Occlusion Training Bands | Bands vs. Cuffs 

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training has become quite popular with athletes and fitness professionals, as well as those with mobility issues and those who are rehabbing from an injury or surgery. 

But just what is BFR training and how does it work? The term “blood flow restriction” can sound a bit intimidating, but it is part of an effective training strategy that produces results.

How Does BFR Work?

BFR training works by placing cuffs or bands around a limb of your body during exercise. The band or cuff helps maintain arterial inflow to the muscle while simultaneously preventing venous return. In other words, blood can flow to the muscles but not out of them. 

This lack of venous return creates a swelling effect on the muscle. Metabolites like lactate then accumulate and stimulate muscle growth. The nervous system recruits the body’s large, fast-twitch muscle fibers, leading to an increase in Growth Hormone and Insulin Growth Factor 1. 

The overall effect is an increase in muscle size and strength. Since this increase is achieved through low-intensity exercise with a decrease in stress to tissue and joints, the benefits are ideal for mobility-challenged patients going through rehabilitation or for athletes looking to isolate and strengthen weaker regions of the body.

Using a Band for BFR

A variety of tools can be used to perform BFR. The two most common are bands or cuffs, since they are the least expensive options. You can search your favorite online store and find most options well under $50. 

The downside to bands is that they offer little in the way of consistency. It’s extremely difficult to achieve any level of accuracy over multiple workouts because there’s no way to apply a consistent level of pressure. Your workout on Monday may feel very challenging, while Wednesday’s workout may seem too easy. 

Using a Cuff

A cuff, such as our SmartTools® SmartCuffs, provides a much more consistent training method, as well as enhanced safety to help reduce risk of injury when training. Perhaps the most important SmartCuffs feature is the ability to accurately measure Limb Occlusion Pressure, or LOP. 

Accurately measuring LOP is important because it allows you to take the guesswork out of the amount of blood flow restriction you’re applying to a limb. This is a crucial safety feature. 

The 3rd generation SmartCuffs offer an electronic pump system that lets you set your desired LOP percentage, making the entire process quick and easy. 

Since safety is essential, SmartCuffs also feature built-in safety mechanisms like “Manual Mode,” which allows the user to inflate the cuff to the desired pressure. But if the cuff becomes overinflated for some reason, the system will sense it and vent all air from the cuff while shutting it down. 

Pros and Cons of Bands vs. Cuffs

As you can see, there are key differences between these two methods of BFR training. 

Bands

Pros:

  • Inexpensive and the most affordable

Cons:

  • Inconsistent pressure and accuracy
  • Pose a greater risk of injury

Cuffs

Pros:

  • Extremely safe and easy to use
  • Ability to measure LOP percentage for enhanced safety and accuracy
  • Built-in safety mechanisms
  • Least risk of injury

Cons:

  • More expensive than bands