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Written by Jamie Carr (The Fitness Circle Student).
An old time friend of mine, John, recently popped up in town so that we could catch up. He was a long time gym buddy, and we would occasionally work out after work. So I meet him at a local bar and when he walks in, I almost fail to recognize him. The guy is huge! His biceps are nearly twice the size of mine! The funny thing is that a year ago, he was smaller than I was. Curiously, I ask him if he’s been taking steroids and he shrugs off my ludicrous question with a grin. “I actually started doing blood flow restriction training,” he says. “It’s truly amazing.” Inquisitively, I ask him to explain more on the discipline because I had never heard of it before. “All I can tell you about it man is that you have to try it out for yourself. You won’t regret it.”
Therefore, the next day, I decided to do a little research on BFR. Surprisingly, I learn that BFR has actually been practiced in Japan for quite some time now and only recently captivated the western society around the mid 90’s. So what exactly is blood flow restriction training? Well after doing my research and undergoing a number of sessions, I can confidently say that it is an effective muscle enlargement technique that tweaks the body’s natural biological and chemical responses.
How it works
The science behind BFR training is the subsequent restriction of blood flow to the veins when the arteries are still left open. What this does is blood flowing from the heart into your muscles is supplied by your arteries; however no blood is allowed to leave because your veins are restricted. This restriction then causes an increase in cell swelling which tricks the cells into thinking they are in big trouble; hence they reconfigure themselves and get larger, which in turn makes your muscles larger. Kind of witty isn’t it? Well BFR also has another trick up its sleeve. It causes lactic acid to build up in your muscles which is anabolic in nature, and increases protein synthesis which stimulates growth.
How to go about BFR training
You won't learn about BFR training in a Personal Trainer course in the UK as there is limited research, however it is still great to know. BFR training is really simple to incorporate; all you need is an ordinary knee wrap. Suppose you wanted to work on your biceps right? Simply take the knee wrap and set it underneath your armpit, and begin wrapping it around your bicep with a tightness of 7 on a scale of 1-10. Make sure that you neither feel numb nor a tingling sensation in your arm. If this does happen, it means you’ve occluded your arm and there’s no blood flow through the arteries. We definitely don’t want this to happen as studies have shown occlusion actually decreases muscle size. When doing BFR, use lighter weights, about 30-40% off what you normally lift. You should also increase the no of repetitions per session, about 20 to 35 repetitions so as to ensure plenty of blood flows into your muscles. Also, have relatively short rest periods of about 40 seconds to ensure a greater build up of lactic acid in your muscles.
The best exercises to employ with BFR training are single joint movements; most preferably bicep curls, leg extensions press downs and curls. The great thing with BFR is that pretty much anyone can use it. Let’s say you’re old and you just don’t have the same punch that you once did at the gym. You can simply walk with blood flow restrictors to the arms and legs, which amazingly still stimulates muscle growth. BFR was truly a great training experience. I can honestly say that I was quite impressed with its quick responsive results. Just an important note, BFR training is not occluded training. So remember to make sure blood flow is present in your arteries because this is vital in getting those muscles bigger.
How soon will it be before BFR is introduced into Personal Trainer Courses? Moreover, is it really necessary for a the average client?