Occlusion training : aka Blood flow restriction

Occlusion training: aka Blood flow restriction

Below is a collection of articles and information I gathered from a verity of sources to help get you up to speed on BFR training and its benefits.



What is blood flow restriction training?

Wikipedia definition:“Blood flow restriction training (abbreviated BFR training) or Occlusion Training is an exercise approach whereby resistance exercise or aerobic exercise is performed whilst a tourniquet is applied to proximal aspect of the muscle. Limb blood flow is restricted via a cuff throughout the contraction cycle and rest period. This results in partial restriction of arterial inflow to muscle, but, most significantly restricts venous outflow from the muscle. Given the light-load nature and strengthening capacity of BFR training, it can provide an effective clinical rehabilitation stimulus without the high levels of joint stress and cardiovascular risk associated with heavy-load training ”

Explain the physiology:

Excerpt from Menshealth.com 

“In order to understand how BFR works, it’s important to do a quick debriefing on how your circulatory system (also called vascular or cardiovascular system) works. Your arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from your heart to your body. Your veins are blood vessels that carry mostly deoxygenated blood from the body back to the heart.

The goal of blood flow restriction training is to restrict venous return while still allowing arterial flow by strategically wrapping the topmost portion of your limbs. By restricting the veins and not the arteries, blood can keep pooling into a working muscle and it stays trapped there. It’s like filling a water balloon to max capacity (without it popping, of course).

By bringing in all of that blood to the working muscles without letting it leave, a couple key things happen.

One, you get a crazy pump. Seriously, your muscles become supersized. The theory is that this leads to cellular swelling which shocks the muscles into new growth.

Two, it’s gonna burn like hell. Your muscles quickly become deprived of oxygen and can’t get rid of accumulating waste materials and this creates a lot of metabolic stress or acidosis. Metabolic stress is one of the three major mechanisms of muscle growth and should not be overlooked.

Dr. Brad Schoenfeld is a regular Men’s Health contributor and one of the leading authorities on hypertrophy (the scientific term for muscle growth).

In his book Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy, he says: “The prevailing body of literature shows that BFR training stimulates anabolic signaling and muscle protein synthesis and markedly increases muscle growth despite using loads often considered too low to promote significant hypertrophy.”

Brad goes on further, saying that “it has been speculated that metabolic stress is the driving force behind BFR-induced muscle hypertrophy.”

Another really cool thing that happens with BFR is since your oxygen-dependent slow-twitch fibers fatigue way faster than normal, you have to quickly start tapping into your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which have the biggest potential for growth.

What’s crazy about this is your fast-twitch fibers typically don’t get hit unless you’re using heavy loads or moderately heavy loads performed explosively. But BFR allows you to go fast-twitch with loads less than 50 percent of your one-rep max. In fact, one study from the Journal of Applied Physiology showed increased muscle cross-sectional area with BFR training using loads as light as 20 percent of one-rep max. That’s the equivalent of pink baby weights in some cases.”


Show me the evidence:

A meta-analysis of studies pertaining to BFR

How to incorporate this into my cross training and climbing :

At Mountain Strong, we like using the somewhat standard program of :

30 fast succession reps (or: 45 secs of work) at a low eight ( >20%1rm ) followed by a: 30-second rest repeated 4 times. We like to do this in a couplette (with two different exercises- 4 rounds each – resting and releasing the cuff once after the first  4 round set and on completion of the second).

We find this methodology is best put into practice for our climbers by selecting Zottman curls and grip squeezesfor their BFR training. For a less sport-specific approach, we like calf raizes, air squats, and triceps extensions.


exsample workout :

Tighten band just above the elbow:

4 rounds of :45 sec rapid squeezing with rubber grip trainers followed by :30 of rest

Release the band – rest for 3 min –

Tighten the band just below the shoulderat the top of the biceps then:

4 rounds of 30 reps of the zottman curl followed by :30 seconds of rest


Links to learn more: 

Buying a BFR band :


The Science of Blood Flow Restriction Training




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