Effort is Crucial to Building Muscle With or Without Blood Flow Restriction


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Effort is Crucial to Building Muscle With or Without Blood Flow Restriction
Nicholas M. Licameli, PT,DPT




Sometimes the truth hurts.  In the case of blood flow restriction training, the truth needs to hurt.  That’s right!  Today we’re talking about why pain and discomfort, or simply put, effort, are so important for muscle growth.  

As we know, BFR training involves use of a cuff to restrict blood flow to the exercising muscle and is commonly performed with very low loads (20-50% 1RM). Due to the trapping of venous outflow from the exercising muscle and the restriction of blood flow, oxygen tension lowers, challenging local oxygen metabolism (ie Krebs Cycle) to produce ATP for energy.

In order to maintain force output (ie not fail at the exercise), type 2 fibers are recruited earlier than during free-flow exercise.  However, the earlier recruitment of the type 2 fibers comes at a cost – muscle pain and increased discomfort. This is due to the metabolites produced through anaerobic metabolism (without oxygen) to produce energy stimulating the local muscle afferents – this isn’t comfortable.

WE MUST PUSH THROUGH THIS when exercising, as this is the best indicator that good things are happening (ie muscle building stimulus)! Without experiencing these feelings, good luck growing muscles with light weights!

Muscle growth aside, I personally feel that by willingly creating discomfort and managing to keep composure while in discomfort transcends lifting weights.  Similar to taking a cold shower, by overcoming the pain of BFR training, we are training our bodies and minds to better handle stressful stimuli.  There is something to be said for the lifter who is in 10/10 pain, but makes it look like the first rep of the set.  That’s the guy or gal who has my respect.  So feel the pain and become acquainted with it.  Do not shy away.  Seek out the pain, keep your composure, breathe, trust the process, and of course, #chasethepump!


Adapted from: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJrWZ6yjVzC/


****Remember, the decision to use BFR, or any treatment for that matter, should be based on the pillars of evidence-based practice.

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