What is Blood Flow Restriction (BFR)?
Blood Flow Restriction (BRF) is an exercise approach whereby resistance exercise or aerobic exercise is performed whilst an occlusion cuff is applied to proximal aspect of the limb. Given the light-load nature and higher repetition of BFR training, it can provide an effective clinical rehabilitation stimulus without the high levels of joint stress and soft tissue breakdown that can be seen with heavy-load training.
Research shows that BFR increases muscle size, strength, power/speed, bone density markers, and reduces the likelihood of atrophy. BFR is proven to improve blood flow to limbs, increase tissue healing, and limit scar tissue formation. BFR can be applied with typical resistance training, aerobic training and even periods of immobilization or bed rest.
Why Use Blood Flow Restriction (BFR)?
BFR is a valuable training method for individuals unable to tolerate high intensities/loads, such as post-op patients with precautions, patients recovering from injuries, or even the elderly population. Why limit one’s ability to obtain strength or hypertrophic gains when BFR allows us to not only maintain muscle, but even gain at a faster rate than traditional training. In fact, it is supported that BFR at low-intensity training increases muscle growth 1.7x greater than traditional high-intensity training in one third of the adaptation time.
How Does it Work?
BFR works by limiting blood flow to the working muscle and occluding the return of blood back from the limb. This causes blood pooling that leads to an accumulation of metabolites. This accumulation of metabolites and limited oxygen to the muscle causes a hormone reaction that promotes protein and muscle growth. These cellular level changes occur throughout the body thus stimulating recovery and muscle fiber growth above and below the limb being occluded.
The exact mechanism behind the positive benefits of BFR is still being extensively researched, however there are over 820 published articles in the past 10 years supporting the use of this. In recent years, research has demonstrated that augmentation of low-load resistance training with blood flow restriction to the active musculature can produce significant hypertrophy and strength gains.
BFR aids in the following injuries
- Total joint replacements
- Achilles tendon repairs
- Rotator cuff repairs
- Muscle strains
- Nerve injuries
- Post-op cartilage arthroscopies/reconstructions
- ACL/ligamentous surgeries
*** Offers no greater risk than traditional exercise.
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