What’s up, everyone. One of the many treatment options that we offer at Athletes’ Potential is something called Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training (PBFRT). This is something I remember being blown away about while in physical therapy school and seeing the results that research was showing. To put it simply, it’s one of the best evidence supported treatment options out there and we are thrilled to be able to offer it to the Decatur and greater Atlanta area.
There are a ton of awesome benefits with PBFRT, but first let’s take a look at what exactly BFR is. PBFRT is the brief and intermittent use of a tourniquet in order to restrict the amount of blood flow from coming into your limb (arterial flow) while performing low-load resistance training. The way PBFRT works is it reduces the amount of oxygenated blood reaching a working muscle in order to trick your body into thinking it’s working at a higher intensity than it actually is. By using this form of engineered suffering, you’re able to use extremely light resistance and still get the same increases in size and strength as lifting at higher intensities with heavy weight! Exactly how this happens is laid out below:
Essentially, PBFRT is a true biohack that allows people to work at loads that are non-stressful on the tissue but still get improved size and strength. A true game-changer in the world of strength and conditioning.
But just like everything else in the world of sports medicine, PBFRT has to be used appropriately and with the right population. Otherwise, you could risk wasting your time and resources. So, who exactly would benefit? Below are three of the most common scenarios that people see the best results.
Muscle breakdown (atrophy) after a surgery or injury happens incredibly fast. For example, when you’re injured or you’re not allowed to put any weight through one of your limbs, in as little as two weeks that limb goes into a state of anabolic resistance and protein synthesis shuts down leading to a 30% loss of muscle mass in that limb!
This is obviously extremely problematic and slows down recovery from an injury dramatically. However, with PBFRT we now have the ability to combat that significant muscle loss because we are able to use low intensity and weight levels that are safe and tolerable to the patient and get the same increases in muscle size and strength as lifting at 65% of your one rep max or higher.
A great example of just how beneficial PBFRT can be for patients rehabbing from injury comes from Dr. Zach Long who was working with an elite level olympic lifter after tearing his ACL. With this type of injury, more than 65% of patients demonstrate quadricep weakness even a year out from surgery. However, Dr. Long’s patient’s surgical leg became one inch larger than his healthy leg in just three months time after his surgery!
PBFRT has shown numerous benefits to enhancing sports performance, but perhaps the most documented is the ability for athletes to maintain muscle size and strength without the dip in performance caused by muscle soreness. This is possible because there is no muscle tissue breakdown associated with PBFRT since the intensity is kept so low.
PBFRT has also been shown to have a profound effect on your aerobic capacity as well by increasing your VO2 max and capillary beds.
Imagine this. You’re training for an upcoming triathlon and are starting to feel a little banged up from the volume pulling, or you’re gassed trying to prepare for a CrossFit competition, or maybe you’re midseason in soccer and have been trying to push through some nagging issues.
Now, imagine during your recovery day you rode for just 15 minutes, at a pace well below a typical recovery ride pace, and we’re able to give your tendons that increased HGH we mentioned above, all while boosting your VO2 max AND letting your tissue continue to recover.
Sounds pretty cool; right? We have people do that all the time here in the clinic and we are consistently seeing people hit PR’s and feel good doing it.
Rehab, Performance, Recovery. That covers a vast majority of the population, and that’s on purpose. The research (over 600 published studies) is incredible and the results we are getting wiht people speak for themselves. However, as the old adage goes, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Personalized blood flow restriction training isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. At Athletes’ Potential we firmly believe we have the most skilled doctors of physical therapy who can use a vast array of treatment options to help you reach your injury or performance goals. Whether you are training through a nagging injury or looking to improve your performance, we would love to help you achieve your goals. Give us a call at 470-355-2106 or fill out the contact request form below and we will be happy to contact you.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jake, DPT, CSCS
It’s been well researched and well documented that surgery is over utilized in the United States. Whether for your knee, back, shoulder, or ankle, it is far too common for people to rush to the operating table when, in many cases, conservative treatment (physical therapy) has been shown to have equal or better outcomes. Let's look at back surgery as an example. If you take 3 random people off the street who have absolutely no back pain, one of them is going to a “herniated disc” show up on an MRI scan. This means disc herniations may not always be the cause of someone’s low back pain, yet 500,000 people opt to have back surgery every year, often times with minimal or no relief.
That being said, there is obviously a time and a place for surgery. Depending on a number of different variables (age, activity level, mechanism of injury, etc), sometimes surgery can absolutely be the best treatment option for you. What most people fail to understand though is that surgery is the easy part...all you have to do is get stuck with an IV and the next thing you know you wake up in the recovery room. Returning to your previous level of performance is the hard part, and it’s the hard part primarily because of the incredible amount of muscle atrophy (loss of muscle mass) that occurs after a surgery. In as little as two weeks a surgically repaired limb goes into a state of anabolic resistance and protein synthesis shuts down, leading to a 30% loss of muscle mass in that limb. Because of this rapid and extreme loss in muscle mass, muscle atrophy has a profound impact on a patient's rehabilitation, and sometimes patients never fully recover.
