Blood Flow Restriction training

I was listening to an interesting topic this morning on Doctor Radio and was wondering if there’s been any research that applies to cycling training. It seems like there could certainly be some cross-application.

The topic was regarding weight training results using blood flow restriction. I only got to listen to 5 minutes or so, but they were talking about restricting the upper body blood flow by ~15% and the lower body by … quite a bit more - I don’t recall the exact amount and working out at 55-65% (pretty sure) of max.

Doing this tricks the body into thinking it’s working anaerobically and you get better results with, what i inferred, was less work.

I did a search on the forum and didn’t see any topics that addressed this. I’m curious if anyone else has heard of this or knows of any research that has implemented this in cycling training.

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Seriously? Sounds pretty unsafe.

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Is that why there are so many funny memes of bros flexing really hard and then passing out?

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One of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard. “Doctor” Radio is now on my blacklist.

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I’d suggest just doing the anaerobic work. I can’t see any good coming of restricting blood flow.

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I’d think it was, on it’s face, dangerous for general workouts too, but it turns out there’s actually been trials done using it with real results and without injury that I’m aware of.

So, so far the consensus is that nobody has tried it or read any research on it. But, a lot of people have strong feelings on the subject.


Most likely w/o acute/short-term injury. All you have to do is read up on the damage non-normal blood pressure/flow can cause to realize that this is not in any way a sustainable or desirable short cut to just doing the hard work.


But don’t you get acute, short term injury from lifting heavy weights, which is what causes muscles to hypertrophy? The difference being the amount of weight needed and perhaps less chance of long term injury by lifting close to your max?

I’m not looking for short cuts personally. It just struck me as interesting and wanted to find out what people know. So far, I only hear what people think.

Edit w/ re-read - I do know what can happen with prolonged abnormal blood flow - maybe you can let me know what happens in the short term?

“A healthy athlete has options, and when they can train without restriction, BFR provides little value.” - Coach Carl Valle

Most likely nothing…or maybe not…if it’s a single isolated dose. What happens with repeated events of abnormal blood flow is perhaps a better question. Akin to drinking – 2 scotch in a day won’t cause any irreversible harm…2 scotch a day every day for 30 years on the other hand…??? In any case, I certainly wouldn’t proceed with such a protocol until it’s been verified with a hefty amount of peer reviewed study to support it. Heck, we can’t even agree on 80/20 vs HIIT or carbs vs fat!, why even approach some weird dark art which might give you an edge over proven conventional standards?

[edit: quick search finds:!ef5ed – Dr. admits that over the last 10 years of “studying” BFR methods and they still don’t know what or why it supposedly works. Also, there is no measurable/scientific method of applying BFR, it’s all done on an RPE scale, which could definitely lead to dangerous events. No thanks.]

[2nd edit: through my own reasearch on personal health matters, this is similar to an myocardial ischemic warm-up protocol used for people with heart conditions (ischemia is when any body part has restricted blood flow). Patient exercises until such point where the heart reaches an ischemic level – measured by ECG – takes a rest and resumes exercise. Patient can now exercise at a higher level than w/o warm-up. This phenomena has been known in the medical community for over 200 years…and they still don’t understand why or how it works.]

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This is not what I heard at all when I listened to the podcast you posted. Are we listening to the same thing? I heard it’s proven to work and is safe.

I’ve had experience incorporating blood flow restriction training into my strength routine when I was focused on bodybuilding & powerlifting. I mainly used it for building my triceps and the results over the years I’ve used it in my training were a noticeable increase in muscle mass while experiencing no elbow issues. Most of my other training was low reps so I like to give BFR the credit for the increase in muscle mass.

For the set-up, I used a tourniquet and cranked the tightness to a 8/10. If my arms went numb then I knew it was too tight and I loosened it a bit. I mainly used the cable machine and the rep scheme was as follows:

Set 1: 30 reps then 30 seconds rest.
Set 2: 15 reps then 30 seconds rest.
Set 3: 15 reps then 30 seconds rest.
Set 4: 15 reps then 120 seconds rest.
Set 5-8: Repeat sets 1-4 again.

For the weight, I started out using 20 lbs and slowly increased the weight and reps over time.

The first couple of times I did BFR training, I got the craziest pumps I’ve ever gotten. It was ridiculous and I thought my arms were going to explode or fall off. Afterward, they got less intense but still pretty strong pumps. I did this once per week after my upper body days. Towards the end of my strength training focus, I was doing 45 reps for sets 1 & 5 and 20 reps for the other sets with 30 lbs.

I have tried BFR training for my quads using the leg press machine but I liked squats much better because it was more specific for my goals at the time and also I didn’t want to put more muscle mass on my already beefy legs.

Lately, I have been thinking about experimenting with using BFR on low-intensity recovery rides on the trainer. My hypothesis is that it would help with lactic threshold and getting used to feeling that burn in your legs. Maybe I’ll give it a shot a report back with any findings.


Thanks for your input @Jinro. The more I’ve read about it, the more it seems like a legitimate form a training. I think we can at least bring it out of the “dark arts” category now!

I’m home from work, so had a few minutes to do a quick search.

Can we agree to retract the quotes below and have a serious conversation about it now? What do you think about it coach @chad?


No. I don’t think we can retract the quotes, and certainly based on the studies you’ve quoted I would not be happy to retract my quote. The numbers in the studies are far too small to be able to use them at all as evidence. You also seem to quote the same study twice.

The study (n=10) is a blur of results and statistics. This is suspicious with such a small sample. Are you able to explain in everyday language what it acually means and how it can be applied to the most of us?

The other study is appealing and I don’t think any conclusions can be drawn at all.

I would not want my opinion withdrawn.

:smiley: the “double quote” was a second part to the first study - should have been this:

there’s also a pdf in that second part to peruse.

sorry about that -

I would generally look at “a blur of results and statistics” as something good, but apparently not here!
You are right regarding the number of subjects in that study. I’d definitely like to see more studies with a higher n. Like I said, this is just what I found with a quick search. There’s probably more out there :slight_smile:

We also have jinro’s n which makes n=10 + 1 haha! Really though, I know people are quick to dismiss it, but I’d like to hear more about it.

I think the everyday language comes from the “owens” study, from the podcast that @Captain_Doughnutman quoted and from the Doctor Radio program I was listening to this morning which is now blacklisted by n=1.

I do admit though, that even with a quick search and finding those results, you still stand by:

I still stand by my response of thinking it is unsafe. My opinion is totally inline with forum rules and guidelines.

Here’s one with n=30 . Not a huge number by any means but similar results nonetheless.
Everyday language can be found in the results and conclusions.

Well, I’m glad that your opinion is inline with forum guidelines and rules but that doesn’t mean it is inline with actual research, which is what I was asking about.

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Dude…take it down a notch.


Haha, you read my mind. After I wrote that I went and grabbed a beer, reread it and thought, “jeez, I sound like a complete d-bag!” Sorry about that… not my intent.


I’ll definitely not rescind my negative speculation. When a podcast “doctor” assigns a restrictive protocol based strictly on FEEL vs actual quantifiable measurement…I trust neither the procedure nor the doctor.

So many factors are completely left out of these studies. For example, does restricted arterial BP affect central venous BP? Are you screwing up your heart just to get a (wholly attainable by standard methods) massive pump?

On repeat:
“A healthy athlete has options, and when they can train without restriction, BFR provides little value.” - Coach Carl Valle