Cutting off blood flow isn’t just the secret to muscle recovery
Photo by Khusen Rustamov/Stock Snap
A few straps that cut off circulation? Blood flow restriction (BFR) training might sound dangerous, but you’d be surprised to find out it actually does the opposite.
BFR, sometimes called occlusion training, involves stopping blood flow by tying cuffs or wraps around a certain limb during a workout in order to build muscle. Sounds morbid when you first hear it, but BFR is a tried-and-tested method even therapists use.
The idea is that you maintain flow from your arteries, which carry oxygenated blood away from your heart, and restrict flow from the veins, which return deoxygenated blood back to the heart. You’re basically delivering blood to the muscles and trapping it in that area to cause cellular swelling. Much in the same manner as filling a balloon with water. The process then causes metabolic stress, which triggers muscle growth.
Another important thing that BFR does is switch from your oxygen-dependent, slow-twitch fibers into your fast-twitch fibers. The fast-twitch fibers are larger and have more potential for muscle growth, but it’s hard to tap unless you’re carrying really heavy loads. With BFR, you can do this by only doing half your maximum load. Men’s Health said that some studies showed that even doing weights as light as 20 percent of your one-rep max can lead to increased muscle.
BFR may seem dangerous, but it works as long as you do it right. When you wrap your limbs, make sure you can still feel your legs because numbness means the arteries are being cut off. Remember, wrap your upper arms and legs, not the elbows and knees. Better yet, ask a trainer or an expert to learn the proper way to wrap, so you won’t completely cut off circulation—or worse, lose a limb.