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The Bodybuilder Bible: Volume 2

A Beginner's Guide to Blood Flow Restriction Training

A New Method To Increase Your Gains!

Posted by NickJoy34 - August 25th, 2015

There are many ways to make a muscle grow, and many different ways in which people go about it. One particular way that has entered bodybuilding scene recently and is gaining popularity is blood flow restriction (BFR) training. It sounds crazy at first, and maybe even a little scary, but it has been proven to be effective. Dr. Jeremy Leneke, an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi and a leading researcher in BFR, has helped bring this type of training to light and has been able to demonstrate its effects in multiple studies.


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What Is BFR Training?

BFR training is exactly what it sounds like. You are restricting blood flow into the muscle and pooling the blood already in the muscle causing it to swell. This restriction is achieved by wrapping some sort of elastic band, generally your common knee wraps, at either the top of the arms or the top of the legs, depending on what muscle group you are exercising. Doing this makes the muscle work much harder than it would under normal conditions with the same amount of resistance.


Under BFR conditions, lighter loads are used for the exercise. Because the muscle has to work much harder due to the restricted blood flow. This allows you to train with lighter loads, yet still get the same effect as you would using a heavier load. However, this is not to say that you should quit lifting heavy all together! There is absolutely a time and place for that. BFR is simply a good addition to your lifting arsenal. For example, if you are training heavy with a lot of compound lifting implemented into your current training program and find yourself worn out or to sore to complete a lot of auxiliary/isolation exercises, BFR is a very good alternative that can allow you to get a lot of work in while hitting a lot of volume, in just a few sets.

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BFR Compared To Heavy Lifting

So how does BFR simulate the work of lifting heavy and inducing muscle hypertrophy? The restriction of blood flow causes a build up of metabolites in the muscle, causing it to swell and causing the muscle fascia to expand. This also augments muscle activation, in turn causing higher levels of recruitment. A rapid proliferation of satellite cells is observed due to the low load at which you are training, which is very important for muscle hypertrophy.


What Are The Benefits Of BFR?

Benefits have been observed, with respect to injury. In a clinical case study, BFR was applied to patients by itself, in the absence of resistance training. In a patient that had just had ACL surgery, researchers applied BFR intermittently. Researchers found that by applying BFR alone, it did not stimulate growth, but it did attenuate any further loses in strength and mobility.


Implementing BFR Training

BFR can be implemented into any workout you choose. Some of the most common muscles it is applied to are the biceps, triceps, quadriceps, and hamstring, using exercises such as preacher curls, rope extentions, leg extention machines and leg curls. It can also be used while doing compound lifts such as squats and leg presses. It is always done at light resistance loads, about 20-30% of your max for 4 sets of higher repetitions. An example of a typical BFR exercise would start with the first set of 30 reps followed by three more sets of 15 reps with 15-30 seconds rest in between sets.



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The wraps are left on throughout the entire exercise. It can be hard to judge how tight to go with the wraps sometimes, and can only be determined by trial and error. BFR can and will be painful while completing the exercise, but if you are already in pain before you begin the exercise, you have wrapped up too tight. It is recommended that if you are going to implement BFR, do it at the end of your workout, to finish off the muscle.


Conclusion

You now know everything that you need to know about BFR training to get started and feel the biggest pump you have ever felt. There is a lot more research available on BFR than I have mentioned in this article. It is utilized by many professionals and backed by a large field of research that is only growing larger. Give it a try for yourself to see what all the buzz is about.



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MEMBER COMMENTS

jcgadfly

Also, the only studies I've seen used blood pressure cuffs where the scientists were able to regulate the air inside the cuff. Nor glorified rubber hoses.

jcgadfly

Not going to lie. I don't understand the logic of training while wearing a tourniquet. It makes about as much sense to me as training while wearing an altitude mask.

matt42van

Im no Dr....BUT...

My basic understanding is they claim it only restricts the blood going to back to the heart from the muscle while allowing the blood to travel to the muscle group...

Ive been interested in learning more about this too...but havent tried it yet, as I am skeptical.   How is it possible, with a wrap, to stop the blood from going back while still allowing the blood to travel to the muscle group....seems to me the only possibility with a circular wrap is to completely cut off the blood flow trapping the blood in the area past the wrap essentially depriving the blood and muscles from getting oxygen and other vitals(obviously not good and I dare say there would be no benifit), or if loosening it slightly which would partially restrict both the veins and vessels limiting blood travel both ways....in order to do what it claims to do....you would need to only restrict the returning veins while allowing the supplying vessels to remain untouched....not sure thats possible with a wrap...is it?


