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What Is Blood Flow Restriction Training? What You Need To Know | Physical Therapist Explains

In this post, we are going to talk about blood flow restriction training, the benefits of it, and who is it good for.

What is BFR (Blood Flow Restriction) Training?

Just as the name would suggest, we take a blood pressure type cuff or a tourniquet and put it around your arm or your leg and restrict the blood flow to that limb.

The reason that we do that is because it limits oxygen goes into your muscles and your joints, so it makes certain tasks that you would normally do seem a lot harder. For example, doing a bicep curl, lifting some weights in your hand, or doing some squats, things of that nature. We use cuffs much like a regular blood pressure cuff that come in all different sizes. This way, we can fit one on your arms and on your legs perfectly.

What are the benefits of blood flow restriction?

The main reason that we use blood flow restriction training in practice and the main benefit of it is strength. Building strength traditionally requires we use a certain amount of reps and sets over a period of time and then adjust weight/resistance over that time to increase our strength.

With blood flow restriction, what we're doing is instead of physically stressing our body with weights or resistance, we're using a lack of oxygen or a lack of food or energy to our muscles to the same amount of work. Instead of having to do a bicep curl, with 30 pound dumbbells in your hand, you can use a blood flow restriction.

We put the BFR cuff around your arm and pump it up to a certain amount to restrict blood flow, limit oxygen and metabolically stress the system. Surprisingly, if you're just doing dumbbell or bicep curls with no weight, it'll feel like you're doing 1015 20 pounds in your arms. It becomes more difficult than you think.

Who does blood flow restriction training benefit?

The people that benefit the most from blood flow restriction training are those that can't tolerate weight resistance, or any sort of load. It can be great for our geriatric and older adult population that have arthritis and other types of conditions that limit their ability to tolerate load in a weight-bearing position.

This is also great for post operative patients, like people that just had surgery and can't tolerate the weight either because of weakness or restrictions of their protocols. These are people like total knee replacements, ACL repairs or even rotator cuff repairs in the shoulder.

BFR is also helpful for people who have a clear limitation in terms of what they can tolerate weight and resistance wise. The average everyday person can use this as well to improve their strength. If you don't have shoulder pain, you can use this and workout with these cuffs and actually see an improvement in your strength. It's been clinically shown and research has been done to prove that restricting blood flow is almost just as good as traditionally lifting weights at 40 to 60 to 80% of your one rep max.

If you are thinking about trying BFR (blood flow restriction) training, please consult with your physical therapist or other medical professional to make sure it's appropriate for you.

If you have any questions about this, or if you feel like you may benefit from this, please reach out to myself or anybody else in the CustomFit Concierge Team. We would happy to answer those questions and see if you'd be a candidate for blood flow restriction or our other services.

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