What Is It? Does it work?
I tried Blood Flow Restriction training for the first time this morning and I will provide my progress and feedback on the technique over time. I heard about it on the Renegade Podcast by Jay Ferruggia and figured I would at least try it out on my next Bi/Tri workout. Training is all about trying out new things, some will suck, some will become future staples. You have no idea which one something will be if you don't give it a shot. Plus, the variety can be very much needed from time to time.
Blood Flow Restriction (BFR)
Blood Flow Restriction training is pretty much exactly as it sounds, you restrict the blood flow to a specific body part and perform high reps with that body part. This can be done with straps that you actually buy that are specifically meant for this. Or you can MacGyver it and use an ace bandage or other stretchable apparatus that you can loop around an arm or leg and tighten. I did the second one and am not sure if I did it right so I ordered some proper bands. You are not suppose to go TOO tight as from what I have read the tightness should be about a 7 out of 10, with 10 being as tight as you can go. It felt like my band was a little too tight.
Where to BFR
To start out I just tried it with the biceps. I will next try doing it with the triceps on some bodyweight extensions. BFR can be applied to the the legs as well, which won't do me any good. :) BFR makes sense on any of the limbs where you want to add some muscle mass via a technique that mixes things up.
Some also claim that you can do BFR on the chest, but I cannot see that happening in my near future as I would be quite hesitant to purposely affect blood flow in and out of my heart. The chest area would seem like an easy area to screw up and give yourself a heart attack, literally. So hard pass for me on that.
Do a search on YouTube to see how to properly place the bands on whichever body part you plan on targeting.
Why to BFR
BFR, if done correctly, should give you a massive pump. That is the claim to fame for the technique. The benefit is you do not have to kill your limbs with 100s of reps to chase the pump. BFR will allow blood flow into your muscle via the arteries but the constrictor’s (band) goal is to NOT allow blood to leave the muscle. The theory is the muscle is FORCED to grow because of this excess blood in the muscle; that is how the muscle adapts to this stimulus.
To be able to grow specific muscles without killing the joints is THE number one reason I am interested in BFR training. At this point in my lifting experience I am not really able to induce that pump into the biceps without a very high number of reps and usually in a superset manner that just gets into a number of reps that is boring and unsustainable. This is a killer on the elbows as the elbows will give out before my biceps have had enough. And the same applies to the triceps, doing too much weight or too many reps on a cable pushdown kills the elbow over time. If you can achieve the same pump, or greater, with using less weight and reps than I am IN!!!!
This also applies to folks who still want to make aesthetic progress on their legs but just can no longer do REALLY heavy weights. By properly setting up BRF bands on their legs they can get a great blood flow pump to these areas without having to kill their spine with heavy squats and deadlifts. Sometimes the body is just no longer meant to do certain movements too heavy, this is where BFR can help.
When to BFR
As I first start out with this technique I am ONLY going to attempt to incorporate BFR into my last exercise of a workout. And for now those body parts will only include Biceps and Triceps. I am not sure how easily I can spread it out to areas such as the shoulders so for now I am only going to do it twice a week, at the end of Back/Bis and Chest/Tris days. At best this is a supplemental technique and would not be something I revolve my entire workout around. The majority of time I spend working out is geared towards bigger lifts with the goal of breaking PRs (Personal Records) in reps or weight. The last 5-10 minutes is spent on the vanity areas such as biceps, triceps and delts. BFR fits perfectly into that last window.
Today was the first day I tried it. I definitely felt a pump, and some pain. From what I read the pain is to be expected. I also felt like my left arm handled it better than my right arm but this could be due to the placement of the band I used. I am always interested in doing something new to mix things up so at worst that was achieved this morning. I am looking forward to getting my BFR specific bands in so I have a much higher chance of proper placement and tightness on future attempts. In a week or so I will provide any updates I have based on incorporating this technique. From an extremely early feel from my first attempt I could see this being something that does make it into my toolbox for long term future use.