How to do Occlusion Training

How to do Occlusion Training

Who would have thought that blood flow restriction to the veins would be a technique used for muscle building? Well as science and research advance, studies have shown occlusion (Blood flow restriction training) training to be beneficial for muscle growth and strength.

To make things even stranger, the process involves using (20-50% of 1 rep max)! We always thought heavy weight training for low reps is what builds muscle… well it is but science has evolved into discovering different methods for muscle growth and recovery.

Now there are so many different opinions on what works but through studies and evidence, we tend to find new discoveries and they are worth looking into for your own benefit (Who likes to do things the hard way?).

Probably not many of you!

Could this be the end of heavy weight training? The short answer… Not at all!

Let’s get into what occlusion training is, how it’ll benefit you and how to do it! Hopefully by the end of this explanation you’ll be occlusion training and reaping the benefits!

Now…What Exactly Is Occlusion Training?

So first off… the science behind muscle growth is still not 100% figured out. There a few theories and as we get further into the curiosity of how it happens, many of these new methods are worth trying.

Now, the method to occlusion training is to tie some type of restricting device (Bands, wraps or inflatable cuffs) around an area on your body (A limb) like your upper arms or upper legs. When done correctly, this will slow (not completely stop) blood flow from leaving the muscle.

Now there’s more to this because Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFR) involves sort of “trapping” the blood in the muscle so that the rate of which it returns to the heart is slower. This is all related to the “pump,” which many bodybuilders strive so much for. This is because blood and nutrients get into the muscle cells and supposedly support muscle growth.

Preventing the blood from leaving at a fast rate allows better circulation and activates the muscle cells through activation of fast twitch fibers.


Studies related to blood flow restriction rehab methods have shown Blood Flow Restriction training to increase muscle growth and strength in different age groups when done with low intensity exercise.

A few important points to take away are:

  • Blood is trapped in muscle by the use of wraps for max stimulation
  • The restriction is aimed at modulating the blood flow of the veins and not the arteries

Benefits Of Occlusion Training…

Who wouldn’t want to use lighter weights to build muscle? Probably POWERLIFTERS! The best use of occlusion training (Blood flow restriction and fast twitch muscle fiber utilization) is to supplement heavy weight training by using BFR on off days or as a "finisher". Conversely, BFR can be used as standalone during rehab, for beginners, or as a general break from traditional training (i.e. deload period).

Another great potential benefit is the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers (cause explosive muscle growth and doesn’t require oxygen) being activated while the slow twitch fibers (less potential for growth and uses oxygen) are cutoff from use by restriction of oxygen. I like to use the analogy of the sprinter vs. the marathoner. The sprinter is fast twitch dominant whereas the marathoner is primarily slow twitch dominant. Which would you rather look like?


Resistance training with BFR and low relative loads have also shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, as well as promoting increased growth hormone elevations when compared to conventional resistance training with similar resistance loads.

So again, the benefits are:

  • Building muscle with lighter weight
  • Less stress on joints, tendons and nervous system
  • Larger activation of fast twitch (Muscle building) fibers


Who Uses Occlusion Training?

Blood flow restriction is used on rehab patients that can benefit from low intensity exercise that could potentially increase recovery.

It is great for helping the recovery process if done right.

People that are into weight training (Bodybuilders, power lifters, the average gym goer etc) use this method to isolate the blood flow to a muscle for optimal muscle gains.

It may not be for everyone, as everyone has their own beliefs about what works and what doesn’t. Any opposition would be a valid concern as we have come a long way with the way our physiques have developed over the years and as of now there is one true way (Normal progressive overload) that we understand the process of muscle growth.

An even more impressive finding about occlusion training is that it can benefit people that are bedridden and people that are just able to do light walking as a result of their legs being wrapped and occluded. This is a feat not even non - BFR techniques can boast.

