Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training

High load resistance training has been shown to be the most successful means in improving muscular strength and obtaining muscle growth. The problem that exists is that in certain populations requiring muscle strengthening, high load and high intensity exercises may not be clinically appropriate. Not to mention, heavier resistance exercise often creates excessive strain on joints.

Clients who exhibit disuse atrophy (either post operative or sedentary) would normally benefit from heavier resistance muscle strengthening but often cannot tolerate high intensity exercises. 

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training is a technique that combines low intensity exercise with blood flow occlusion that produces similar results to high intensity training. It has been used in the gym setting for some time but it is gaining popularity in clinical settings.

How does it work?

  • A velcro cuff is placed comfortably around the arm/leg of the patient. 
  • Limb Occlusion Pressure (LOP) is measured by a trained health care practitioner (such as a physiotherapist or PT) using a doppler ultrasound. 
  • LOP is calculated and used as a reference in the same manner as heart rate (HR) would be for cardiovascular exercise ie. % of LOP is used during training based on current evidence based protocols.
  • A patient is monitored and taken through their individualized exercise program.
  • Adjustments can be made throughout the session by the PT in order to maximize the benefits each client receives from a session of BFR.
Source: USA Sport Therapy BFR example

Who benefits the most?

  • Individuals who are deconditioned
  • Individuals who are sedentary 
  • Post operative individuals

Is it dangerous?

No. Provided you are working with a trained individual and licensed regulated health professional, you will experience gains in muscle strength while exercising through mild but tolerable discomfort.

Your physiotherapist will take you through a series of health screening questions to ensure BFR is right for you.

Why use BFR over traditional strength training?

Many people don’t enjoy or can’t tolerate lifting heavier weights. Though still uncomfortable, BFR can be used as a ”cheat code” to ensure excellent gains are received while minimizing joint stress.