There is one item that comes straight away to the people’s mind when hearing the words “blood flow restriction band”. It would be the blood donation process. Recently, blood flow restriction band is also used by body builder to help with muscle building. Even though it seems peculiar, there are many researches show the benefits.
What Is Occlusion Training?
To tell the truth, the name doesn’t give friendly or welcoming impression to people who hear it. Thus, learning about the definition might help for getting proper knowledge. In medical term, occlusion training is also called “blood flow restriction” (BFR). It includes restricting blood flows in working muscle (particularly in vein area). The expected result from this action is gaining muscle size and strength.
How Does Occlusion Training Work?
Since BFR has been supported by a lot of medical researches, many body builders claim that this technique is worth trying, specifically those who are aiming to increase muscle size and strength at the same time. One thing to remember, though: the training will only give the expected result when performed right. The second point is the blood is not completely restricted. It still allows blood flow through certain channel.
In order to perform BFR, the individuals need wrapping device like blood restriction band, pressure cuff or knee wraps. The key of the tie is not letting the blood escape through veins, but open the flow through the arteries. If the person is able to get the tie right, the arteries would keep up the ordinary function, while the tie forming a blood pool, forcing veins to bring the blood back to the heart.
In general, there are three reasons why occlusion training could give such amazing result. The first one is because of the swole the wrap could create. People might underestimate it and probably always will be, unless they have tried using the wrap themselves. The experience of having cells so full of fluid is one of a kind.
The second reason is the low oxygen level condition. When it is paired with blood pool, the body is forced to assemble with larger fibers, the one with fast-twitch function. Since the fiber size is doubled, the muscle would automatically grow bigger.
At last, the occlusion training could work well because of the mass production of lactic acid. It happens as the result of low oxygen state in the muscle. In a glance, these combinations might give wrong impression, but actually lactic acid is the agent to boost the protein synthesis process. Furthermore, the process of muscle making could be divided to two main mechanism; the primary and secondary one.
The primary mechanism covers everything that happens in the cellular level. First, there is mechanical tension. It is related to the pressure a person puts to the muscle. With this tension, muscle cells will be stimulated to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which resulted in growth itself.
The second one is metabolic stress. The tension given to the muscle in the beginning would stress it. The more a person could make the muscle stressed, the more growth it could promote. This mechanism will lead to the secondary one, which defining how the body reacts to help the stressed muscle.
In short, there are three conditions happen in the body to support muscle growth. Mechanotransduction marks the beginning of the process. After the tension detected, there is a message sent to mechanosensor which commands the mechanical energy converts to chemical signal. It then travels to the muscle, allowing the anabolic and catabolic process to start.
As the tension is delivered to the muscle, there must be certain level of damage. The body will response to the damages by repairing the broken cell, replacing them with stronger and bigger muscle. This process is also known as hypertrophying. To be able to repair, body will release systemic and localized hormone, especially assigned for the job. In muscle case, the anabolic hormone will be released.
How Tight The Tie Should Be?
It has to be admitted that the explanation of BFR tie is more medical than practical. Not anyone would get the way how to tie a wrap that “will restrict the blood flow from vein but allow arteries to do so”. Not knowing the right method might get them to tie too tight, which might bring bad effect.
There are two areas that often wrapped to get maximum muscle growth. The first one is leg and another one is arm. Each area needs different pressure. Imagine a scale from 1 to 10 for the tie. Arm would need only 6 scales, while leg could go as far as 7. To be able to find 7 and 6 scale, the person requires several adjustments. When the person ties the wrap as tight as possible, it would be 10 in the scale.
While wrapping, it is important to apply the blood restriction band on the narrow area. For instance, the circular wrap should be done in the narrowest area on the upper arm. If the person apply the wrap on the widest area, it will surely restrict the arteries instead of veins.
How Intense The Workout Should Be?
Keep in mind that body shaping is all about process. There is nothing good a person would get by trying to speed up the process. It also applies for the BFR training. It does help with muscle growth, but pairing it to heavy workout won’t serve better result, particularly when the person is still adjusting to the wrap feeling.
The ideal workout suggested by many medical professionals is just 20 to 40% of the regular one repetitive maximum. When the person is about to reach the end of the set, it will be much heavier with the wrap around the arms or legs. For ideal workout, try 4 sets of 30, 15, 15, and 15 repeats. Limit the break time only to 30 seconds between each reps. Do this cycle twice or three times in a week.
Who Will Get The Most Benefits From BFR Training?
