Todd is constantly educating himself on the latest and greatest in training, theories, and exercises. One technique that has been gaining popularity lately is Occlusion, or blood flow restriction, therapy. Basically, you restrict the blood flow from the muscle group that you are training. This causes blood to remain inside your muscles for longer than normal, giving you a really good pump, and in turn, helping with muscle growth. Are you interested in learning more about occlusion training?
I have a knee injury that has prevented me from really growing my legs the way I would like. After 4 knee surgeries starting at the age of 21, I’m left with no cartilage in my left knee and a kneecap tracking issue. This has really limited certain movements that I can do without pain and lingering swelling. I’ve been training legs with the occlusion bands consistently for about 2 months now and I’m starting to see some really good progress!
Blood Flow Restriction Training Basics
Here are the basics that you’ll want to know to help with your blood flow restriction training:
- Occlusion training is not for beginners. If you are just starting your exercise or weight lifting regime, get a handle on proper form and technique before proceeding with occlusion bands.
- Make sure the bands are tight enough. You’re looking to allow the blood to flow into the muscles that you are training, but restrict it from flowing back out. You are NOT looking to restrict the blood flow altogether. Tighten them so that they are snug, but you shouldn’t be feeling pins and needles and your limbs certainly shouldn’t be turning blue! Researchers have found that you want to wrap to a 7 out of 10, where 10 is wrapped as tight as possible, for legs and a 5 or 6 out of 10 for arms. You’ll know when you get them wrapped properly because your legs or arms are going to swell like balloons – not literally but it sure feels like it!
- When training legs, you’ll use bands on both legs at the same time and they should be wrapped around the upper thigh snug to your crotch. For arms, they should be tucked into your armpit.
- Occlusion bands do not replace heavy lifting but should be used for exercises that can be safely taken to muscle failure. IE: squats, leg extensions, leg curls, leg press, dumbbell curls, bench press, etc. When using the bands go lighter in weight and higher in reps for maximum efficiency.
- Take shorter breaks in between sets. 30 seconds should be enough since you’re going lighter in weight.
- What bands should you use? Affiliate link for your convenience. I can only answer to what we’ve tried, and been successful with, which are the BFR Occlusion Training Bands from Amazon. When training legs I put the buckle to the outside of my thigh otherwise it can get in the way and pinch when squatting or doing certain movements.
And of course a question some people may be asking themselves: is occlusion training safe? The research points to yes, as long as it is done properly. So don’t wrap too tight, don’t stay wrapped for prolonged periods of time and if you have any vascular issues such as blood clots, do not try blood flow restriction without consulting a doctor.
Does occlusion training work? Like with most techniques, the answer is yes, as long as it is done correctly!