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The first study showing that a practical, simple application of blood flow restriction training can significantly boost 1RM has emerged in the August issue of the prestigious Journal of Strength and Conditioning.

The key aim of the study was to see if researchers could replicate the positive benefits of blood occlusion training when it was performed outside of a laboratory setting and in conjunction with a traditional weight training program. What’s more they wanted to see if using basic elastic knee wraps instead of the advanced pneumatic wrapping devices or modified blood pressure cuffs would still work.

The researchers conducted their study as a field experiment on a team of collegiate American football players during their offseason as a part of their strength and conditioning program. The subjects were all from a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II American football team.

The study ran for 7 weeks and involved a before and after test model. Given the researchers wanted to test a more practical model of blood flow restriction, they had the football players incorporate exercises using the blood restriction as an add-on to their normal prescribed weight training program. Weight training was split into alternating upper- and lower-body days; each being trained twice per week. To measure the relative benefit of additional blood occlusion training, the group was split into 4 as follows:

1) Traditional high-intensity training plus supplemental lower reps/lighter weight blood flow restricted lifts

2) Traditional high-intensity training plus supplemental lower reps/lighter weight without blood occlusion devices.

3) Traditional high-intensity weight training only

4) Weight training without the high-intensity bench press, squat and their variations + lower reps/lighter weight blood flow restricted lifts

The additional blood flow restricted lifting consisted of 1 set of 30 squats at 40%1RM and 3 sets of 20 squats at 40% 1RM on the leg days. While on chest days, it consisted of the same number of sets and reps for the bench press exercise.

The weight training program undertaken by the footballers was focused largely on increasing strength and used sets, repetitions and loading schemes of traditional high-intensity programs (i.e. multiple low repetition, low sets with high %1RM). The added blood occlusion training was simply attached onto the existing weigh training program.

Encouragingly, the results of the study indicated that a practical model of blood flow restriction training can be effective in increasing 1RM squat performance when added to an off-season, high-intensity collegiate American football strength and conditioning program. The best thing about this study is that it used elastic power lifting knee wraps, which are relatively affordable and easy to use compared with traditional blood flow restriction devices and methods. This results of this study ultimately mean that blood occlusion training can be accessible to almost anyone, providing they can get their hands on elastic knee wraps.

Luebbers PE, et al. The effects of a 7-week practical blood flow restriction program on well-trained collegiate athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014; 28(8)/2270–2280.

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