Is Blood Flow Restriction Training For You?Mar 28, 2019
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:
- Occluding your limb creates an anaerobic environment by limiting the amount of oxygenated blood that reaches a working muscle.
- This anaerobic environment stimulates your fast twitch muscle fibers (the fibers responsible for power, speed, and strength).
- In an anaerobic environment with your fast twitch muscle fibers activated, a convoluted process starts called the Cori Cycle, which leads to the production of lactate in the muscles (fun fact: lactate production creates that burning sensation you feel).
- Because your limb is occluded, the lactate being produced begins to pool in the working muscles, which signals multiple metabolites leading to protein synthesis, muscle stem cells, capillary beds, and a 290% increase in human growth hormone (HGH).
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.
- This is a great way for barbell, endurance, and in-season athletes to compliment their current training programs without worrying about over-training.
PBFRT has also been shown to have a profound effect on your aerobic capacity as well by increasing your VO2 max and capillary beds.
- This means that research has demonstrated the ability to improve both your cardiovascular endurance and muscular size simultaneously!
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.
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Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jake, DPT, CSCS
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