Let’s talk about Blood Flow Restrictive Training, often referred to as BFR.

What is BFR?

BFR is a therapy designed to re-build bigger muscles following extended immobilization. However, it is NOT for everyone.  The exercises themselves lead to what can be described as a nasty level of fatigue (opinion derived from BFR experiments on myself).  There are also contra-indications relating to blood pressure, peripheral circulation, DVT risk, and a host of other conditions. In addition, it’s not a cure-all. Patients still absolutely necessary to work on reintroducing functional patterns and progressive increases in velocity and force production.

What BFR does:

  • Induces hypertrophy to occluded muscles.
  • Targets Type II (fast twitch) muscles due to micro damage occuring in hypoxic state.
  • Allows hypertrophy of muscle groups with lighter loads, reducing sheer and stress on joints.

What BEF does not do:

  • It does not address the neural state of rehab’ing a muscle group or movement.
  • It does not address reintroduction of functional movement patterns.
  • Regarding neural state,
    • It does not contribute to optimal recruitment of muscles during maximal activities.
    • It does not stress the reactive (stretch shortening cycle) of the muscle group being targeted.

To paraphrase, BFR builds a bigger muscle and targets fast twitch fibers, but it does not in itself directly contribute to increased force production, increased Rate of Force Development, reactivity, or improved motor programming (although a bigger muscle is a nice place to start). BFR is an interesting and effective tool for making an atrophied muscle bigger following immobilization or denervation, but it is just one piece of the rehab puzzle and isn’t for everyone.