What is Blood Flow Restriction Training?

Blood flow restriction training (BFR) is a type of training protocol that can help increase muscle mass.  To perform BFR you must use a tourniquet or band to restrict blood flow during the exercise.  There are a few important things to consider.  First, BFR has been shown to work best when used on an isolation exercise such as the preacher curl.  Next, make sure the bands are not on too tight while performing the exercise.  For example, if we used a scale of 0-5 with 0 being no pressure and 5 maximum pressure.  You should try and aim for a 3 or 4 on this pressure scale.  Then, it is important that the bands or tourniquet be on the entire time you are performing the exercise including rest periods.  With rest periods somewhere between 30- 45 seconds.  You should also use a load between 20-50% of your 1 repetition maximum.

BFR is a good option for those looking to take a break from heavy lifting because the loads used are low.  BFR can also be useful to isolate muscles you are trying to improve by really focusing on the mind-muscle connection.

(2012). Low intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis. European journal of applied physiology112(5), 1849-1859.

Ton BouSliman


About the author

MSc Epidemiology MSc Exercise and Nutrition Science CITI Human Subjects Training for Research Certified Sports Nutritionist Certified Personal Trainer