The gym, like a library or school, is full of all of the tools necessary to get you to where you want to be. In this case, you want to be the most muscular, strong, lean, and athletic version of yourself that you can be.
Just as books and computers hold the information necessary to unlock your mind and push you to be smarter, have greater logic, and possess critical thinking skills – the gym holds the elements critical to building every muscle, and burning every calorie.
Sometimes a student of knowledge must provide more than just their body, mind, and free-time to the intellectual place. They must commit their own resources, time, and money to building their own library –complete with tools meant to get them over the top.
As a lifter you know this commitment as your gym bag. It’s already packed with lifting straps, protein powders and pre-workouts, your favorite headphones, your notebook and favorite magazines, and few extra shirts incase the A/C isn’t working.
It’s your nuclear football. A sacred item that goes with you and can hold anything and everything you need to be the beast you want to be.
What if there was something missing though?
What if there was an extensively researched item that when added to your bag would lead to incredible progress in the growth of your limb muscles?
Would you believe it?
You should, because blood flow restriction bands are legit, and they can absolutely unlock the next level of your muscular fitness. Your shoulders, arms, glutes, and legs, would all see radically improved muscle growth simply by adding into your routine.
Whether used a finisher on your typical routines, a low impact recovery workout, or when you are pinched for time – BFR bands will give you one of the sickest and most satisfying pumps of your life.
Those pumps aren’t just for show either. They’ll lead to results if you consistently, but intelligently apply the training into your life. The body of research that exists on blood flow restriction has demonstrated their capability
Studies led by industry experts such as Brad Schoenfeld, PhD have demonstrated that correct use of BFR bands can directly increase the cross-sectional area of working muscles (muscle growth) by dramatically increasing the metabolic damage done during a workout bout.
Metabolic damage refers to the chemical breakdown of muscle cells as a result of energy production, lactic acid accumulation, and other internal processes. It is one of the three key training factors that impact hypertrophy (muscle growth).
The other factors include mechanical damage, which refers to the actual tearing of muscle fibers due to forceful contractions of the tissue. As the myosin and actin filaments overlap and peak during the contraction phase a temporary bond is formed.
Then, as the muscle moves into the eccentric lengthening phase – this cross bridge is broken and as a result the fibers become damaged.
The last factor is a bit less controlled and refers the genetic predispositions for muscle growth. DNA coding sequences can lend itself to having more satellite cells available for proliferation.
This is just a fancy way of saying available to become muscle cells, and as such, contribute directly to the size and strength of the tissue. Other genetic components include total free testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 counts, as well as body type.
Understanding all of these factors can help you build a better program that hits all of the nails on the head to ensure you are training your body to its fullest potential. Yet, for the rest of this article we will be focused on the specific modality of BFR bands and the subsequent metabolic damage it causes.
The bands work by blocking the veins in your limbs while not obstructing the arteries. Doing this creates a scenario where blood can easily enter the working muscles, but struggle to get out.
This leads to extensive expansion of the muscle cells, filling them with fluid and nutrients that stretch the cells to their limits. This sort of expansion can critically expand the tissue that surrounds muscle cells, thus allowing it to better hypertrophy as a result of quality recovery and nutrition.
It is important to note that the goal of the bands is to limit blood flow, or restrict it – and not stop it. When putting the bands on – be sure to only tighten them to a level 7 out of 10. You should feel mild tension below the shoulders or glutes (depending on what you are working), but you shouldn’t begin to feel tingling and pain.
Moreover, if your arm begins to turn blue and become too full of fluid – remove the bands immediately and allow your blood flow to normalize.
Usage should be limited to 5 to 20 minutes for most exercisers, depending on the activity, intensity, and training volume. The goal is to maximize the effects of the training and then stop so that critical nutrients and blood can begin flushing the taxed muscle and begin recovery.
Back to the fun stuff –
The pump comes from that trapped blood that just sits in the working muscles steadily accumulating lactic acid and energy byproducts. This will dramatically increase the “burning” sensation that radiates from your muscles, and sometimes even cause the muscle to stop firing for a moment.
