Blood Flow Restriction Exercise

Blood Flow Restriction Exercise

What is Blood Flow Restriction?

Blood flow restriction (BFR) exercise is a training method that partially restricts blood flow to working muscles during low intensity exercise. BFR has been used since 1966 in Japan where it was known as “kaatsu training.”

A cuff is placed at the upper most portion of the working body part. This cuff applies specific pressure and restricts the blood flow. This causes a decrease in oxygen supply to the working muscle tissue as well as blood pooling. This will increase muscle metabolism, anaerobic metabolism, increase growth factor hormone and increase muscle fiber recruitment which will thus increase muscle and bone strength.

Blood flow restriction is used with resistance exercise as well as with aerobic exercise. 

Multiple studies have found that BFR increases muscle hypertrophy and strength in younger and older populations. These changes have been shown in just 1-3 weeks.

BFR training uses low weights and lower load with higher repetitions. This is beneficial for patients who cannot physically handle higher loads. This population includes patients with osteoarthritis and past surgeries as well as anyone recovering from an injury including tendonitis. 

Not every patient is a good candidate for BFR, so speak with your physical therapist to determine whether this is a good option for your recovery.

Janie Schneider, PT, DPT, Cert. DN, OCS