By Dr. Andrew Novencido | PT, DPT, CSCS

When we think of getting stronger and building muscle mass, we tend to think of lifting bigger, heavier weights. This instinct has been proven correct by science, as research shows that resistance training with up to 60-80% of a person’s 1-repetition maximum (1RM) is the recommended level of intensity and load to begin building strength and promoting muscular hypertrophy. 

But what happens if you’ve been recently injured and cannot exercise like you normally do? Or how do you strengthen during the early stages of your post-operative rehabilitation? What if you have chronic pain that limits your ability to exercise? 

One possible solution to these problems is the introduction of Blood Flow Restriction Training. Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFRT) is a training method that utilizes pressured cuffs (similar to blood pressure cuffs) around either your arm or your leg allows arterial blood flow (oxygenated blood from your heart towards your limbs) but occludes venous blood flow (de-oxygenated blood from the limbs back to the heart). Studies show that this restriction in blood flow coupled with low intensity, low load exercises (as low as 20% of your 1-repetition maximum) can stimulate the same metabolic response that contributes to improved muscle strength, endurance, and hypertrophy as if you were performing normal resistance training. 

These findings are significant as you can begin strengthening much earlier in your rehabilitation to prevent disuse atrophy and mitigate strength loss. These findings also demonstrate its effectiveness for healthy athletes as this type of training can help maximize your strength and endurance gains while decreasing joint and tissue stress due to the lighter loads. 

Interested in BFR training? Come visit one of our Performance Plus Physical Therapy clinics for an evaluation to see if BFR training is an appropriate form of rehabilitation for you!

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