It’s this sort of metabolic stress that unlocks your growth potential.
As your pump keeps expanding you’ll notice your vascularity becoming more noticeable as your veins fight to dilate and increase blood flow as much as they can to your muscles. See, your body doesn’t want this restriction and will actively work to restore you to a normalized state. This in turn, lends itself to looking insanely jacked while wearing the bands whilst feeling the greatest pump of your life.
We’re not just talking arms either. Wearing the bands on your thighs can lead to the most intense glute, quad, and hamstring workout of your life. You’ll feel muscle tissue burning in ways you’re not used to, and watch your legs expand to massive size.
The Craziest Part
The craziest part of blood flood restriction bands isn’t even being the guy walking around looking like the Hulk in arm bands. It’s the fact that you achieve this look without even going heavy. In fact, you should be operating at less than 50% of your maximum on any exercise.
These lighter loads allow you to increase repetitions, time under tension, and consequently – metabolic stress.
The lighter weights are also exceptionally joint friendly as you are rotating your bones around at a much slower and ligament friendly pace. The lack of total force production limits stress on tendons too, which makes BFR a method of exercising hard while recovering from injury.
It’s key to note that heavy notes shouldn’t be used with the bands. Forceful muscle contractions could cause injury due to the lack of blood flow. Just don’t do it.
As the bands come of you’ll find yourself feeling flushed and exhausted in a way that you may not be accustomed to. It’s important to increase your water intake a bit more than normal to ensure that muscles are properly rehydrated to avoid atrophy or significant injury.
Moreover, a post workout meal full of carbohydrates and quality proteins are going to help you keep that pump longer throughout your day, as well as contribute directly to actual muscle growth.
That’s why we are even doing this right?
The goal is to having the most pumped arms and legs 24/7 and proper nutrition is critical to this. That post workout meal should have anywhere from 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and 20 to 50 grams of protein depending upon your bodyweight.
The rest of your day, regardless of when you work out, should be full of meals that are high in protein (20 to 50 grams), provide you 7 to 10 servings of vegetables (your grandmother was right), and 2-3 servings of fruit. This will ensure you get all of the nutrients needed to support healthy muscle growth and body function.
Your ingestion of fats is important too. Getting healthy fats from nuts, fish, avocados, and oils will keep your body lubricated and your workouts fueled. Lastly, depending on your goals – your ingestion of grains, starches, and “other” carbohydrates will either be high or low.
Do your best to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day (more on the days you utilize blood-flow restriction) and aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. This will prime your body to grow and recover all while you’re dancing in la-la land.
Remember, you need to crush it the gym. Kill it every workout. But, don’t forget to recover. Your body craves nutrients and rest so that you can keep doing you!
Quick Facts –
- Don’t wear the bands for longer than 10ish minutes. You do not want to overexert yourself, especially in the beginning. 5 minutes is a great place to start
- Apply the bands at a relative 7 out of 10 tightness. Loose is a bit better than too tight. Never let your fingers go numb.
- Focus on lower loads (20-50% of your maximum). Slow, controlled repetitions that are in the 12 to 15 range.
- Breathe with an emphasis on getting oxygen into your body. The deprivation may make you feel a bit woozy, but a simple few deep breathes can autocorrect this for you.
- This doesn’t replace normal training. You still need to train as you are, but with the addition of BFR bands.
The Armageddon Blast
Seated Alternating Dumbbell Curl – 10 to 15 repetitions, 30 seconds rest, 5 rounds
Triceps Pressdown – 10 to 15 repetitions, 30 seconds rest, 5 rounds
Standing dumbbell lateral raises 8 to 10 repetitions, 30 seconds rest, 5 rounds
On the Legs of the Gods
Leg Press – 20 repetitions, 30 seconds rest, 5 rounds
Leg Extension – 10 repetitions, 30 seconds rest, 4 rounds
Lying leg curls – 10 repetitions, 30 seconds rest, 4 rounds
Calf Raises – 15 repetitions, 20 seconds rest, 5 rounds
Today is the day your gym bag becomes better. For that so will you. Train hard and train smart!
To your gains,