFR) training. I’m quite sure you’ve never heard of it. This is a type of training that can make your workouts or therapy sessions more effective. By restricting blood flow, we may be able to increase the efficacy of our exercise programs. Let’s explore what blood flow restriction training can do for you and its benefits.

What Is Blood Flow Restriction Training?

Every exercise program or rehabilitation session has the same goal in mind, and that is to get the most out of every session possible. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a training method that could increase the efficacy of every training session? I like to think of it as “work smarter, not harder.” Well, blood flow restriction training may be that golden ring you’re reaching for!! BFR training goals are increased strength gains while lifting lighter loads, which can reduce limb stress and avoid muscle breakdown. Lift less, gain more…sounds good to me!! This method of training utilizes a tourniquet, such as an elastic band or cuff, at the top of the arm or leg to restrict blood flow, hence the name. This training method works by:

  • Blocks venous return without blocking the arterial flow
  • Creating cellular swelling
  • Facilitating growth hormones
  • Accumulating metabolites
  • Stimulating muscle growth

Benefits of BFR Training

By exposing your muscles longer to these metabolites, blood flow restriction training creates cellular signals that can cause adaptations in the body. This can result in bigger, stronger muscles…who doesn’t want that? BFR training benefits can include:

  • Increased muscle size/strength
  • Greater cardiovascular activity
  • Decreased joint/tissue stress
  • Minimal muscle damage/recovery time
  • Low intensity

With increased muscle strength/size, the goal of BFR training is the key mechanism of blood entering your muscle via arteries, but the restriction bands/tourniquets used in BFR block it from leaving through your veins. Muscle growth happens when 3 things happen:

  1. Muscle trauma: When muscles are damaged through exercise, our bodies repair and rebuild them, creating bigger/stronger muscles.
  2. Oxygen depletion: Less oxygen in muscle tissues causes the creation of lactic acid, which leads to the stimulation of muscle hypertrophy.
  3. Cellular swelling: With exercise comes increased blood flow. This increased blood flow leads to cellular swelling in your muscles, causing muscle growth.

Who should opt for Blood Flow Restriction Training?

This type of exercise or training may seem ideal, but is it right for you? BFR can help get a patient stronger without increasing the load on injured muscles, tendons, ligaments, or joints. Blood flow restriction therapy can be right for the following indications:

  • Pre-/Post Op orthopedic patients
  • Athletes
  • Patients with limited mobility
  • Elderly
  • Amputees

For those who are looking to improve upon their sports training program, blood flow restriction training offers the ability to create muscle strength and hypertrophy with lower loads without muscle protein breakdown, increasing the efficacy of any sports performance routine.

Contraindications: Avoid BFR If…

Yes, blood flow restriction training has been proven to be safe, but there are some conditions that, if you suffer from them, you should not partake in BFR. Some of these issues/conditions include:

  • Circulatory issues
  • Blood clot risk or DVT
  • Pregnant
  • Lymphedema
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension

As you can see, most of these contraindications involve disorders that revolve around circulation. Also, anyone under the age of 12 should not consider blood flow restriction training. The number one question asked about BFR is…Is it safe? The answer to this question is yes. Very few side effects have been associated with blood flow restriction training. Some of these can include:

See Your Doctor if…

If you should experience pain or discomfort, be sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible. If any of the above side effects last longer than normal, you should also contact your physician. Also, be sure not to wear BFR bands for too long. They should be worn for only 8-20 minutes and then wait 30 seconds with no pressure before moving on.

Blood restriction training is an effective, efficient method of exercise or training. By simply restricting blood flow, our muscles can be made to work more efficiently to reach our goals without the need for over-strenuous exercise. Be sure to consult your physician before starting any new exercise routine or program to be sure it is appropriate for you and your condition. Also, be sure that any facilitator of BFR is trained and certified to ensure that all safety guidelines are followed.


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.


HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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