Altitude Training For Your Muscles: What is BFR?

Blood Flow Restricted (BFR) rehabilitation is the brief occlusion of venous blood flow using a tourniquet while exercising. Within the body, arteries take the blood into a muscle, and veins take the blood away from the muscle. Partially restricting the outward flow of blood from the muscle, causes the muscle to swell with blood, consisting of metabolites and lactic acid. The metabolites stimulate muscle growth and the lactic acid increases protein synthesis. This build-up of blood to the muscle fibres stimulates a metabolic response which forces the fibres to adapt, thus creating an increase in muscle strength, size and function.

The result of blood flow occlusion is that the muscle improves in strength, size and functional aerobic capacity in shorter amounts of time with less stress on the body than normal training.

The restriction of blood flow is achieved by a specially designed unit. It occludes 80% of blood in the lower limb and 50% of blood in the upper limb. The typical protocol in the literature is 4 sets of 30/15/15/15 in order to build up metabolites with the cuff inflated during the entire session including rest periods to trap the metabolites.
This occlusion reduces the stress on your joints and improves the muscular capacity in shorter amounts of time with less stress on the body than normal training.

Benefits of BFR:

There is a great deal of research evidence to confirm that BFR is a game changer in the rehabilitation world. It’s perfect for:

Prehab and rehab in surgery patients, or those recovering from accidents or injury

  • Performance recovery for athletes after competition
  • Improvement of cardiovascular function
  • Increased muscular growth and strength
  • Improvement of muscular atrophy in disused muscles

How it works:

Mechanisms of Strength and Hypertrophy.

  • Mechanical Load – Traditionally you need 85-100% of your 1 rep max (that’s heavy). With BFR we can reduce this significantly to 20-30% of 1RM and induce the same effect.
  • Metabolic Stress – Through the occlusion of the venous blood return, the exercise will push you safely to the point of fatigue which causes a response in the muscle to adapt.
  • Muscle breakdown – Through metabolic stress and the mechanical overload, we see change in the muscle to produce greater strength and size.

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How do I get BFR?


BFR will be booked in initially with your Physiotherapist. This will ensure you have a complete understanding of how the machine works and which exercises will be prescribed to help reach your rehab goals. From there, the BFR is a user-friendly machine and is easily self-applicable.

Evidence suggest, for the most optimal outcome, the prescribed exercises administered with BFR should be performed minimally 2-3 x per week over a 6-week period.

Please reach out to us to find out more about our BFR Therapy Options: 2-5 BFR Physio sessions per week!