Don’t forget that blood restriction band is categorized as new innovative invention to help muscle growth. Therefore, there is no absolute rule yet about the details, such as; the wrapping technique, the tightness measurement and the ideal program. In addition, no athletes or bodybuilder has similar muscle condition due to the medical history and diet. Thus, the following explanation applies to people in general only.
- The Beginner
Some people are new to blood restriction in occlusion training. These individuals might or might not feel the difference after trying BFR training for a few weeks. For muscle growth, it is suggested to take the well-prepared workout. Within weeks, they will gain more strengths and see better hypertrophy result.
- The Intermediate
This is the group that will get the most benefits from BFR training. They have solid muscle base, with some rooms for improvement. Moreover, these people need more than regular stimulation to raise the size and strength of their muscle.
- The Advanced
For this group, BFR training won’t do much, as their muscle has reached the maximum size possible. Instead of occlusion training, the group needs regular stimulation with 30 to 50% intensity. They require this type of workout to keep the muscle in shape.
Could BFR Training Help With Muscle Injuries?
For its use for muscle growth, several medical professionals are looking for further evidence about this matter. It turns out that BFR could help the patients with muscle injuries to recover. However, it is very important to make personalized program, as each patient has its own case. As the result, they might need different set of workout.
Since the purpose of BFR training is to heal the muscle, the wrap used is not band, but a tourniquet. It is also equipped with tightness meter. A number will show on the screen, indicating how tight the tie is. With this technology, the patients don’t have to worry about over-tight tie on the injured area.
There are several benefits BFR training could promise to the patients. First of all, the training would help the patients to regain strength and stop the atrophy for the non-weight bearing. Atrophy is the opposite of muscle growth; it is a process of muscle size decrease, which happen mostly after the injury. Moreover, the patients could improve their strength by only taking 30% of the prepared workout.
With the same amount of exercise, there will be specific increase of muscle growth. Another hope of the muscle injuries patients is getting better muscle endurance. BFR training has this covered as well. On the one third way of the whole treatment period, the muscle endurance will increase. If the injuries happen on elderly people, this training will trigger more muscle protein synthesis.
As the result of the protein synthesis, there will be more muscle cells activated on the body. Thus, the benefits don’t apply only for the injury area, but also to the surrounding tissue. The last benefit the patients could get is the raise of growth hormone response.
Is There Any Concerning Case Of BFR Training?
Just as much as the BFR could bring benefit to muscle shaping program, there are a lot of things that could drag the person from the right path. After all, something that looks easy with best result might not be as simple as imagined. Learning from the mistakes hopefully will help the future bodybuilders and individual to avoid the lists.
- Taking BFR Training For Nothing
This first case applies specifically for the weightlifter. Even though many studies have highlighted the advantages of using blood flow restriction band for occlusion training, the result might not as impressive as expected for this group. There is one logical explanation for this case. Those who are new to weightlifting or have less than a year experience could simply gain muscle size and strength from proper diet and training.
It is because their body is oversensitive to the stimulation. Therefore, these beginners could easily speed up the muscle building process and reach the “anabolic ceiling” in no time. In this case, BFR does almost nothing to help. This is why many professional weightlifters rarely suggest the therapy for new comers. It will be a different story for the injured newbies. BFR could help them gain more muscle during recovery period.
- Tightening the Tie
It has been mentioned previously that there is a specific rule about the tightness of the wrap. Once again, the goal of the blood restriction band is not to completely cut the blood circulation. If a person is in this condition for two hours while doing the regular set, then several cellular and muscle damages could be expected. The tie should block the veins only, so the blood could be trapped in the muscle area longer.
- Lifting Too Heavy Weight
When a person tries the blood restriction band for the first time, there are a lot of things to anticipate. One of them is the exhaustion that comes sooner than before. The person might go only halfway from the total course, but it feels like doing the whole session. For this reason, it is suggested to avoid heavy weight. The person is recommended to do lighter workout first and add the weight as the body adapts.
- Replacing the Weight Training With BFR
Keep in mind that the blood flow restriction band for occlusion training only serves as the medium to maximize the muscle growth. It could never take the place of weight training. For muscle strength, the only way to get the best of it is by lifting weight. However, if the person only chases the muscle size, then BFR should be paired with squat, deadlift, bench press and military press.
When the idea of using blood flow restriction band for occlusion training is mentioned, not many people believe that it would really work. Once the green light is given by medical experts, many people do and experience massive muscle growth. Even better, the bands could be a great therapy for leg muscle injury.