Weights that aren’t heavy enough to stimulate growth actually work for people using BFR bands

Key Takeaways

People who haven’t lifted weights consistently have an easier time putting on muscle – most of us know that. This study consisted of guys who hadn’t trained before and the weight was too light even for them to put any cross sectional muscle size on. But the BFR groups put on strength and size simply by training occluded. Most research on BFR points to the same conclusion – bands occluding superficial venous return adds intensity

Study Structure

In a 2008 study, 15 untrained men were assigned to either a normal training group (no blood flow restriction) or a blood flow restriction group (BFR). Both groups performed a unilateral (another way to say they performed the exercise with one limb at a time) bicep curl at 3 sets of 10 reps at 50% of 1-repetition maximum. After that, they performed leg extensions and leg curl exercises for 3 sets of 15 reps at 30% of 1-repetition maximum. They all performed this training for 10 weeks total, twice per week.

Study Results

The interesting concept of this study is that muscle cross-sectional area (what we use to measure changes in muscle size) on the arms and legs increased only in the BFR group and not the group that trained without blood flow restriction. This illustrates an interesting observation; that being that this level of load on the muscles was not intense enough to allow for muscle growth on its own. However, with the addition of blood flow restriction, they enhanced the effects of training on the arms and legs. 

Another thought-provoking observation was that noradrenaline (a hormone closely related to adrenaline that performs very similar functions) was significantly higher in the BFR group. This possibly indicates that this hormone plays a significant role in muscle growth.

What can be taken away from this particular study is that in those who are new to the world of strength training, muscle size can be greatly enhanced with the addition of BFR training to their workout routines. This great thing about this is that is lessens the risk of injury, which is common to newer lifters when first learning proper form.

Study Being Summarized

Madarame, H., Neya, M., Ochi, E., Nakazato, K., Sato, Y., & Ishii, N. (2008). Cross-Transfer Effects of Resistance Training with Blood Flow Restriction. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,40(2), 258-263. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e31815c6d7e

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