Blood Flow Restriction Therapy: How it Works and How to Get Started

Blood Flow Restriction Therapy: How it Works and How to Get Started

Gaining muscle can take a long time and a lot of effort to achieve the results you are looking for. When trying to bulk up, you might be tired of the same routine. You want your weight training to continue to challenge you as you’re building muscle. To be able to challenge yourself while you’re working out your muscles, you should try blood flow restriction therapy with BFR bands. You found the right place to learn about how blood flow restriction therapy works and how you can incorporate it into your workout routine. Let’s get started!

Man doing a deadlift squat

How Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Works

Blood flow restriction therapy is a physical therapy modality that restricts blood flow to the muscle. This requires the application of a device similar to a blood pressure cuff to safely compress the blood vessels underneath. Before getting into the science behind blood flow restriction therapy, you need to understand the basics of the muscles. Your muscles are made out of two types of muscle fibers: type one fibers and type two fibers. Type one fibers require oxygen that is delivered by the blood to work. Type two fibers are able to work without oxygen. These two fibers do all the work as long as you aren’t fatigued or lifting something too heavy. 

Type two fibers are your strength and power muscle fibers. They kick on when your type one muscle fibers get fatigued or you are lifting something too heavy. In Blood Flow Restriction therapy, you are using BFR bands to restrict blood flow. This allows for the therapy to work because by restricting blood flow it can trick your type one fibers into shutting off by removing the oxygen due to reduced blood supply. This forces the type two fibers to activate. The best part about blood flow restriction therapy is that you can perform light exercises that would normally only affect type one fibers and instead strengthen type two fibers. This allows you to get stronger and improve function quicker without putting excess stress on your joints. 

How to Incorporate Blood Flow Restriction in Your Workout 

When using BFR bands the goal is to use enough pressure to completely restrict the venous blood flow, which is the blood leaving the muscle, while allowing arterial blood flow, which is the blood going into the muscle, to continue to move. When the BFR band is put on correctly, the blood ends up pooling in the muscle beyond the tourniquet, creating a hypoxic environment in which the tissue is deprived of oxygen. This lack of oxygen is said to increase growth hormones, muscle hypertrophy, and muscle strength. 

4 steps to incorporate blood flow restriction therapy into your routine: 

Step #1: Warm-up  

  • Blood flow restriction therapy is performed at intensities that are normally used during warm-up sets. We suggest that you perform a light warm-up of cardio, like walking or cycling. This follows with 15 repetitions with the weight you want to use for your first set of blood flow restriction therapy. 

Step #2: Choose your BFR Band 

  • Remember, you are not trying to stop blood flow completely. You are only trying to restrict the return of blood flow. You can use bands on your arms and legs. Choose BFR bands of your choice and make sure to read up on how to properly wrap and tighten them. 

Step #3: Lift Lighter Weight  

  • The best thing about blood flow restriction therapy is that you can get a massive increase in muscle size with much lower intensities of weight. You should lift around 20-30% of your one-rep max. 

Step #4: Adjust Repetitions and Rest Periods

  • With lowering your weight, you’re going to be upping the intensity and volume of your workout. Aim for 15-30 repetitions for 4 sets with only 30 seconds rest between each set. When working, concentrate on feeling the movements working your muscles.   

Man doing a one-armed tricep curl with a dumbbell

Is Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Safe? 

It might sound a little scary to purposefully cut off your circulation. Blood flow restriction therapy has been shown to be safe. You’re not trying to completely stop blood flow. You’re just trying to restrict the return of blood flow. A variety of musculoskeletal pathologies have not seen serious adverse effects from blood flow restriction therapy. 

Common side effects of blood flow restriction therapy are usually short-lived and can include: 

  • Numbness 
  • Bruising, 
  • Discomfort
  • Skin abrasions 

Most of the time they are not to be concerned about, but you should take caution if you have cardiac conditions or clotting conditions. If you have any concerns, contact your healthcare provider to make sure that this is the best form of training for you and your body. 

Final Thoughts 

Blood Flow Restriction Therapy will be able to give you the muscle gains you are looking for without having to stress your body with heavy loads of weight and resistance. You’ll be able to do low-loaded exercises that produce similar muscle burn to doing traditional heavy weight training and reduce stress on applied limbs. 

You need to do the best thing for your body and blood flow restriction therapy could be the answer. If you have any more questions you should reach out to a professional trainer to get more information on how blood restriction therapy can work best for you and your muscle gains. Let’s go and hit the gym!

Contributing Writer: Madeline Collins