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Blood Flow Restriction is New Trend Among Olympians

Blood Flow Restriction is New Trend Among Olympians

Blood Flow Restriction

One may think that the last thing on an athlete’s mind would be restricting the flow of blood for optimal recovery. But alas, that’s exactly what the latest wellness trend is all about. Per the New York Times, one of the hottest fitness trends for Olympians in Tokyo has been cutting off one’s blood flow post-training. Think about wrapping a body part very tightly with a piece of cloth, like a makeshift tourniquet, and that’s the gist of blood flow restriction 

Competitive swimmer Michael Andrew tells the Times that his journey with the trending practice began in 2016. He uses bands to cut off blood flow while racing 25-yard sprints and even before training. “Obviously, it’s very difficult. But you are simulating a sensation of real pain that tricks the body into regrowth,” Andrew explains. The 6’5” graduate of Liberty University is competing in three events, including the 100 meter breaststroke, in the 2021 Olympic Games.  

Andrew isn’t the only Olympic athlete to introduce blood flow restriction in their training routine. Long-distance runner and Olympic medalist Galen Rupp is also an advocate of the newest training technique. But what are the benefits of blood flow restriction training and is it safe?Ohio State University physical therapist Evan Luse tells TODAY that using this method while exercising can provide “comparable gains in strength” akin to regular weight lifting without the heavy machinery. “One of the advantages is that you do not need to use heavy weights. Typically you use anywhere between 15 to 30% of your one repetition max and we see similar gains.”  

Pittsburgh Steelers’ head team orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Bradley adds that the low-intensity of blood flow restriction helps protect athletes’ joints and surgical repairs versus the strain that high intensity weight lifting puts on a person’s body. Bradley reveals that he uses blood flow restriction with patients and football players recovering from surgical procedures. “It prevents them from losing their muscle mass and it doesn’t hurt them,” he confirms.  

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Even with the health rewards that blood flow restriction seemingly provides, the practice doesn’t come without a few uncomfortable side effects. Bruising, numbness, heaviness, lightheadedness, a cold feeling, and white/purple discoloration of limbs are some of the accounted results. Bradley advises that those suffering from sickle cell disease, deep vein thrombosis, artery and nerve problems, high blood pressure and diabetes should refrain from using blood restriction in their athletic training repertoire as well.  

But if you don’t fall in these categories and tightly wrapping your limbs to build muscle sounds perfect, blood flow restriction may be the answer to your low intensity training prayers. 

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