ABSTRACT: BLOOD FLOW RESTRICTION CAN BE USED IN RESISTANCE EXERCISE TO AUGMENT PHYSIOLOGICAL CHALLENGES AND STIMULATE ADAPTATIONS WHEN HEAVY LOADS ARE CONTRAINDICATED. FEMALE ATHLETES USING ONLY 20% 1 REPETITION MAXIMUM SUBSTANTIALLY IMPROVED THEIR MUSCULAR ENDURANCE, STRENGTH, HYPERTROPHY, AND MOTONEURON RECRUITMENT EFFICIENCY, WHEN TRAINING WAS COUPLED WITH LOCAL OCCLUSION OR EVEN WITH BREATHING HYPOXIC AIR.
Alex’s Notes: Blood flow restricted resistance exercise has a lot of potential for both performance and physical therapy. It creates a huge amount of metabolic challenges within the muscles without requiring high degrees of tension that may be contraindicated due to injury. The most common method is wrapping a strap or band around the target muscle, but some studies such as the focus of this article have also explored reduced oxygen availability.
Three groups of women were divided into a control group, a group using cuffs around their thighs, or a group that had to breathe in 80% of normal oxygen. All groups performed the same resistance training routine for five weeks, utilizing 3 sets of knee extensions and leg curls at 20% of their 1 RM with a 2 minute rest between sets. The cuffed group took each set to failure while the other groups had to match that number of repetitions.
Both experimental groups improved strength, force, and endurance more than the control group, with differences between the two being trivial. However, the cuff group had the greatest improvements in muscle growth and maximal voluntary contractile force, which suggests that it had greater neural activation and that some of the strength increases were the result of increased motor unit recruitment, synchronization, and firing rate.
The takeaway here is that if you injure yourself and it is not so bad as to keep you from activities of daily life, don’t use it as an excuse to avoid exercise. Instead, find a way to wrap a bandage (firmly) around the muscle and get rocking with some super light weights!