How to Gain Muscle Fast with Blood Flow Restriction Trainingxq

Low-intensity training performed with occlusion bands provides a unique experience for those interested in rapid muscle growth in a short period of time.

Using blood flow restriction training, it is possible to achieve noticeable results using intensities as low as 20 percent of what you can normally lift for one rep. Significant muscle hypertrophy can be observed in as little as two to three weeks using blood flow restriction training.

One of the leading BFR researchers, Dr. Jeremy Loenneke has been quoted saying:

“Studies have found that lifting as low as 20% of maximum strength can produce increases in muscle size and strength similar to that of traditional resistance exercise which uses closer to 70% of an individual’s maximum strength. The beneficial effects have primarily been noted in muscles under direct BFR (e.g. arms and legs), however, there is some data that suggests that skeletal muscle not directly affected by the cuff may also benefit. For example, a handful of studies have found that doing the bench press with cuffs applied to the top of the arm, increases muscle size and strength despite the chest not being under BFR.  The mechanism behind this “indirect” effect of BFR is not known, but may be related to the fatiguing of the triceps.”

Here are the ways it works:

  1. INCREASED TYPE II FIBER ACTIVATION – The Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) bands reduce oxygen supply to the muscles in order to pre-fatigue slow twitch muscle fibers and diminish their response to workout loads, but to enable fast twitch muscle fibers to respond quickly to exercise training loads, resulting in faster lean muscle growth.
  2. INCREASED GROWTH FACTORS – By only slowing venous blood flow out of the limbs, BFR disrupts the body’s homeostasis – effectively increasing muscle protein synthesis, NOS-1 expression, and mTOR signaling, resulting in increased muscle growth. The bands also boost muscle growth and enhance the potential for muscle gain by reducing Myostatin concentrations.
  3. BETTER “MAPPING” – Your brain’s primary job is safety & prediction before performance. The BFR Bands provide mechanical tension that activates mechanoreceptors (stretch) and baroreceptors (pressure)in the limbs that may enhance your brain’s “map” of where your body is relative to space. With this increased awareness, your brain’s threat level goes down which means strength & performance goes up.
  4. ORGANIC COMPOUND SATURATION – By slowing blood flow away from leaving the limbs, organic compounds such as lactic acid accumulate at a rapid rate. This increase in lactic acid signals the production of IGF-1 and growth hormone, leading to a more muscular, athletic physique.

Another component of the effectiveness of blood flow restriction training is based on how your body responds to stress. When blood is allowed to enter a target muscle and prevented from leaving, the cells will begin to swell. The swelling of the cells signals “danger” to your muscles. In response, your muscle lays down new fibers and grows bigger to compensate for the extra load you’re placing on it. BFR training also increases the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle. Lactic acid stimulates IGF-1 production as well as protein synthesis, thereby increasing growth.

The typical BFR training workout calls for three to five sets of a particular exercise until volitional muscle fatigue is reached. The metabolic buildup that occurs with this type of training causes a rise in the production of human growth hormone that is equal to or greater than the levels that occur when using regular weight training at higher intensities.

Who Can Use BFR?

BFR training is ideal for:

  • Those who are unable to tolerate high loads during weight training due to joint pain
  • Those who are undergoing cardiac rehabilitation or those recovering from surgery
  • Athletes who need active recovery training sessions
  • Astronauts who have recently returned from space
  • Women who want to gain muscle and strength but don’t want to lift heavy weight
  • Men looking to break through strength and size plateaus

In the last decade, muscle training performed using a combination of low external loads and partial blood flow restriction training to the limb being exercised has become more popular as a way to gain muscle strength and increased muscle mass.

Although the cellular mechanisms responsible for muscle growth are not fully understood, it has been shown that weeks of high-frequency, low-intensity muscle exercise with blood flow restriction causes an increase in muscle strength along with muscle size.

Ten male subjects, averaging 23 years of age, performed four sets of leg extensions to failure with blood flow restriction applied to the thigh. Eight men of the same age as those in the control group performed training sessions without blood flow restriction.

Muscle biopsies were obtained at the start, after eight days and at the end of the 10-day training session. This study was the first to show that short-term low-load resistance training performed with BFR can lead to an increase in muscle cell growth in human skeletal muscle.

The same was found to be true for those who performed squats and bench press exercises while using BFR. Chest and upper arm girths were significantly increased during the test phase.

Because blood flow restriction training uses a cuff placed on the limb to be trained, it is often thought it can only be used on arms and legs. However, the research clearly suggests it has an effect on the distal musculature as well such as the chest, back, shoulders, calves, etc.

Blood flow restriction training limits blood flow from the veins to the heart. Keep in mind that BFR does not prevent blood from entering the muscle. It only slows blood from leaving the muscle. Studies have shown that blood flow restriction training can help increase bone mass and muscle growth when used alone or with low-load intensity training.

Unlike the traditional weightlifting training methods, blood flow restriction training can be used for both trained and untrained lifters and strength. Even simple walking with BFR is beneficial for those unable to exercise more actively due to injury or old age.

One study performed with the BFR Bands had 10 well-trained males perform BFR walk training for 3 weeks. What the study found was astonishing. Their VO2 max went up, their 1.5 mile run times decreased, and thigh muscle size increased – all from simply walking!

When properly executed, blood flow restriction training is a safe and extremely effective form of exercise. When applying the elastic wraps, the user should place the wraps at a perceived tightness of approximately seven out of ten. No pain should be felt at this point. If any pain is felt before exercise begins, the wraps are too tight. If any tingling or numbness is felt at any point, the bands should be loosened.

Throughout the workout, this perceived tightness should be monitored. Another method to monitor optimal pressure throughout the workout is to check blood refill speed in the hand (or inside of the knee for lower body). The way you do this is simply to press your thumb into the palm of the opposite hand. It should take approximately 2 seconds fo the color to refill. If it takes longer, the bands are likely too tight.

As always, those interested in new exercise regimens should speak with a healthcare provider before beginning anything new. BFR may be contraindicated for pregnant women and those suffering from varicose veins, high blood pressure or heart problems, DVT, diabetes, or any other circulatory disease.

Low-intensity exercises, when combined with blood flow restriction training, has a positive effect on the secretion of growth hormones and muscle hypertrophy. Studies have shown that this exercise technique can also be used to help those recover from surgery. When the training was implemented from the third to the 14th day, muscle atrophy was decreased significantly.

Athletes who perform training with BFR will run out of energy much more quickly than with other forms of training. Err on the side of less weight when you are first starting out until you find your “sweet spot.” Less weight is necessary when using BFR to achieve the same results, with recommended weights around 20% of your 1 repetition maximum or less.

Blood flow restriction training is most effective when you push yourself to the point of muscle failure. When you work to failure, you amplify the effects of BFR training, yielding better results in less time.

Although many workout magazines and training websites try to repaint old methods as “breakthrough” techniques for building muscle faster than ever before, they are usually just generic ideas that provide insignificant progress at best.

When used alone, blood flow restriction training can have similar effects on the body as traditional weight training. However, when combined with strength training, it can increase your results many times over.

To your gains,

Kusha Karvandi, PES, CES, CSCS




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