Whole Body Balance
Boulder's Center for Conservative Musculoskeletal Care
When someone participates in normal exercise to increase strength, a person needs to be lifting ~75-85% of their one repetition max for 10-12 repetitions per set. This specific load ratio produces a cascade of biological effects ultimately leading to cellular growth, hypertrophy, and strength gains. In the physical rehabilitation setting, a lot of patients are unable to perform exercises at these high loads due to either recovery from surgery, having restrictions on what they can do as a result from injury, or their tissues are compromised as with a condition such as tendonitis. Lifting heavy in these cases has the potential to cause further irritation of those involved tissues.
Blood Flow Restriction allows the patient to lift much lighter loads and still get the benefits of lifting heavy. This is done with the use of a restrictive cuff placed around a proximal limb and limiting the amount of blood flow going to that limb. With a decrease in available oxygen levels, the muscles are “tricked” into thinking they are working harder than they are and go down the same metabolic pathways as when someone is lifting heavy and achieve similar results. This is great for anyone that is pre/post – operation or suffering from a soft tissue dysfunction.
One of the greatest benefits of Blood Flow Restriction Training is the ability for individuals to lift lighter loads, while still having an impactful effect on muscle hypertrophy. Besides this aspect, some of the most common benefits to Blood Flow Restriction Training include:
Blood Flow Restriction Training starts with a tourniquet that is placed on a limb, which is then tightened to a specific pressure depending on the individual. The goal with the tourniquet is to completely obstruct venous blood flow, while allowing partial arterial blood flow. In order to discover the specific pressure that is needed for a specific area of your body, a plethysmography or Doppler ultrasound is used to determine the amount of blood flow that your limb is receive, as the pressure is increased on the tourniquet. Once the exact pressure is found that completely obstructs all blood flow, the tourniquet pressure is adjusted to ~50%. For example, if your right legs blood flow is completely stopped at 180mmHg, then the pressure will be adjusted to 90mmHg.
Now that the correct pressure has been discovered for the patients individual needs, low resistance exercises will be performed with high repetitions per set (15-30 reps) and with short rest intervals between sets (30 seconds). This combination of properly calculated blood flow restriction and low resistance training cause both muscle tension and metabolic stress, which are the key factors when the goal is increasing muscle strength and hypertrophy.
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