There’s lots of promise for its users:

  • It’s used in rehab 
  • Great for fitness enthusiasts & bodybuilders
  • You don’t need to weight train to see the potential benefits

Is Occlusion Training Better Than Traditional Weight Training (e.g. Heavy Weights)? 

The answer is, it depends. If someone can't or prefers not to lift heavy weights, then yes. But it works best when used as a tool in a proper program rather than as a standalone all the time. 

Occlusion training however; looks promising for all of its beneficial uses and positive feedback.

When compared to heavy weight training programs for strength & hypertrophy:

  • Occlusion training is not better or worse than traditional heavy weight training, it is merely another approach
  • Occlusion training can be very valuable when used as a "bolt-on" to a traditional routine

 How To Do Occlusion Training

Now that we have basically explained everything about Occlusion training, let’s talk about the most important aspect of it (we know you’ve been waiting) and that is how to do it!

It’s not quite as simple as just tying a tourniquet or cuff of any sort around your limbs and building tons of muscle. There’s a technique….

Originally the best and most effective way to restrict blood flow was from the use of a KAATSU device which was developed by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato and it was designed to regulate the amount of pressure used for wrapping around the limb/s.

However, since many do not have access to such a device, elastic wraps are used instead.

It is recommended that the wraps should be tightened to about a "7" out of 10 with perceived pressure. That means if 10 were the tightest feeling, then you'd want them to feel about a 7.

How to Wrap? …

For any upper body exercise, you want to wrap around the upper arms and for any lower body exercise you want to wrap around the upper thighs. That's right, even for chest or back you still want to wrap around the bands around the upper arms.

You want to wrap your limbs by overlapping, not by wrapping around the entire surface of a limb. 

As far as sets and reps you can do the normal set range of about 3-4, with higher reps (15-30). Rest about 20-30 seconds in between sets to optimize the benefits of blood flow restriction. 

Start off light and easy and then when you’ve become accustomed to the feeling, you can progress by adding more sets and reps!

How heavy should you lift?

The ideal range to lift for optimum muscle growth potential is around 20 percent of your 1 rep max. This is great for stimulating the fast twitch fibers (the ones with the highest potential for muscle size growth and strength output). If you stay in this range, not only will you build muscle but you’ll also place less stress on your joints and tendons.

Also, make sure you pay close attention to how your muscles and body are reacting to the technique. You may need to loosen or tighten your bands throughout the workout.

Master the art of occlusion training and when in combination with non-BFR, you’ll likely see quicker gains while keeping your joints happy from less stress, due to lighter weights.

Can I Do Similar Exercises To Standard Weight Training With BFR?

Yes, in fact you can. If you want to gain muscle mass faster, performing reps to volitional fatigue is important. Studies have proven this and you should definitely train in a similar manner to what you would without the occlusion technique.

Now your experience levels will of course determine how you train but training to volitional fatigue has many benefits

You can keep the volume and intensity the same as well but you’re just using less weight. The decrease in weight will naturally allow for less intensity. Once you get closer to those last few reps (muscle inducing reps).

    What You Should Expect From Occlusion Training…

    You should expect increased pumps (especially since it’s a new training method and your body is being shocked). Increased difficulty (nothing easy about occlusion training) and this means that you will have discomfort and according to those who have trained with BFR, you will experience some pain!

    If you don’t feel pain and if the training is not difficult then you probably need to wrap your limbs a little bit tighter to get the full effects.

    You’ll also probably feel sorer after a training session (When you wake up in the morning). Overall you can probably expect many changes. Anything new that you try is going to feel strange at first but keep consistent.

    Also, if you have a lagging or stubborn body part, occlusion training may be the answer to finally getting some growth! You’ll achieve an incredible pump while providing more stimuli to the lagging muscle by occluding it as well.

    What Are You Waiting For? …

    Occlusion training has become increasingly popular for people with different goals which include bodybuilders, power lifters, rehab patients, and even your average gym-goer.

    Go grab some wraps and start occlusion training. Reap the potential benefits while learning about the popular technique.