What is BFR?

What is Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training?

Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a training and rehabilitation strategy involving the use of cuffs or bands placed around a limb during exercise, to maintain arterial inflow to the muscle while preventing venous return (venous occlusion).

How does it work?

  • Lack of venous return creates a swelling effect of the muscle.
  • Metabolites, such as lactate, accumulate and stimulate muscle growth.
  • Hypoxic environment promotes strength and muscle growth.
  • Direct muscle fatigue forces the nervous system to recruit the largest fast-twitch muscle fibers, which have the greatest capacity to grow.
  • Increase to Growth Hormone (GH) and Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1).

What are the benefits?

  • Increased muscle size (Hypertrophy)
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased cardiovascular capacity
  • Increased GH, IGF1 and maybe testosterone
  • Decreased joint/tissue stress
  • Little to no muscle damage
  • Little to no recovery needed
  • Little to no soreness or delayed onset muscular soreness (DOMS)
  • Low Intensity needed (resistance or cardio)

Who benefits?

  • Immobile or mobility-restricted populations:
    • Bed ridden
    • Casted
    • Post-operation rehabilitation patients
    • Elderly
  • Athletic populations:
    • Active recovery
    • Decrease joint/tissue loads
    • Isolated exercises for “weak link” region

What are the risks?

  • Injury resulting from this type of training is rare
  • Possibility with inappropriate implementation:
      • Subcutaneous hemorrhage
      • Numbness
      • Always consult your physician prior to any new exercise program

Loenneke JP, Abe T, Wilson JM, Ugrinowitsch C, & Bemben MG (2012) Blood flow restriction: how does it work? Frontiers in Physiology, 3, 392.

Loenneke JP, Wilson GJ, & Wilson JM (2010) A mechanistic approach to blood flow occlusion. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 31(1), 1-4.

Nakajima T. Key considerations when conducting KAATSU training. Int J KAATSU Train Res. 2011;7(1):1-6

Nakajima T. Use and safety of KAATSU training; results of a national survey. Int J KAATSU Train Res. 2006;2(1):5-13