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What You Need to Know About Blood Flow Restriction Training

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Blood flow restriction (BFR) training involves very slightly restricting arterial inflow and enabling moderation (or “slowing”) of venous outflow at the top of the arms or legs while exercising either the arm, leg or core muscles with very low weights but high repetition to failure
  • BFR allows you to significantly enhance strength and increase muscle mass using as little as 20 to 30% of your single-rep max (1 RM) weight compared to conventional strength training that uses 70 to 85% of your 1 RM. Alternatively, for those who cannot or do not want to use weights, you can contract your muscles and move them very slowly with the BFR bands on
  • Use of lighter weights makes BFR far safer than conventional strength training and makes it available to a much broader range of individuals, including the elderly and patients with disabilities or injuries
  • Venous blood flow restriction is achieved by wrapping the extremity being exercised with an inflatable cuff or band. The band needs to be tight enough to reduce the normal level of venous return to the heart, while being loose enough to allow arterial flow-through
  • BFR is actually a form of high intensity training, as the Type I slow twitch muscle fibers become highly fatigued during the first set, thus necessitating the recruitment of Type II fast twitch muscle fibers as the exercise progresses, which is likely for many of the metabolic benefits of BFR

Sato, the 73-year-old inventor of KAATSU

The origins of blood flow restriction (BFR) training, also known as vascular occlusion training, were developed by the pioneering professor Yoshiaki Sato of Japan over 50 years ago.


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