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Blood Flow Restriction Training. What is it and what does it do?

Blood flow restriction (BFRT) or kaatsu training has been around for some time in the rehabilitation setting and more recently fitness/ body building setting. Furthermore, there has been a vast array of research of the years indicating the benefits of BFRT of different conditions and goals. This research and technique is ever changing and over the last few years there has been some good evidence to support it helps to improve muscle size and strength during injury recovery.

So, what is it?

It a pressure cuff like a blood pressure device that inflates and adds pressure to your limb, the pressure is set then the cuff is worn during exercise. Think of it as a very mild form of a tourniquet.

What’s the science behind it?

The whole idea of BFRT is self-explanatory you decrease blood flow to a part of the body. The biggest question is why?

The simple answer is it makes the muscle work harder.

The working muscles require blood and oxygen to maintain contraction and movement when we decrease these aspects the environment becomes more acidic. Essentially (but not scientifically true) it is the lactic acid build up inside the vessels and muscles and you feel that burning, fatiguing feeling.

By creating a more challenging environment for a muscle in turn we can reap the benefits of the normal process of strength training being microscopic tears of muscles repair and rebuild and getting stronger and bigger. However the twist is that the load does not need to be that heavy.

Most people know that you lift heavy weights to get stronger and bigger muscles

So, what if you could get stronger and bigger only by lifting a small/ light weight.

This is how the cuffs work – you only need a light weight (when using the cuffs) to produce a similar physiological change as lifting heavier weights.

Therefore, one of the greatest benefits of the cuffs are for those individuals who cannot lift heavy weights due to injury etc or need to take some time away from lifting heavy weights but still want performance gains.


Okay so who benefits from it?

I have found that the follow groups response very well to BFRT

  • Individuals who have conditions such as knee osteoarthritis or knee injuries (meniscus, kneecap pain) that are made worse by or who have pain with high compressive load exercises (squatting, steps, walking, running etc.)

  • Individuals that have lost muscle size/ strength from an injury or surgery i.e. someone who has lost strength in their legs from previous back surgery, or ACL surgery or someone who has been in a cast/ moon boot for a while and has lost muscle size

  • Individuals who spend a lot of time lifting heavy weights and need a low load/ de-load period of exercise to take stress and strain off joints and tendons. These are typically athletes in sports like powerlifting, athletics, basketball, baseball, all football codes and many other sports that requires athletes to complete heavy weight training

Blood flow restriction training is completed over a period of 6-12 weeks. It can be a sole form of therapy or used in conjunction with your current rehabilitation session.

We are pleased we can offer this emerging device to the Townsville Region and can provide services to all health providers/ agencies (EPC, DVA, work cover, private health, local and travelling athletes etc.)

If you are interested in seeing if BFRT could work for you, please call the clinic to arrange an appointment. The assessment process will allow us to see if there are any risks of BFRT to you and also devise an individual plan.

-Tim Cottman-Fields, Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist


If you would like to make an appointment with Tim, give one of our friendly team a call on 4724 0768 or click HERE to book online.

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