A lot of people seem to be interested in Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training or what is commonly known as “occulsion training”.
What makes it so appealing to most bodybuilders is that it’s a great way to spark muscle growth in your body.
Your very own Arnie famously said that getting a good pump is better than sex. While I do not agree with this, there’s a whole lot of research behind why acheiving a good pump in the gym is great for muscle gain.
The Science of BFR In A Nutshell
Before we get on to what BFR is and how it enhances muscle growth, you need to get back a bit and talk about 3 things that promote hypertrophy.
These three things include DTS or damage, tension, and stress.
If you have been working out, which I presume you have, you must be familiar with muscle soreness after a heavy and intense workout. When you lift heavy weights, muscle damage occurs and it forces your body to create a growth response in order to repair the damaged tissue. This is a classic example of muscle damage.
Mechanical tension is what happens between your muscles when they are attempting to shorten in order to lift a weight. All muscles have attachment points where they attach to different bones to create movement.
Lifting weights involve movement of certain bones. Your muscles get taut like a ripe and literally pull the bones together to the shortened position.
Mechanical tension is directly related to the load on your barbell. What it means is that lifting heavier weights creates more tension that lifting lighter ones, as long as your technique and form is right.
Yet another way to create higher tension is by focusing on squeezing the active muscles harder against a lighter resistance. The best way to maximize mechanical tension is by squeezing the correct muscle hard against the heaviest weight you can lift while keeping your form and technique correct.
The third and final mechanism for creating muscle growth is Metabolic Stress which happens to be the highlight of Blood Flow Restirction (BFR) or occulsion training.
This metabolic stress occurs when the contracting muscle tissue gets deprived of oxygen. This leads to a built up of stress metabolites including lactic acid, hydrogen ions and metabolic waste products in the bloodstream resulting in a big hormonal cascade which is beneficial for growth.
Metabolic stress is the most important and biggest contributor to “the pump” and blood flow restriction training takes it to an entirely different level!
Under normal lifting conditions, as you contract your muscles you constrict the blood vessels, reducing blood flow and oxygen supply. However, when you lengthen the muscles, you allow more blood to backfill into the lengthened tissue.
With blood flow restriction, however, you cut off nearly all of the venous return to the muscle, so you create what’s known as “venous pooling”. This dramatically deprives the muscles of oxygen, calling in your fast-twitch muscle fibers MUCH sooner.
What it actually does is that it increases your natural growth hormone response to exercise. It targets the mTOR pathway which happens to be the primary metabolic pathway that is responsible for muscle growth. Not just this, it also impacts the gene expression by inhibiting myostatin or what is known as “growth-differentiating-factor-8”.
Blood flow restriction training:
- increases activation and training response of fast twitch muscle fibers
- signals the most potent metabolic pathway for building and growing muscle
- inhibits your DNA from preventing muscle growth
Pretty cool, right?
You can get the biggest pumps you’ve ever gotten in your life with this method!
As soon as you remove blood flow restriction bands after your short and intense training session, you’ll take all the blood pooling which will go directly to the targeted tissue. And this blood brings with it growth promoting nutrients and hormones.
This kind of training can make your muscles swell like you’ve never ever seen them before. This also stimulates muscle growth by stretching the fascia (connective tissue) that covers the muscles.
Finally and most importantly, one of the best things about BFR training is that you can use really light weights. What it means is that it’s as taxing to your overall recovery.
This method of training is known to have originated in physical therapy and rehabilitation centers when patients were not able to use heavy loading due to joint problems. Doctors used occlusion training to help patients build muscle mass when joints were not able to withstand heavy loading that would provide for mechanical tension and muscle damage.
How light is light? We’re talking TEN to THIRTY percent of your 1 repetition maximum.
This means that if you can curl a 100-pound barbell with 2 arms for 1 solid rep, then you would be using 5-15 pound dumbbells for dumbbell occlusion curls!
Don’t laugh until you’ve tried it. Despite using super-light weights, this is by far one of the most painful protocols you will ever try!
Try this trainig method at least once a week to see muscles explode with growth!