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What is Blood Flow Restriction??

July 19, 2021

In today’s article, we are going to discuss the benefits of Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training, who we use it on here at LOTS, and why!

BFR is fairly new treatment technique used in outpatient rehab settings. It is believed to have started in the 1960’s using tourniquet-style technique but has obviously transformed into a safer and more efficient style over the last 50 years. Today, some type of external pressure device (we use Smart Cuffs at LOTS) is used to apply pressure to a particular limb. Once pressure is applied, we use a Doppler Ultrasound machine to determine how much pressure is needed to completely occlude that limb of arterial blood flow. We then take that pressure reading (measured in mmHg) and have you perform a specific set of exercises at a safe percentage of total occlusion.

Why does this work and how will it benefit me? I’m glad you asked! There has been a steady amount of research done on BFR in the last 20 years. In my opinion, the more research that comes out, the more it solidifies BFR as one of the best tools to use to build strength. Without diving too deep into anatomy and physiology, this is how BFR works…

Once you are performing resistance or body weight exercises with partial occlusion to your arterial blood flow, you’re basically starving your muscles for nutrients and oxygen. This gets your muscles to “burn-out” and reach failure point quicker, which is how you train your muscles to become stronger. Another cool caveat with BFR training for post-operative clients or people with arthritic joints is you’re able to use less resistance with your exercises to get to the failure point. This means less demand on your actual joints and better protection of the surgery site. Recent studies have shown that you can get the same increase in muscle size and strength with using 15% of your 1 rep-max (1RM) while using BFR compared to using 70% of 1RM with no blood flow restriction.

We’ve used BFR on people as young a 12-years old up to people in their 70’s. BFR is safe for almost all clientele when used properly. If you have moderate to severe cardiovascular disease, then some of the parameters may need to be modified. Speaking of cardiovascular, BFR can also help improve muscle endurance and increase your VO2 max. This isn’t as well researched at this point as improving strength with BFR, but the research so far is promising!

We hope you learned a little bit about what BFR is and why we use it here at LOTS. It has been a great tool for our athletes and for those that just enjoy staying active. Give us a call to set-up an evaluation to see how BFR might help you!

Chase Patterson PT, DPT (7/19/21)