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Blood flow restriction training

When science meets strength training, the possibilities of how we can train evolve.

Blood flow restriction, or BFR, is a unique way to train and is exactly what it sounds like. A band or cuff is used around the upper arm or thigh during training to reduce the venous return. The restriction of blood flow creates a pooling of blood and accumulates metabolites in the muscles, and this in turn produces a chain reaction in the body which increases secretion of growth hormone.

The advantage of this type of training is the ability to strength train with very low resistance, with similar results as when using a heavy load.

The science on this type of training has been extensive in recent years and shows very promising results. Studies have shown that it produces increased muscle hypertrophy, enhanced strength, increased aerobic capacity and attenuation of muscle atrophy.

Who is BFR for?

People coming back from injury or someone who cannot lift heavy weights. When returning to training after an injury or surgery, such as knee replacement or ACL reconstruction (for example), your limb is forced into disuse or immobilization. You lose a lot of muscle and strength. Using BFR can help you begin your recovery earlier and get you on the path to recovery sooner.

Is BFR safe?

Yes; research has shown that the side effects are minimal, such as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS that you get 24 to 48 hours after a session. There is also some discomfort felt in the muscles during a session. That said, BFR is contraindicated for people with high blood pressure or diabetes, and for cardiac patients.

Ask a kinesiologist, physiotherapist or athletic therapist to guide you with this type of training because the blood restriction has to be monitored.

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