By Motion Physical Therapist: Dr. Michelle Steege PT, DPT
Blood flow restriction training (BFR) is a method of exercise that utilizes an external device such as a tourniquet or blood pressure cuff to restrict blood flow to muscles during resistance training or aerobic training. Research supports the use of blood flow restriction training to increase strength and hypertrophy in the targeted muscles. These results have been seen with BFR during both low load resistance training and low load aerobic training4.
Typically, loads equating to 70-85% of one repetition maximum (1-RM) are recommended during resistance training for changes in muscle strength and hypertrophy4. Research has shown these same muscle adaptations can occur with as low as 20% 1-RM when using blood flow restriction4. This can be extremely beneficial during times of immobilization or when disuse atrophy is common such as following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction and knee arthroscopy.
While increased muscle strength and hypertrophy have occurred even in experienced athletes using low-load BFR, one group of researchers hypothesized that connective tissue may not demonstrate similar strength gains2. This may be due to the decreased mechanical load used during BFR2. When used by well-trained athletes, a combination of low load resistance training with BFR and high load resistance training may be optimal.
The gold standard for tourniquet use during blood flow restriction training is the Delfi personalized tourniquet system, which is listed with the FDA specifically for BFR. This device allows for accurate monitoring of limb occlusion and has safety features that are vital to use during exercise. It is important BFR be performed under the supervision of an experienced health professional, with a device that can measure the amount of occlusion during use.
Motion is excited to begin using blood flow restriction as part of rehabilitation and strengthening with clients post-surgically and following injury. Please contact us with any related questions!
About Dr. Michelle Steege, PT, DPT:
Michelle is passionate about the profession of physical therapy, which allows her to help people return to the activities they love. Her experience in a hospital-based
outpatient orthopedic setting has given her the opportunity to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions and sports injuries. Michelle began her orthopedic residency at Motion in 2017, further advancing her knowledge in the world of physical therapy. She also has training in instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) and running analysis.
Michelle earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in exercise science. She then attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where she earned her doctorate in physical therapy.
In her free time, Michelle enjoys being outdoors—running, biking, hiking, kayaking, and spending time at the cabin in northern Wisconsin.
- Loenneke, J. P., Wilson, J. M., Marín, P. J., Zourdos, M. C., & Bemben, M. G. (2012). Low intensity blood flow restriction training: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112(5), 1849–1859. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-2167-x
- Scott, B. R., Loenneke, J. P., Slattery, K. M., & Dascombe, B. J. (2016). Blood flow restricted exercise for athletes: A review of available evidence. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 19(5), 360–367. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2015.04.014
- Segal, N. A., Williams, G. N., Davis, M. C., Wallace, R. B., & Mikesky, A. E. (2015). Efficacy of Blood Flow-Restricted, Low-Load Resistance Training in Women with Risk Factors for Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis. PM and R, 7(4), 376–384. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmrj.2014.09.014
- Slysz, J., Stultz, J., & Burr, J. F. (2016). The efficacy of blood flow restricted exercise: A systematic review & meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 19(8), 669–675. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2015.09.005
- Tennent, D. J., Hylden, C. M., Johnson, A. E., Burns, T. C., Wilken, J. M., & Owens, J. G. (2016). Blood Flow Restriction Training After Knee Arthroscopy. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 0(Articles In Press), 1. https://doi.org/10.1097/JSM.0000000000000377