A protocol called occlusion training, also known as blood-flow restriction (BFR) training, is one of the most interesting and effective trends in strength and conditioning. In studies, it has been shown to result in skeletal muscle hypertrophy, increased strength, and increased endurance. So how can we fit folks use it safely and effectively?
Is Occlusion Training Safe?
BFR has been shown to be safe (when done as directed). But if you have any type of vascular disorder (like deep-vein thrombosis, varicose veins, high blood pressure, or cardiac disease), don’t fool around with BFR. And, it likely goes without saying but if you are in pain or feel numbness during your sets, stop immediately.
By expanding our repertoire of workouts, modes of exercise, and the sports we are comfortable playing, we really do set ourselves up for a lifetime of healthy and happy movement.
Of course, as usual, if you have any doubts or worries, check with a medical professional.
Alternatives to BFR?
If after all this you are still feeling reluctant to try tying tourniquets around your limbs, you can get a similar benefit from simply include some pulsing movements in your exercise sets. To do this, simply choose 2 exercises for the 3 big muscle groups (e.g. squats and leg curls for your legs, chest presses and push-ups for your chest, pull-downs and rows for your back). Then proceed as follows:
Do 3 sets of 10 for each exercise
At the end of each set do a 10-second hold in the most difficult part of the movement (e.g. the bottom of a squat) followed by a 10-second pulse in which you slightly bounce up and down through a very small range of motion
Feel the burn!
Rest 1-2 minutes, then go to the next exercise for the same body part
Repeat until you finish off one body part, then move to the next
Despite all the buzz around blood flow restriction training over the last few years, many people are still reluctant to try it. While I don't advocate doing any one workout too often or for too long (no matter what that workout is) I do believe by expanding our repertoire of workouts, modes of exercise, and the sports we are comfortable playing, we really do set ourselves up for a lifetime of healthy and happy movement.