Occlusion Training- The good, the bad and the ugly

So, after posting a video of my most recent leg day, which included blood flow restriction (BFR) aka occlusion training, some concerns were raised about the method and safety of it.

For starters, I have only attempted BFR training a handful of times, generally under the training and supervision of my boyfriend. He is a very well-read man, who tends to do a lot of peer-reviewed research, following the latest and greatest Sport and Exercise papers which include training methodology, physiology, anatomy, etc. When he first suggested the idea of BFR for my final set of quadricep extensions, I thought it was absolutely crazy! I thought to myself: Why would I cut off the blood supply to my legs…don’t they need it to work, and grow? He then explained to me that through restricting the blood flow (that’s right, restricting, not fully cutting off supply), more metabolic damage occurred to the muscles. Additionally, BFR causes cells to swell via This may sound like a bad thing, but this is, in fact, the source of hypertrophy (aka muscle growth). The more micro tears you cause to your muscles (to a reasonable extent), the more delayed onset muscle soreness you will get (DOMS) as more lactic acid gets trapped in the muscles to trigger anabolic hormones, which will also trigger reparative reactions to 1) repair your muscles and 2) cause muscle growth to adapt to the stimuli. Now, with blood flow restriction, the muscles will be deprived of all the essential oxygen they starve for during a very short period of time, with added muscular stimuli. This, in turn, will cause that muscular damage that we all strive for, and increased protein synthesis for that optimal muscle growth. Additionally, BFR is also great for injuries as it gives less strain on the joints, and you can get optimal growth with a lower intensity.

Oh! And did I mention the awesome pump you get afterwards? Saturday evening gym session religion? I think so!


Best use:

  • Single joint movement (Bicep Curl, Leg Extension, Hamstring Curl, etc.)
  • Wrap the band tight just below the proximal joint/ just above the working muscle (ex. around the top of your thigh for a leg extension)
  • Tightness should be 7/10, and you should not feeling any tingling, numbness or pain (if you have, it is far too tight, and will in fact cause damage)
  • Keep the weights moderate, and the reps at more an endurance level (ex. ~50% 1RM, 15-30 reps)
  • 30-second rest between sets
  • Use any type of band that is long enough to wrap a few times (knee straps, Therabands, etc.)
  • Don’t count reps after 15, just keep pushing until you no longer can


  • Watch that you don’t wrap the bands too tight or you can cause more harm than good
  • Don’t do high-intensity exercises, such as very high weights (close to your 1RM)
  • Absolutely avoid if you have any blood pressure, circulation or heart problems!!!!!!

Schoenfeld, B. Blood Flow Restriction Training. T NATION.

Loenneke, J. P., Wilson, J. M., Marín, P. J., Zourdos, M. C., & Bemben, M. G. (2012). Low-intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis.European journal of applied physiology, 112(5), 1849-1859.

Loenneke, J. P., Fahs, C. A., Rossow, L. M., Abe, T., & Bemben, M. G. (2012). The anabolic benefits of venous blood flow restriction training may be induced by muscle cell swelling. Medical hypotheses, 78(1), 151-154.

Martín-Hernández, J., Ruiz-Aguado, J., Herrero, J. A., Loenneke, J. P., Aagaard, P., Cristi-Montero, C., … & Marín, P. J. (2016). Adaptation of perceptual responses to low load blood flow restriction training. Journal of strength and conditioning research/National Strength & Conditioning Association.



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