High frequency BFR upper body strength training - review & results (video embedded)

Hi everyone, 

As we are all aware, the advantage of Blood Flow Restriction training is that using low loads (20-30% 1RM) you can perform twice daily sessions with little impact due to the low mechanical load stress on the body.

With gains in muscle strength and size the possibility of increasing frequency of training has merit. A lot of studies typically focus on lower body strength training, however a few have investigated upper body strength. 

A study looked into performing 30% of 1RM bench press exercise.

Effects of low‐intensity bench press training with restricted arm muscle blood flow on chest muscle hypertrophy: a pilot study (2010). Clinical physiology and functional imaging, 30(5), 338-343. (Yasuda, T., Fujita, S., Ogasawara, R., Sato, Y., & Abe, T.)

They did:

  • 4 sets of 30/15/15/15 reps (total 75 reps)
  • Twice daily, 6 days a week for 2 weeks.

Two weeks of bench press training led to a significant increase in 1RM bench press strength in BFR. Triceps and pectoralis major muscle size increased 8% and 16% respectively.

A control group who performed the same routine but with no BFR showed no change in strength or size.

The group of males studied weren't well strength trained. Therefore protocols that work well for recreationally trained people may not be as effective in well-trained athletes. Typically in athletes, they truly need some higher-load lifting in their strength routines.

So I thought I'd give this a go with a 2 main alterations.

Firstly, I would do all sessions BFR but include a warm-up and add in back work to the BFR Bench Press session.

BFR stimulus:
1a. Warm-up: 4-5 exercises - 3 x 12 each
2a. Bench Press: 4 x 12 @ 30% 1RM
2b. Back exercise: Face Pull, Lat Pull, Seated Row: 4 x 12 @ low load
30sec rest

Total session time = 10 minutes.

Twice a day for 2 weeks - 6 days per week.

Secondly, each week I would substitute 2 low-load BFR Bench Press sessions with a higher load (75%1RM) Bench Press: 4 sets x 2-5reps.

I've got initial testing markers of upper body girths, skinfolds, strength and power numbers. 

I have put together a video reviewing the initial paper whilst discussing my own results.  

Please enjoy.


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