Lets say for a second it is.....lets use a logical comparisn...I equate it to traffic on an highway...your basically causing a traffic jam in your blood stream....I fail to see how causing a traffic jam in your blood vessels going to your muscle will work any better than getting cars past a traffic jam on a highway....logically if the blood isnt allowed to return to the heart, but still allowed to the muscle...where does the blood go to get to the muscle....does it use the shoulder of the road?  Maybe there is a bi-pass of some sort...a short cut....maybe that blood is like a local cab driver that knows the roads better and uses a 'special path' to the muscle...lol  Even if jamming more blood into the muscle is the goal, I dont see how trying to jam more in while not allowing it to leave will supply any more blood volume to the muscle than simply allowing it to pass by as normal with a slightly accelerated heart rate from intense training(again....traffic jam dont get more cars through a intersection...why would it with blood....sure your veins may expand perhaps causing you to have a greater pump because your allowing blood in but not allowing it to leave, but afterall its a liquid, your only getting so much in there...so does that do anything good for your muscles other than boosting your ego slightly because you think you look bigger for a few minutes?)


Also...because Im not a Dr, and its been a while since Bio 12...does the blood transmit any waste or used materials from the muscles on its way back to the heart?  if so...how would not allowing that be benificial either...seems like it would be more toxic than good  At best, to me your trapping oxygen deeficient blood in the muscles....what does that help?


Again, Im not a Dr, or a scientist of any kind...maybe there is science behind it...maybe it does work....maybe a traffic analogy isnt an effective one...but I think you get my point...and an interesting subject none the less...

Idris

In Mens Fitness and/or Mens Health magazine, they had an article about this topic!

Antrozous

i'd be worried my veins would explode lol they're already popping out all the time lol

Scott_Herman

haha, my neck veins might explode!

Antrozous

in the videos you can see them when you're talking loll

GraaY94

I just saw a video on this on youtube! Looks good! Although the guy i saw was using a tourniquet loosely, looked a bit skketchy haha

AnabolicAliens

This is crazy because someone at my gym was just talking to me about this! Great stuff @nickjoy34 !

NickJoy34

Glad all you guys liked the article, thanks for all of the feedback! Always appeciated! Those of you who havent tried it yet, be sure to let me know how it goes when you decide to give it a shot! Happy lifting everyone!

jmboiardi


Interesting article Nick but I believe a word of caution needs to be added: This is not a technique for everyone especially those with existing hypertension or heart or vascular issues and it is important you occlude veins not arteries.  When you pump iron the normal way, your blood pressure goes up significantly.  This is a good thing in a healthy individual and leads to adaptations in the heart muscle that make it thicker, stronger, and more efficient pumping blood.  My resting heart rate is 46 BPM and I have never been a runner or jogger in my life.  However for those with existing hypertension, BFR done incorrectly can lead to at a minimum local vascular damage and at an extreme a stroke, heart attack, or bursting of any existing aneuryisms.  Most of these, except for diagnosed high blood pressure, are hidden conditions many don't know they have.   While some may argue that mild occlusion of blood vessels feeding peripheral muscles like biceps or quadriceps should not cause the aforementioned, many forget that our circulatory system is a closed system and any increase in pressure anywhere increases pressure everywhere.   My main issue with BFR training is the majority of people won't do it correctly and end up occluding not only veins but also arteries which will increase the risks I mentioned above. Dr. Leneke's research did not take this into account as his test subjects were young healthy males and he was focused primarily on BFR affects on muscle tissue and proper occlusion technique.  


At the end of the day, even if something is shown to be effective but is contrary to human biology (occluding blood vessels of any type is not a normal, healthy thing) doesn't mean it should be taken at face value and used blindly.   While Dr. Leneke's research is interesting, I would not undertake this technique myself unless I was truly experienced with it and quite frankly it flies in the face of conventional wisdom as to how our circulatory system supports muscle growth and it is too new to know the long term effects.   Just my opinion.........


Scott_Herman

Great point @jmboiardi, I didn't think about that.  You always see what others miss.  Better safe than sorry!

ColossusFitness

awesome article dude, i've used them before and it works great. the weight you usually use is super humbling haha

NickJoy34

Thanks man, I do it every so often to through something different at my arms or legs. The light weight always makes me feel small :( lol

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