Blood Flow Basics
Before we get into blood flow restriction training, it’s important to understand the circulatory system. This system is made up of arteries and veins which transport blood around the body.
First, arteries carry blood away from your heart into the body, supplying oxygen and nutrients. Then, veins carry depleted blood back to the heart for reoxygenation.
Arteries have thick walls to withstand the high pressure from the heart’s pumping. While veins have thinner walls that are easily collapsed.
What is Blood Flow Restriction?
Blood flow restriction is when you intentionally constrict blood flow by wrapping a band or strap around the upper portion of your arms or legs.
Since veins are thinner and closer to the surface of the limb, the bands only limit flow back to the heart. So more blood stays in the working muscle.
How Does Blood Flow Restriction Training Work?
Now that you understand the physiology of blood flow, let’s talk about how restricting it can be useful in training.
Blood flow restriction training is used by physical therapists, athletes, and bodybuilders. The reason is that it stimulates the recovery and growth of muscle tissue.
First, the high volume of blood causes muscle cells to swell, forcing them to grow larger. This is sort of like a form of fascia release.
Second, blood flow restriction limits the supply of oxygen to the muscle. Your body responds by recruiting fast-twitch fibers that work with low oxygen better than slow-twitch muscles. This is advantageous for muscle building since fast-twitch fibers have a higher potential for growth than slow-twitch fibers.
Finally, blood flow restriction leads to more blood in the muscle during exercise. More blood in the muscle means delivery of more of the nutrients required for growth… at exactly the time when they’re needed.