Blood Flow Restriction

Blood flow restriction. The latest craze in fitness.  Does it work? Who is using it? When did it start?  Under the influence of one of our Junior World weightlifters, Jordan Wissinger, I decided to give the BFR craze a test drive.  I felt as though I would be best suited for this to see how it rolls and because I knew I would have control of all of the testing parameters.  I also had previous experience in occlusion type training.  Back in 2008-2009 I had played around with “kaatsu,” a form of blood flow restriction on the arms developed/used in Japan for a while. I had never really found it to lead to significant gains BUT it did give me an arm pump like no other.  SO...in steps 2018 Blood Flow Restriction testing.


Test #1

I had decided that my initial testing would be done with a 170k back squat for a timed set.  In essence, how fast could I complete a 170k back squat for five reps.  Here were the specs of my first test:

Training: no training for two days prior, led up to my test with traditionally heavy squat programs executed once every ten days

Bodyweight: 238lbs

Supplements: Using Earth Fed Muscle’s Primitive Protein and Casein for recovery

Pre-Workout: Smashed 1.5 scoops of Stammpede (Watermelon flavor)

Weight: 170k

Reps: 5

Shoes: Vegan Saucony Jazz

Result: 12.73 seconds


Training Period

My experiment would be based around a 70k load.  For four days a week over a 42 day period I decided that every squat session would be with 70k.  This is how every single session was completed

Blood Flow Restrictor Set to Place: I would use a tack and floss band on each leg in the groin/quad area. I would wrap moderately tight (it would not hurt to squat but was slightly uncomfortable).  Each area would be wrapped right near where the bottom of my butt and my ball sack would be near my groin then about 2” below that for a full wrap.

Set 1: 30 reps would be completed with a 4 second eccentric.  This was very difficult and would lead to a massive pump.

Rest: Exactly 1 minute

Set 2: 15 reps as quickly as possible. Not too bad as far as difficulty is concerned.

Rest: Exactly 1 minute

Set 3: 15 reps as quickly as possible.  Easier than the previous two sets.

Rest: Exactly 1 minute

Set 4: 15 reps as quickly as possible, typically I forced myself to do this set unbroken.  Difficult and got a massive pump.

Racked the bar and immediately released the tack and floss bands.  


Test #2

Training: no training for two days prior, led up to my test with the BFR training.

Bodyweight: 231lbs (lost 7lbs)

Supplements: Using Earth Fed Muscle’s Primitive Protein and Casein for recovery

Pre-Workout: Smashed 1.5 scoops of Stammpede (Watermelon flavor)...exact same pre-workout ritual and exact same warm up schedule.

Weight: 170k

Reps: 5

Shoes: Vegan Saucony Jazz (exact same stinky shoes)

Result: 12.25 seconds


Experiment Results

Lowered my time by nearly .5 seconds


Application and Conclusion

Now before everyone starts losing their shit that I dropped a half second off my time by only squatting 70k for 6 weeks, there needs to be a few things that we remember.  I am 33 years old, a well trained athlete with a strong baseline.  The test being done wasn’t extremely well organized, nor was it published in a peer reviewed journal. With that being said, I have seen plenty of “scientists” like Chris Beardsley, blatantly lying about their data and feedback and then using it to push their own agenda.  I followed the testing protocol very well and even lost 7lbs while on the program (this was from focused dieting on the Acceleration Diet).  I do believe I felt weaker in my trunk/core area during the second test, however my legs felt quite strong and I partially felt an improvement in my mobility.  The positive takeaway is that I did not care if this program worked or not. I took both tests very seriously and was very focused during the testing session and warmed up with as good of squat technique (yes, my technique is garbage) as I possibly could.  Does the timed set of 5 reps lead to direct max strength? Probably not, but it does show improvement in speed nonetheless.  


My analysis is that BFR training can be used for rehabilitation situations where individuals may experience some form of discomfort or pain with higher loads and yet they will still maintain or slightly gain strength from BFR training. I also believe it is a great way for athletes that are competing in-season to use BFR squat systems to improve or maintain their strength levels.  Do I believe this is something that can solve all problems in strength and fitness? Absolutely not, but it is a fun tool to play around with and learn from!


Enjoy the video below comparing the two squat sessions.

 

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