Blood Flow Restriction Training 

Blood flow restriction training or BFR training is a term that is becoming increasingly familiar amongst health professionals. The utilisation of this type of training can help achieve numerous goals in the treatment of injury rehabilitation and performance. So what is, how does it work, and what is the process?

Blood Flow Restriction Training

BFR training is the brief and intermittent occlusion of arterial and venous blood flow while at rest or exercising, with the use of a tourniquet-type band. Using the BFR training technique, you can exercise using significantly less weight (20-30% 1RM) and still achieve significant gains in muscle size and strength.1, 2 Consequently, BFR training has opened up a window of opportunity to better mitigate the negative effects of both injury and surgery during specific rehabilitation phases.

Setting the scene

Following an injury or surgery, battling muscle loss (atrophy) and can a significant challenge in the Physio world.  This muscle loss may be as a result pain inhibition in the muscles, weight-bearing or loading precautions, or the fact that a person cannot tolerate training at moderate to high exercise intensities. This is where BFR Training can come in handy, challenging patients safely with submaximal loads with the purpose of enhancing and accelerating rehabilitation and performance along the way.

What Are The Different Applications of Blood Flow Restriction Training?

As physiotherapists, our goal is to help people recover from an injury or surgery. We want them moving better and performing better. This will always be the case! There are a variety of options we have up our sleeves as physiotherapists to achieve this, and BFR training is another tool that we have in our repertoire. The great part of BFR training as that is has potential benefits pre-surgery, post-surgery, through the whole continuum of rehabilitation and in creating optimal performance.

There is evidence available to support Blood Flow Restriction Training with low-load resistance exercise (20-50% 1RM) in enhancing muscle size and strength.1, 3 BFR Training has also been shown to improve bone health3 and cardiovascular well-being.4

In Closing

Blood Flow Restriction Training is not for everyone, however it is a technique that is quickly gaining popularity in the rehabilitation world when applied appropriately. In our opinion, BFR Training has shown to be a safe technique in the right population, it is supported by research to augment better patient outcomes and it is offered at our clinics where appropriate!

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  1. Slysz J, Stultz J, Burr JF. The efficacy of blood flow restricted exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sci Med Sport. 2016;19(8):669–75. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2015.09.005.
  2. Le Cara, E., PhD, MBA, ATC, CSCS, Novo, M., PT, DPT, Rolnick, N., Pt, DPT, MS, & Ascanio, Y., PT, DPT. (n.d.). Blood Flow Restriction Level 1(Vol. 1). Smart Tools.
  3. Hughes L, Paton B, Rosenblatt B, et al. Blood flow restriction training in clinical musculoskeletal rehabilitation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med 2017:bjsports-2016-097071
  4. Ozaki H, Sakamaki M, Yasuda T, et al. Increases in thigh muscle volume and strength
by walk training with leg blood flow reduction in older participantsJ Gerontol 56 2011b;66:275–263.