I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical when I first heard of occlusion training. Also known as “blood flow restriction training” (BFR), the method involves using bands or wraps to restrict blood flow to an extremity. The wraps are applied tight enough to restrict venous return but not so tight as to prevent arterial blood flow to the muscles. The most common methods involve wrapping your upper arms or upper thighs and then performing exercises at 20-30% of your 1-rep max for 3 to 4 sets . I know it sounds a little wacky but the scientific research thus far is promising.
What Does The Research Suggest?
Research has found that using BFR can increase gains in both size and strength. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning Research found that NCAA Division I football players increased their 1-RM bench press by 7% and squat by 8% in a 3-week period when using BFR in conjunction with traditional strength training compared to a control group that did traditional training alone . A follow-up study published in early 2014 found that a 7-week BFR training program had similar results with 1-RM squat increasing as much as 12% .
Just to put things in perspective, a 7-12% gain in 1-RM strength is HUGE. An athlete with a 400 pound back squat could potentially increase their 1-RM by about 30 to 50 pounds in less than 2 months of training. And keep in mind these two studies were performed on trained, collegiate-level strength athletes. It’s likely that these findings would apply to other athletic populations such as CrossFit competitors, powerlifters, and Olympic weightlifters. Read More…