The use of blood flow restricted (BFR) exercise has become an accepted alternative approach to improve skeletal muscle mass and function and improve cardiovascular function in individuals that are not able to or do not wish to use traditional exercise protocols that rely on heavy loads and high training volumes. BFR exercise involves the reduction of blood flow to working skeletal muscle by applying a flexible cuff to the most proximal portions of a person's arms or legs that results in decreased arterial flow to the exercising muscle and occluded venous return back to the central circulation. Safety concerns, especially related to the cardiovascular system, have not been consistently reported with a few exceptions; however, most researchers agree that BFR exercise can be a relatively safe technique for most people that are free from serious cardiovascular disease, as well as those with coronary artery disease, and also for people suffering from chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and osteoarthritis. Potential mechanisms to explain the benefits of BFR exercise are still mostly speculative and may require more invasive studies or the use of animal models to fully explore mechanisms of adaptation. The setting of absolute resistive pressures has evolved, from being based on an individual's systolic blood pressure to a relative measure that is based on various percentages of the pressures needed to totally occlude blood flow in the exercising limb. However, since several other issues remain unresolved, such as the actual external loads used in combination with BFR, the type of cuff used to induce the blood flow restriction, and whether the restriction is continuous or intermittent, this paper will attempt to address these additional concerns.
Freitas, E., Karabulut, M., & Bemben, M. G. (2021). The Evolution of Blood Flow Restricted Exercise. Frontiers in physiology, 12, 747759. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.747759
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