What is Blood Flow Restriction and what are the benefits? - SAGA Fitness International - BFR Bands

What is Blood Flow Restriction and what are the benefits?

What is Blood Flow Restriction and what are the benefits? 

So you’ve heard the term Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) but you’re not quite sure what it is, what the benefits are or how to get started.

We’ve done our best to give you the low down on BFR training below:


Where did it start?
The BFR training methods we know today were originally developed by Dr. Yoshiaki Sako. After kneeling for hours whilst praying, Dr. Sako found that he had achieved a muscular pump in his calf muscles comparable to performing multiple sets of calf raises.

After years of trial and error with Dr. Sako conducting research into the optimal position for applying pressure with the aim of decreasing blood flow to the active muscle. 

Since then, BFR has been adopted by sports professionals, military personnel and bodybuilders alike and even more recently, research has shown its usefulness in a rehabilitation setting. 

How does it work?

BFR training involves applying a tourniquet to the top portion of your limb to restrict blood flow. This restricts the blood flow in the veins, not the arteries, which means that blood pools in the working muscle and makes it think its working harder than it is. 

When we look at traditional resistance exercise, it is the lifting and lowering of the weight leads that leads to loading in the muscle. This creates muscle damage - but this is good damage - it builds muscle. 

Therefore, to build muscle, we need to continue to lift heavier to stimulate this damage and build more muscle. Sounds good, but this also generally means Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) occurs. 

Training with BFR offers an alternative method to build muscle, and because the restriction of blood flow to the limb causes the working muscle to fatigue faster, you aren't required to use heavy loads. This means the damage to your muscles is less than when you use conventional, high load resistance training.  

What are the benefits?

Other than reducing the severity of muscle damage, the benefits of BFR are wide reaching. We've included a quick snapshot below:

  1. Accelerate muscle growth and strength by accelerating the activation of your Type II muscle fibers
  2. Decrease load on bones, joints and tendons - if you're someone who finds it painful or difficult to lift heavy, then BFR is a perfect alternative for you - as you will still get the same strength stimulus without putting mechanical load on your body.
  3. Less pain when performing movements in full range - research shows that BFR has an analgesic effect on our body - for example, if you normally get sore knees during squats, research has shown adding BFR can delay the onset of pain you typically experience, adding you to work out for longer.
  4. Improve aerobic capacity - because BFR reduces your muscle's ability to use oxygen, it forces your body to become more effective with the supply - this has a carry-on effect that can increase your V02 capacity.
  5. Quicker work outs -  as BFR causes the muscle to fatigue quicker than traditional training AND helps you achieve high levels of muscle activation - you can also expect to get more work done in less time. 


Why The BFR Cuff?

If you have tried BFR in your training routine before, you’ll know how difficult it is to gauge when you are at that sweet spot. There are risks involved if using a rope or band and guessing the pressure applied.

The BFR Cuff removes this guesswork. The cuffs calibrate to your personalised pressure zone, then automatically inflate to your optimal occlusion zone - which is calculated completely based off your systolic blood pressure. This means there are no manual pumps, no guessing if it's tight enough or too tight– just a seamless, automated experience.

The BFR Cuffs are also completely wireless and controlled via Bluetooth from your phone. Meaning you can take your workout anywhere.


How to incorporate into your training

BFR can fit seamlessly into your training regime. Whether you're short on time and wear them for the entire routine or are in for a long session, they can be used as an extra burner right at the end to amplify your results.

 Here is a sample shoulder circuit to try with The BFR Cuffs.

 Between each exercise give yourself 3 minutes rest. Also, deflate your cuffs after completion of each exercise, and re-inflate when starting the next exercise.

  1. Theraband Face Pulls (3 sets: 30-15-15) 
  2. Isometric External Rotations (5 sets: 10s each angle)
  3. Theraband Shoulder IYT (3 sets: 15 I’s, 15 Y’s, 15 T’s) 
  4. Dumbbell Shoulder Flexion (3 sets: 30-15-15)
  5. Theraband 90/90 External Rotation (3 sets: 30-15-15)

If you have a question you want answer about BFR training, head over to our social media and send us a DM.