Have You Heard of Blood Flow Restriction Training?

Blood flow restriction training or BFR is a hot new topic in the fitness community. You may have heard of BFR buzzing through fitness social media pages and thought: What is it? Can anybody do it? What is the point and how does it work? We will address all of these questions in this short blog to give a better understanding to how it works. Keep in mind, this method of training/rehabilitation is very new and still has on-going clinical trials to test its efficacy. Let’s dive in!

What is it?

BFR is a method of training and rehabilitation that partially restricts blood flow on the exercising limb. A tourniquet, a device that limits blood flow similar to a blood pressure cuff, is applied to compress the blood vessels resulting in increase strength, hypertrophy and muscular endurance with using only doing light exercise. 


In the current research BFR has demonstrated increased strength and muscle size compared to non-BFR control groups. The research claims that low-load resistance exercises (20%-30% of 1 rep-max) combined with BFR produced significant response in maximizing muscles strength and size. 

How and who is it best for?

As previously mentioned in the beginning of this blog, the exact reason for how BFR works is still under investigation. There are speculations that it is a combination of multiple factors, one being that muscle protein synthesis plays a role after BFR. Clinically, it has been performed to varying diagnosis with positive outcomes including total joint replacements, achilles tendon repairs, fractures, rotator cuff repairs, muscular strains, nerve injuries and tendinopathies. 

BFR is currently being research for ACL reconstruction and total joint replacements. © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com


What current research is being done now?

According to Owens Recovery Science (ORS) the current on-going trials are:

  • Knee arthroscopy
  • ACL reconstruction
  • Post-surgical quad weakness
  • Fracture study (femur)
  • Chronic achilles tendonitis
  • Distal radius fracture
  • Meniscus tear/repair

A meta-analysis of 11 clinic trials was done in 2019 to look at the effects of  low load (LL) BFR resistance training and walking with and without BFR in older adults. The researchers found that LL-BFR and walking with BFR showed improvement in stimulating muscle hypertrophy and strength gains in older populations. More research is needed to increase the validity of BFR training, but the small amount of current research and evidence is promising. 

If you want to learn more about blood flow restriction or exercises, give us a call today! With Direct Access in NJ we can get you in for an evaluation without you having to see your Doctor, probably quicker than you could even get that appointment, while also saving you both time and money!  

Please, call us to schedule you evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!