It is efficient and attainable since it allows patients to see significant results while using much lighter weights. The benefits are substantial, including an impact on strength, muscle fiber hypertrophy, pain modulation, tissue repair from an increase in GH production, VO2Max, and more.
BFR training typically requires some form of easily doable but effective exercise personalized to the patient’s rehabilitation needs.
Through BFR, patients are better able to move actively, improve function, and improve independence and quality of life.
BFR leads to higher muscle function by combining improved strength and muscle size with decreased levels of pain. It also allows patients to benefit earlier in the rehabilitation process, instead needing 20-30% of 1RM (one-rep maximum) to trigger hypertrophy versus the 65% required with traditional loading.
For many patients, the psychological buy-in of BFR is more immediate compared to other modalities used in rehabilitation (e.g., STM, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, joint mobilization, etc.).
Too often, after 4-6 weeks of repetition with other methods and little to show for it, patients tend to question the results and whether anything is actually happening. They can’t see a tendon being restructured, tissue being laid down, or their brain’s neural network labeling sensations as safe or threatening every time they do a squat. So, patient compliance can become challenging.
However, with BFR training, patients have a more immediate sensory and visual awareness that they’re making progress. Using Low-Load Exercises with BFR limits oxygen, creating an amplified sensation via anaerobic energy production. This makes it more difficult for a patient to ignore the effects as their muscle size increases as if they’ve been lifting heavyweights.
BFR training uses specifically designed cuffs to control the amount of oxygen available to a limb, replicating a high-intensity environment. If a patient lifts light weights combined with BFR, they will get similar results seen with heavy lifting. BFR is even more beneficial during rehabilitation because it enables a patient to exercise effectively, which is key to triggering tissue adaptation and recovery.
BFR training combined with lightweight lifting leads to a significant hypertrophy stimulus, improvement in strength, increased Growth Hormone production stimulating expanded tissue repair, and improved VO2Max.
The low threshold required to use BFR combined with the potential benefits makes it a definite go-to for rehab. It offers enormous benefits for many musculoskeletal injuries, including bone fractures, muscle strains, post-surgical tendinous or ligamentous interventions, meniscus repair, Achilles or Patellar tendon repairs, and total joint replacement. If a patient needs simple but effective rehabilitation, BFR is an excellent first step.
Giles L, Webster K, McClelland J, Cook J., Quadriceps strengthening with and without blood flow restriction in the treatment of patellofemoral pain. A double blind randomized trial, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 20S (2017 e67-e105)