Everyone is looking for a leg up on the competition, whether it’s increasing size and strength, or faster healing and recovery times. From hundreds of dollars of (questionable) supplements, to exercises that put the body at a high risk for injury, the current online advice on increasing muscle mass and speeding up healing time is interesting to say the least. Recently, technology has caught up to research and presented us with a safe, affordable, and highly effective way to elicit all of these gains, quickly. This Technology is called Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Training.
So Whats the Deal With PBFR?
Blood Flow Restriction Training uses a specialized cuff to occlude or “limit” arterial blood flow by a specific amount, allowing a metabolic response that mimics that of high intensity training. Now for the more technical stuff: We see that with an increase of blood lactate levels similar to that of hit training, we get not only a metabolic response but a physiological response to increase the amount of motor units activating. This means that like lifting heavy, we gain an effect through the whole muscle over time. We also see a large spike in growth hormone, MTORC1 activation, and increased IGF-1 compared to low load exercise(2)(3)(4), and similar to that of HIIT session. This is important because GH encourages collagen growth (protecting you from injury and wear) while IGF 1 and MTORC1 encourage muscle growth. Among these factors, we also see cell swelling (a good thing), myostatin increases, decrased fibrosis, increased endurance, increased bone density and healing time, and proximal (closer to the body) gains brought on indirectly through PBFR (5)(6)(7)(8).
What are the benefits of PBFR:
Increases Muscle Size and Strength
This is the basis of PBFR, with the factors described above we see an increase in muscle size, strength and endurance while keeping the tendons, joints and ligaments under low load. (9) This increase is equal to that of lifting 80% of 1RM (or 80% of the maximum weight you can lift) with significantly less mechanical load (30% 1RM). This means larger muscles and more strength with less stress on the joints and ligaments.
The hardest thing with building endurance is the constant battle between endurance training and maintaining muscle mass. With traditional endurance training, we see a conversion of type II fibers to type 1, meaning that you inherently lose both power capabilities and muscle size. During a 8 week, 3 day per week program, one of many studies have shown to increase V02max by 6%, endurance by 15% strength by 7%, and muscle size by 5% while undergoing endurance training using PBFR, the control group demonstrated no change using the control group in comparison.(10) The biggest catch here is that the PBFR group cycled at 40% V02Max for 15 minutes, while the non BFR group cycled at the same intensity for 45. That’s a 15% increase for 30% less work.
Faster Rehabilitation Times
Both pre and post injury or surgery, PBFR allows you to mimic full loading of the muscle, without putting the same mechanical stress as you would through traditional methods. This means you can work harder, sooner, with much safer implementation. Leading overall to increasing the time it takes to get back to full strength and function. (11) Not only this, but it causes a spike in collagen synthesis, allowing for supplemented healing of damaged tissues. (12)
Ever had tendinitis that just wouldn’t go away? or joints that are sore, but you cant afford the loss associated with slowing down your exercise routine? PBFR can help not only maintain strength and size, but also increasing it while allowing the more avascular tissues such as tendon, cartilage, and ligament, to both rest and indirectly heal using the metabolic effects from PBFR. (12) Cell swelling protocol also helps to preserve muscle mass post surgery without any loading to the tissue. This is a massive gain due to the fact that most Physical Therapy time is spent trying to regain atrophy.
Decreased Injury Risk
We see PBFR being used more and more in professional athletes simply for this reason. Due to the strong effects of this modality, athletes are able to train hard in the off season, eliciting constant gains, while simultaneously allowing for recovery. This is a huge factor in athletic efficiency due to the risk of injury that previously could have caused an athlete to miss a portion of a season due to over-training or mismanagement in the weight room. (13) We see major teams like the LA Lakers, Toronto Blue Jays and many more using this technology on their athletes.
Cryo-saunas were all the rage for post exercise recovery, now PBFR is being toted as the newest and most beneficial due to new research on the technology. It has been shown that intermittent bouts of PBFR post strenuous exercise induces a protective effect on the muscle, accelerating recovery and reducing muscle damage immediately, and 24 hours post. PBFR users showed a decrease in muscle soreness and an increase in their power and speed recovery compared to those who did not use PBFR.
So is it safe?
The safety of PBFR is high, yet it is only safe if carried out by a PBFR certified professional using the correct, medically approved devices. There are many snippets of research proving unsafe or ineffective practices, but all of these are linked to cheap, non-medical devices being used by individuals without an understanding of the modality (14)(15). IMTR practitioners are all registered healthcare professionals, certified and insured to use the Delfi Personalized Tourniquet System. These tourniquet systems are medical devices that not only have passed the rigorous government safety testings, but also can only be sold to the medical professionals who understand the power of misuse, and are taught the correct protocol surrounding these devices.
For a Free Demo on the device or if you have questions about PBFR, contact us at 416-225-2623 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Isaac J.R. Olajos
Integrated Movement Training; Lead Practitioner & Program Director
RKin, RMT, FIA, Licensed Acupuncture Provider, BSc. Hon. Kinesiology McMaster University, Functional integrated Therapy, DNS Certified, Practitioner Blood Flow Restriction Training, Synergy Performance Taping