How it Works
Repeatedly in research, subjects training with low loads (weight) under BFR have achieved significantly greater increases in strength than those training at equal loads without BFR. Beyond this, research demonstrates that it is feasible to closely replicate strength increases from high-load resistance training (80+% 1RM) while utilizing a fraction of the load (20-30% 1RM) under BFR. In simple terms: blood flow restriction training can allow you to increase strength while training with lighter weight!
Like hypertrophy, some of the mechanisms of BFR as it relates to strength increases are not yet fully understood (we know it leads to strength increases, but we can’t fully explain how). From where we stand from a scientific perspective in 2022, our understanding is that training under blood flow restriction activates high threshold motor units - motor units that typically only become active during very high intensities (80 + % 1RM).
The mechanisms behind how blood flow restriction training activates these high threshold motor units are discussed on our hypertrophy page.
Though there are hundreds of peer-reviewed papers on blood flow restriction, the scientific community heavily values systematic reviews and meta-analyses, which examine data from multiple independent and high quality studies to determine overall trends. The below systematic review and meta-analysis includes sixteen different studies examining the impacts of blood flow restriction on strength.
“Low-load blood-flow-restricted training appears equally effective of producing gains in maximal voluntary muscle strength compared to HLT in 20- to 80-year-old healthy and habitually active adults.”
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