What is Occlusion Training?

21st October 2019
On the topic of sports and exercise, we often stumble upon new exercise trends. A great example is occlusive training, which consists of working out while constricting blood flow.

As science advances, exercise methods trail right behind. Occlusion training is a new exercise trend and was discovered by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato. It revolves around restricting blood flow, which we’ll explain further in our post today.

Learn everything you should know about occlusion training with us today. We’ll look into both the risks and advantages of this exercise trend. Let’s get into it!

What is occlusion training?

Though occlusion training, we can understand the practice of restricting blood flow from a certain muscle group with a cuff or band. The restriction is applied to the area closest to the upper or lower limbs.

The external pressure of the band or cuff reduces the levels of blood that flows towards muscle tissue. It also blocks venous circulation. As a result, hypoxia occurs, which creates significant metabolic stress. The stress results in big advantages for muscle hypertrophy.

Who can benefit from occlusion training?

This exercise trend can seriously benefit athletes and there are studies to prove it. In addition, occlusion training is common in rehabilitation plans where patients can’t follow through exercises that lead to hypertrophy.

A good case example could be a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, which is a common injury in many sports.

What advantages does occlusion training have?

When done right, occlusion training can offer huge advantages, the biggest of which being muscle hypertrophy. But you should also know the other benefits that this new training could have in store:

  • Muscle hypertrophy. On one hand, you have hypertrophy exercises that push the intensity past 70 percent of our maximum capacity and on the other, you have occlusion training. The latter has shown results of muscle growth with weights that were just 30 percent of our 1RM (one repetition maximum).
occlusion hypertrophy
Image: hsnstore.com
  • Strength. Though you can’t expect to reach the same levels of strength as you would with regular hypertrophy exercises, you can still see improvement. Occlusion strength exercises will mainly gear towards elderly patients with reduced mobility. On another interesting note, studies have shown that occlusion can help patients retain their former levels of strength before a period of immobilization following an injury.
  • The decrease in blood pressure. When you train with heavy weights, the decrease in blood pressure that comes with rest is crucial. But in occlusion training, the low blood pressure rates are constant, even when lifting weights.
  • Cardiovascular improvements. Though the muscle benefits still outweigh the cardiovascular benefits, this new exercise method helps improve endurance as well.

Is exercising with restricted blood flow dangerous?

Though occlusion training is backed with great results, you should also know about the risks that could occur when done incorrectly. Some of the following include:

  • Numbness or loss of feeling in the affected areas after the workout.
  • Possible problems in connective tissue. You can even injure them if you do occlusion training incorrectly.
  • People who have conditions such as thrombosis or varicose veins are at higher risk of suffering these complications. In addition, pregnant women should also take precautions when using this exercise method.

How can you start occlusion training?

If you want to add this exercise method to your routine, make sure you can rely on a professional and read these next tips carefully:

  • You can use occlusion in aerobic activities such as walking or biking. Or, you can use it in weight-training with light weights.
  • As for the types of exercises, you can add occlusion to, try multi-joint exercises, such as squats or single-joint exercises, such as knee extensions.
  • As for the intensity levels, a strength workout should be around 30 percent of your 1 RM.
occlusion training
Image: mundoentrenamiento.com
  • Your session shouldn’t be longer than 60 to 75 reps for each exercise. Try sets of around 15 reps.
  • The breaks you take between sets should never last longer than a minute nor last shorter than 30 seconds.
  • How often you work out will ultimately depend on you and your physical condition. Generally speaking, most people complete three sessions a week. But seasoned athletes might even do four.

Summary

Just as you’ve read with us today, occlusion training is a tool that, when used correctly, can provide great advantages for our workouts. But following our tips and working out under the supervision of a professional is essential. So, why not give it a try?

  • Pearson, S. J., & Hussain, S. R. (2015). A Review on the mechanisms of blood-flow restriction resistance training-induced muscle hypertrophy. Sports Medicine, 45(2), 187-200.
  • Pope, Z. K., Willardson, J. M., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Exercise and blood flow restriction. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(10), 2914-2926.
  • Scott, B. R., Loenneke, J. P., Slattery, K. M., & Dascombe, B. J. (2015). Blood flow restricted exercise for athletes: a review of available evidence. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, xxx, 2-8.