• Most of us like to be fitter and stronger right? Classically in order to improve strength we have had to really load up the resistance to challenge the muscles, but what if there was a way we could train with less effort, for the same results? There couldn’t be... could there?!  

    Muscles need stimulation and stress in order to change and adapt i.e. become bigger stronger (Hypertrophy).  Typically, the process to make this happen is to add heavy load such as the big old squats with big heavy weights (> 70% 1 rep maximum) at between 6-10 repetition’s that give us those hallowed Glutes!

    We know that the stronger (load tolerance) we are, the less likely we are to be injured- FACT, especially in you runners and cyclists, BUT (and this is a big but) this can be an AWFUL lot of effort. What if there was a way we could train with less effort, for the same results? There couldn’t be… could there?!

    Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFRT) was pioneered in Japan and is defined as the ‘brief and intermittent occlusion of arterial and venous blood flow using a tourniquet whilst exercising’. In essence, BFRT changes the metabolic state in which the muscle or muscles are working in, therefore that muscle requiring less load (weight) to stimulate those changes (bigger and stronger).

    It requires a tourniquet applied to the affected limb (by a trained professional only!!) to occlude a certain percentage of the blood flow to the targeted muscle groups; this can then only worn be for a maximum of 20 minutes! So lots of sets, with much less rest, but at a much lower weight or load (only 20-30%).

    There is a large body of evidence showing that BFRT enhances both strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth) at these lower weights, although higher load or normal strength training (> 70% 1 Rep max) still shows superior strength gains! So, if you are able to tolerate these higher loads, then you are better off just pushing through those heavy SQUATS!!

    Does Blood Flow Restriction Training have a place?

    Well yes, these studies show we can gain good hypertrophic and strength gains from low weights or loads; therefore if, for example, we have patella pain and are unable to tolerate higher weights during rehabilitation. Then in order to try and get those quads stronger, we may be able to use a lower weight, which that patella can tolerate, to gain the strength and muscle size in those quads without too much complaints from the patella or YOU!

    To sum up, if uninjured and looking to get strong- keep up with those heavy squats and that high/heavy resistance training!! However, if we find ourselves in a slightly injured state, we could use BFRT as one of many tools to build strength in the targeted muscles at a lower load to help aid recovery. It may at this stage be important to seek the help of a Physiotherapist to assess the injuries, your needs and get you back to the strong self you once were.

    Disclaimer #1: But please, please DO NOT start tying various ropes around your thighs on your own and thinking those legs are going to build themselves – it must be performed by a trained professional! Get to the gym and start lifting (relatively) Heavy! If you are injured, sore or even unsure (nice little rhyme) you are more than welcome to pop in and see us!!

    Disclaimer #2: Squats are not the only exercise for big quads and glutes, I just really, really, like them.