Hey everyone, hope this week has been a productive one! Its graduation season, so if you have recently graduated CONGRATULATIONS! That is a HUGE accomplishment. May you continue to succeed in all your endeavors. This past weekend I had the pleasure to watch some very good friends of mine walk the stage and graduate college. I wrestled with many of these kids and am still scratching my head at how some of them managed to graduate! Proud of them would be an understatement, I would like to send some very well deserved congratulations to Fernando, Dillon, Felipe, Abel, and Adrian, may you continue to succeed in life.
I hope your weekend was as eventful (but not as stressful) as mine, so to this week’s topic on the people’s blog; Blood flow resistance training, mainly what is it and does it really work?
Basically, Blood Flow Restriction training is what it sounds like, using tools such as plastic wraps to keep blood centered in whatever muscle is being worked. What the plastic wraps around the muscle does is control cardiac output. Broken down even further venous return (blood flow from the periphery to the right atrium) is restricted enough to keep the blood pumped into the muscle and allowing it to become filled. This is done while allowing enough flow of blood back into the body to not cause any serious damage to the person. To do this safely the top portion of the muscle wanting to be worked is wrapped carefully. Many scientists compare it to filling an unpoppable water balloon to its maximum capacity, except in real life it is the muscle being targeted being filled to maximum capacity.
I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone do this to themselves, they look like drug addicts.
Well some would argue that the “pump” they get from doing BFR training is better than any drug. You see when you exercise to gain size, strength the muscles being worked fill with blood, or commonly referred to as ‘The Pump.” This is why when you are in the middle of a workout you look bigger then when you are not exercising, it’s because you have a “pump.” (I’m not making this up, that’s what it’s really called). While exercising normally you reach a state were your muscles can’t get any bigger (at the moment), the blood flow wont allow it. When you have the bands around the muscle being worked it causes the muscle to literally swell and become “supersized.” The theory behind it is that it cellular swelling which in turn tricks the muscles into faster growth. The trick happens when metabolic stress (one of 3 factors that cause muscle growth) is placed on the area due to lack oxygen, this causes your body to faster and under a longer duration of time sending you into an induced “hypertrophy state.” Doing this also causes your body to rely on type 2 muscle fibers as the type 1 muscle fibers (slow twitch) rely on oxygen to be efficient. This is important due to type 2 fibers rarely being worked (fast twitch fibers used during explosive heavy movements). Working these fibers will lead to an increase in size as well as explosiveness.
Ok guys bear with me, now we know what BFR is and how it works-in theory. Now it’s for the important part, does it work?
Before I even get into this, I want to say I may be a bit biased as 2 of my favorite scientists in the world published many articles on this topic (Dr. Jacob Wilson PHD., Ryan Lowry PHDc. M.S., so not that I agree with them completely off bias but science is science and as we all know it doesn’t lie.
The first study we look at had 2 groups, one performing leg press with blood flow restricted training at a low intensity (sets of 30,15,15,15 at 30% of their leg press max). The other group had the men performing leg press at the same rate (30,15,15,15 @ 30% Max). Muscle swelling, power, and soreness were recorded. After performing the repetitions, the control group with no wraps had no changes within the muscle. The BFR group had muscle thickness increased immediately after performing their sets. Muscle activation was greater in the BFR group than the control. This study indicates Blood Flow Resistance training increases muscle activation and muscle thickness without causing damage to the muscles being worked.
So, while performing BFR may seem extreme, it is in fact not harmful to the body when done properly. It also is proven to train the body into a “hypertrophy state” (increase in the muscles cells, causing growth) with less weight, which means less strain on the body.
The science behind BFR training is still not clear. What is clear is it can cause muscle hypertrophy at a rapid pace. A common theory is hormones are elevated through the rapid muscular hypertrophy, as well as the recruitment of the fast twitch muscle fibers. Since we are in this state longer and faster than traditional strength training we in turn elevate these hormones as well as create the need to enlarge more cells.
The remainder of the studies all suggest BFR training will lead to hypertrophy much quicker at a lower volume than traditional strength training. When looking to put on muscle it is our goal to reach the “hypertrophy state” It was previously thought the best technique to reach this state was through overloading our muscles with weight within 70% or higher of our 1 Rep Max (per movement), or from pushing our muscles to failure with lower weight (typically requires a lot of sets, reps, and time). If the goal then is to reach this state and we can reach it at a faster/safer route then I strongly feel it is worth trying. I myself will be partaking in this BFR training to see if significant change occurs within my body. If we can increase muscle size with little wear and tear to the body, it is worth trying. I hope further research is done and the scientific community can prove the effectiveness or BFR training and back it 100%. As a professional within this field it would be awesome to be able to use techniques like this with clients whom struggle from previous injuries or cannot lift as heavy as needed to reach a hypertrophy state.
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