“Blood flow restriction” or “BFR” training offers us a way to help you increase strength without using high loads. In order to increase muscle strength, it has been widely accepted that the load or weight used needs to be at least 70% of your 1-repetition max. This can be difficult to achieve during the rehabilitation phase of an injury or surgery without compromising the damaged or surgically corrected tissues. Recent evidence suggests that BFR training with low loads, such as table top and other low-load exercises, can produce significant strength gains in as little as four weeks. This makes it perfect for those in recovery who are not yet able to bare their own weight, or who are restricted by a boot or brace.
In BFR, an inflatable cuff is applied to either the upper arm or upper leg depending on the targeted muscle group. The pressure used is determined by the physical therapist and is unique to each individual. The purpose of this cuff is to reduce the amount of blood flow into and out of the target muscle group. This creates metabolic stress on the tissue by reducing the amount of oxygen available which makes the muscle work harder. While the cuff is applied, you would participate in various low load exercises tailored to your needs.
BFR allows us to maximize strength gains during a critical time of recovery from surgery or injury. It allows us to do this in a way that is safe, effective and tailored to the individual. BFR training is a stepping stone that allows you to return to higher load exercises faster than with traditional therapeutic exercise. This can mean a shorter total recovery time and a faster return to the activities that you’ve been missing.