Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFR) is becoming increasingly popular among bodybuilders. Blood flow restriction bands and wraps are being sold on most sports sites and you may well be wondering why bodybuilders are restricting their blood flow? What’s the benefit? Here’s the lowdown on BFR.
What is BFR?
BFR is the process of using bands or wraps to put pressure around the limbs to restrict the flow of blood out of the muscle you’re working out. The aim is to not restrict the blood flow into the muscle, only the blood flow out of the muscle. This will cause the muscle to increase in size due to the increased blood concentration. Increasing the size and volume of the muscle is important to stimulate growth.
The Benefits of BFR
The main benefit of BFR training when done correctly is to stimulate muscle growth whilst using much lower weights. This means you can make gains lifting half the weight you can lift for your 1 rep max on a certain exercise.
This means if you’re training arms and normally do bicep curls with 45 lbs then you can drop the weight to 22.5 lbs, and still make significant gains. It can be a great way to finish off training a muscle group right at the end of your workout. It is a great way to hypertrophy and leave the gym with a great pump.
Using BFR as a weightlifting technique leads to your muscle feeling fatigued far sooner, but as the weight is so light, if you remain mentally strong, you can force yourself to complete 2/3 more reps and it is these last few reps that make all the difference when it comes to maximizing potential gains.
Note: When you have wrapped your limb for a working set make sure not to remove the wrapping in between sets as you rest. This will reduce stress on the muscle and therefore reduce the potential for growth.
How Often Should You Train Using BFR?
You should view BFR as a way of varying and mixing up your training, not as a technique you should employ at all times. The best way to make use of it really is as a finisher. This means that you workout normally and then on your last set wrap your upper limb and perform 3 or so working sets with BFR.
You can undergo a whole workout whilst using BFR, but the general advice recommends using it as a finisher and not as a constant throughout your workout.
Using BFR once or twice a week can be a great way to mix up your training and make some substantial gains.
The Dangers of BFR
The main danger with BFR is that people have a lack of understanding of how it works and where to place the bands to restrict their blood flow.
The aim is to allow the arteries to carry blood into the muscle, but stop the veins from taking it away. You essentially want blood to enter the muscle and then to stay there. If you don’t apply the bands/wraps in the correct place, with the correct pressure then you will not benefit from BFR at all, and it could even cause more harm than good.
You should make sure to applying the wraps at the top of your limbs and remember to drop the weight. You can’t expect to lift as much as you would when restricting your blood flow.
Take Home Message
BFR certainly has its place as a potential method of training. It certainly isn’t a necessity, but if you’re struggling to make progress into putting on mass it could certainly be something worth trying to mix up your training. Just make sure you understand where to place your wraps and what pressure they need to be at to allow blood into the muscle and restrict the flow out.