Blood Flow Restriction(BFR) Training
Everyone needs to know about this!
My name is Michael Mathieu and I am 57 years old. I have quadriplegia from a mountain biking accident in 2012. I am paralyzed from the chest down and partway down my upper arm. I have maybe 20% bicep (I can pull things towards me) and almost 0% tricep (I can’t push things away from me) with no wrist function and no finger function. Initially, after that injury, I lost a lot of muscle mass and bone density in my entire body. I was gifted a special bike that uses electrodes to make my legs do the work and that mostly kept my legs in shape but my arms and shoulders and chest really suffered and it was really sad over time to see myself getting smaller and smaller. Not good physically and not good psychologically.
In December 2019 I heard dr. Joseph Mercola (osteopath and health and nutrition expert) get interviewed by Dr. Paul Saladino (promoter of the carnivore diet and author of The Carnivore Code). Dr. Mercola was so excited about a new exercise modality called Blood flow restriction training (BFR). He spoke about how his parents had recently passed away and they both were quite frail physically and he wished that he knew about the BFR technology just a few years earlier because he knew it could’ve helped keep his parents alive longer.
He also talked about how amazing BFR can be for able-bodied people to enhance their workouts whether they be adolescence or elite athletes or elders or people with injuries who can’t use high weights. And then for me, he mentioned the Magic words: “… They are even finding that people with paralysis are responding really well to BFR!“ in that moment I knew I had to give it a try and a week later I started using the Kaatsu equipment.
Blood Flow Restriction(BFR) Training
Let me start by saying this:
This is one of the most exciting things that has come into my life since my injury!
In just two months of using this training technique Igained 1 1/2 inches of circumference around my thighs and 1/2 inch of circumference around my biceps/triceps!!!
Osteoporosis is the bane of my existence as a person with quadriplegia, and it takes strong muscles to create enough force on bones to signal the bones to maintain and increase bone density.
Here I am using BFR on my bike
Me strapped into my FES Bicycle
Black Kaatsu BFR bands on my upper thighs
BFR is one step short of a miracle! I’m convinced this is going to help me live longer!And the evidence strongly suggest that anybody who uses blood flow restriction training will have significant gains in strength, muscle mass, bone density, improved circulation,longevityand much more!
Here’s the short of it:
- Put BFR straps around your upper arms or upper legs.
- Do low weight (20% to 30% of one rep maximum) high repetition exercise. Although the best gains will come from completely exhausting your muscles, significant gains can still be made fromwalking and moving around evenwithout weights.
- Reap themuscle growth and strength benefits of doing high weight exercisewhile using low weights and high reps, with much less stress on your joints.There are even more benefits which I discuss below.
Who is this helpful for?
Short answer: everyone!
Elders, youngsters, athletes, performers, recovering from injuries, recovering from strokes and heart attacks, paralysis, basically anyone of any age.
Exercise physiologists and physical therapists are seeing their clients heal in half the time! Say you broke your right shoulder joint… No problem… You put the straps on the left arm and both the legs when you exercise and the metabolites that are produced in the left arm in the legs will get into circulation and help heal their right shoulder faster!
For those who are not stable enough or strong enough to work with weights or to work with heavy weights… No problem… You can just work with your arms or your legs weather sitting or standing and do any movements that you can. You can still gain strength and muscle mass and over time you may be able to incorporate weights or more difficult exercises. Muscle wasting and instability can be major problems for the elder population. BFR definitely has the potential for increasing longevity and health span!
Athletes and performers
Incorporating BFR into your training has the potential to give you that edge or elevation of performance that you’re looking for!
Stroke and heart attack rehabilitation
People who have suffered strokes or heart attacks can utilize BFR to help them heal faster. Because of BFR is unique ability to improve micro circulation and blood vessel strength/integrity it can be a great tool for recovery.
Blood flow restriction training with Dr. Joseph Mercola
For those of you who want a little of the science:
Dr. Mercola explains the science behind Blood flow restriction training
- Build muscle and strength using low weights
- Building muscle reduces insulin resistance and increases insulin sensitivity
- Increases bone density
- Heal 2X faster from injuries
- Improved performance for competitive athletes
- Improves musculature in the entire body, not just the arms and legs
- Can be used for heart attack and stroke rehab
B. Benefits for elders
- Reduced frailty
- Increased muscle mass, strength, mobility while using low or no weights… Safer for elders
- Increased health span… Time you are able to be active and engaged
- Recovery from exercise is quicker so you can participate in exercise more frequently
- Lowers oxygen levels in the arm or a leg with BFR strap(Hypoxia)
- Triggers release of hormone HIF1A hypoxic inducible factor
- HIF1A triggers release of hormone VEGF which makes blood vessels grow
- Fatigues Type 1 (slow-twitch) muscle fibers quickly so Type 2 (Fast twitch) fibers engage earlier and without the use of heavy weights
- Increases growth hormone
- Increases stem cell activation 3X
- Increases micro circulation and healthier/Strongerblood vessels
- Traps lactate in arms and legs which suppresses myostatin allowing muscle growth
- Lactate encourages muscle swelling with water…” We are going to pump you up!“
- CreatesBDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor)fertilizer for the brain and nervous system
- Improves NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide)protective coenzyme responsible for creating energy in the mitochondria and also involved with 2K enzymes in the body. Some of which help repair damaged DNA and an enzyme that’s found on the outside of many of your immune cells.
- Increases the activity of an enzyme NAMPT which recycles NAD
When done properly studies have shown it does not seem to promote blood clotting and actually seems to reduce risk. However, it is always a good idea to check in with your doctor.
If you have high blood pressure there is always the risk of increasing the chances of stroke but only if you are using improper bands: bands that are too wide (especially on the arms), are not elastic, and used with too high pressure.
- Existing untreated deep vein thrombosis (DVT’s)
- Any on-going medical emergency
- Belt placement on a limb with lymphedema or vascular access.
- Untreated hypertension
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Any contraindication to regular exercise
CAUTION: It is advisable not to place a BFR band above a phlebotomy site for several hours post phlebotomy due to the risk of hematoma at the venapuncture site. Performing a standard BFR session with the other 3 extremities can be done post phlebotomy.
BFR training instructions
Below is a link for an e-book that Dr. Mercola put together on BFR training:
It’s a great overview of BFRand he includes some videos of how he uses BFR in his exercise routine. He also gets into the science more than I have here.
He does such a great job explaining how to use BFR Training safely that I am going to leave it in his able hands and refer you to his e-book instead of me trying to re-create it here. Even though he is mostly focusing on the use of Kaatsu equipment it can be easily translated to whatever equipment you use.
Yoshiaki Sato, M.D., Ph.D.
B Strong Equipment
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