We all know blood flow is essential for the human body. At first glance, it may not seem healthy or beneficial to occlude blood flowing anywhere in our body. Blood flow restriction (BFR) is a concept that has been around for a long time, but in recent years, we have begun to thoroughly understand its formidable implications in both the rehabilitation and strength worlds.
BFR treatment is a form of therapy that utilizes a cuff, wrap, or band around the arms or thighs to occlude venous blood flow while maintaining arterial flow. This means that blood can get into the working muscles, but cannot get out, creating a blood pooling effect in the extremities being trained. As a result, muscle growth stimulating factors accumulate in the area. It also leads to quicker fatigue of the working muscles, which in turn recruits and activates more fast twitch muscle fibers, further aiding in overall muscle growth.
Granted, this is just the basics. The description above only scratches the surface of the mechanisms behind how and why BFR works, and the numerous benefits it offers. BFR allows muscle to grow at a faster rate than regular strength training. It achieves this growth without the typical damage to muscle fibers that is associated with muscle gain through lifting heavy weights. Therefore, BFR has fantastic implications for individuals during rehabilitation following surgery.
Additionally, BFR is a great tool to enhance strength gains in bodybuilders and athletes of various sports. Along with increased muscle strength, it can be used with a variety of exercises to assist in facilitating improved power, speed, and even endurance. The particular exercises used with BFR will depend on an individual’s particular goals, sport, or muscles affected by surgery.
Here is an example of BFR being used while performing a long-arc quad.
Note: There is no particular patient case involved here. It is just a simple exercise being performed to illustrate the use of BFR.
Ultimately, BFR has been gaining much more popularity recently, especially in the physical therapy and strength and conditioning worlds. Contrary to previous myths and beliefs, BFR is actually a very safe form a treatment when performed correctly.
Whether you are recovering from a recent surgery or want to improve strength for athletic performance, BFR can be a beneficial tool used to aide in that process. It is important to note that BFR alone is not the only answer to help you reach your goals. It is extremely effective, especially when used in conjunction with other techniques and exercises.
If BFR is something you are interested in, come see us at Soul Physical Therapy in Beverly, MA, or reach out to your PT or strength coach about it. We got our BFR occlusion cuffs from Erson Religioso’s Edge Mobility System. For more information, check out his website: www.modernmanualtherapy.com.