Historically, muscle atrophy has been a battle that physical therapists, athletic trainers, and strength coaches alike have struggled to win. Just the other day I was working with a patient who is extremely active and fit, but had a knee surgery over 15 years ago and still had a significant side-to-side difference in leg size. However, there’s a revolutionary piece of equipment that is taking the world of physical therapy by storm, on that’s allowing healthcare professionals to prevent this initial 30% loss of muscle mass from even happening in the first place, Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training.
I go more into detail about what exactly Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training (PBFRT) is in my previous article, but in a nutshell PBFRT is the use a modified surgical tourniquet to occlude a percentage of the arterial flow into a limb to trick your body into thinking it’s doing something much harder than it actually is.
So why is personalized blood flow restriction training so revolutionizing when it comes to surgery? It prevents the significant muscle atrophy from even happening in the first place.
In normal circumstances it takes 8-12 weeks of high intensity strength training (>65% of your one rep max) to get improved strength and muscle size from, you can see how this would be an issue for someone recovering from a surgery. When you have a surgery, you’re going to go through a period of time where it simply isn’t feasible, nor safe, to lift the weight required to increase muscle size. This is where PBFRT comes in.
Say you’ve torn your ACL. With an ACL reconstruction, for the first few weeks the “strengthening” component of your rehabilitation will include simple exercises like seated knee extensions, mini squats, and heel raises. None of these exercises are going to make you a stronger functioning human, because none of these are at a high enough intensity level to cause the biological responses needed to increase muscle size and strength. However, if we put on a blood flow restriction device, and do these exact same exercises, we cause the following:
There are about 200 published research articles in 15 different countries that have demonstrate the benefits of personalized blood flow restriction training and we are seeing those benefits every day here in the clinic. Whether it’s helping someone who has years of atrophy as a result of surgery or we’re preventing the atrophy from even happening in the first place, the results we’re seeing are simply incredible. If you’re living in Atlanta, and you’ve had surgery or are struggling to get your strength back after a surgery, we’d love to help you. Give us a call at 470-355-2106 or fill out the contact request form and we’ll contact you.
Thanks for reading,
-Dr. Jake, PT, DPT
To put it bluntly, being strong makes life easier. Humans don’t have the ability to create more muscle fibers (hyperplasia), so in order to get stronger we have to work tediously to increase the size of our existing muscle fibers (hypertrophy). According to the American Academy of Sports Medicine, gaining strength through hypertrophy takes 8-12 weeks of moderate to high intensity resistance training (>65% of your one rep max) utilizing 8-10 upper and lower body exercises at a rate 2-3 times per week.
A relatively easy formula to follow; right? Well, what happens when you are recovering from an injury and can’t safely use loads heavy enough to improve strength and size? Or when you’re an athlete who is in-season and can’t tolerate the drop in performance associated with the muscle soreness that follows heavy lifting?
Up until now those have been troubling questions for medical professionals and strength coaches alike. However, there is a new tool with over 160 peer reviewed research studies and documented success across the military, college, and professional sports arenas; something that is creating increased size and strength in as little as two weeks and is completely changing the game of how professionals approach rehab and sports performance…Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training (PBFRT).
What is Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training and How Does it Work?
PBFRT is the brief and intermittent use of a tourniquet in order to restrict the amount of blood flow from coming into your limb (arterial flow) while performing low-load resistance training. There are numerous types of blood flow restriction devices available, but the gold standard occlusion device is the Delphi Personal Occlusion Tourniquet. The Delphi Personal Occlusion Tourniquet the only device have FDA approval to be safely used for medical use and is essentially a modified surgical tourniquet that contains a doppler system. This doppler system allows so you read a person’s arterial flow in live time, so you know exactly how much blood you are occluding, and it will adjust its pressure automatically throughout an exercise to maintain a designated percentage of occlusion that is personalized to each individual person.
The way PBFRT works is it reduces the amount of oxygenated blood reaching a working muscle in order to trick your body into thinking it’s working at a higher intensity than it actually is. By using this form of engineered suffering you’re able to use extremely light resistance and still get the same increases in size and strength as lifting at higher intensities with heavy weight! Exactly how this happens is laid out below:
So who exactly would benefit from Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training?
Personalized blood flow restriction training has been one of the largest advancements for injury rehabilitation and sports performance and we are so excited to offer it at our clinic in Decatur, GA. Whether you are training through a nagging injury or preparing for your next triathlon, we would love to help you achieve your performance goals. Give us a call at 470-355-2106 or fill out the contact request form below and we will be happy to contact you.
Thanks for reading,
-Dr. Jake, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.