Blood Flow Restriction Training – What is that??
Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training is a technique that combines low load exercise with controlled blood flow occlusion in order to create similar strength gains as with high load training. This is especially useful in a rehab setting, where patients require muscle strengthening, but high load and high-intensity exercises may not be clinically appropriate. For example, in the weeks after an ACL surgery, the healing ligament must be protected, so the joint cannot withstand too much load. Training with BFR allows the muscles to be challenged without stressing the joint. Similarly, BFR can help injured muscles to regain strength faster. After a small muscle tear or strain, it is important to build back the strength of that muscle, but initially high loads are inappropriate. BFR allows for earlier strength gains because it works the muscles at a very low load.
How does it work?
A pneumatic cuff (tourniquet) is placed on either the upper or lower limb, proximal (higher up) to the muscle that is being worked. The cuff is then inflated to a specific pressure with the aim of obtaining partial arterial and complete venous occlusion. This means that some fresh blood is able to enter the limb, but it cannot leave the limb. This causes cell swelling, hypoxia, and a release of growth hormones, which triggers an anabolic reaction and results in muscle hypertrophy. In this way, BFR is mimicking the effects of high-intensity exercise by creating the cellular environment that occurs with heavy lifting. Hypertrophy during traditional weightlifting requires lifting loads over 65% of an individual's one rep max. With BFR, hypertrophy can be produced with lifting loads as low as 20% of one rep max!
At DSPT we use the Delfi Personalized Tourniquet System, which delivers a controlled amount of blood flow restriction. The Delfi first measures how much pressure is needed to completely occlude the limb (everyone is different), and then delivers a percentage of that pressure in order to achieve partial occlusion. If you have questions about BFR or want to know how you might benefit from using it, give us a shout!
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