Every now and then a new “revolutionary” training programme, a new supplement that “works wonders” or a new diet that supposedly helps you shed pounds instantly pops up. More often than not, these tend to have no actual substance behind them and most are able to realise this. However, within the past year or so a new training style that goes by the name of “Occlusion training” has come to the fore.
Occlusion training, aka Blood Restriction Training, involves using wraps or belts to restrict/obstruct blood flow to the veins which in turn should lead to the buildup of blood flow into your target muscle, recruit fast-twitch fibres and lead to lactic acid buildup, all-in-all increasing the pump you get whilst working out. Now obviously it would be hard to completely wrap and restrict the blood flow to areas of your torso, so it is often used in your peripheral areas such as your arms and legs.
Now when I first saw this, I simply laughed it off and disregarded it but now a year later I still see people using this. What’s even worse is that many athletes with a large following have been advocating this, hence the reason for me writing this article. So let’s look at just a few things wrong with it:
1. No ADDED Benefits
When looking at the reasoning behind the madness, it is pretty much based on the idea that an individual is able to get just as much hypertrophy results as they would normally but lifting less than half the weight. Note how you get the SAME results. Not any more. Just the same.
2. Having to use lighter weight
But if I am able to lift less weight and get the same results, is that not an easy shortcut to muscle growth for me to exploit? Not necessarily. It is well speculated that lifting heavy weights increases your bone density, with many studies of powerlifters finding a link between the two. Even with the likes of osteoporosis; a condition where the bones are weakened and frail, strength training is often recommended.
Likewise, the same relationship can be seen with lifting heavy and building up your connective tissue; the heavier the weight, the more strain you put on the connective tissue and thus the bigger and stronger they get! And bear in mind this is what holds your bones together (ligaments), your muscles to your bones (tendons) and connect different muscles together (fascia).
So although using the occlusion training method to get as much muscle hypertrophy in your skeletal muscle with lighter weight, you are pretty much turning a blind eye to the aforementioned aspects which are arguably as equally important in both powerlifting and bodybuilding.
3. The increased risk involved
This is my, and should be your, biggest problem with the whole blood restriction training trend. So the whole point of wrapping your arm/leg is to stop blood from leaving that body part, which means that you basically want to be blocking off your veins. FLAW 1: But your arteries and veins follow a similar distribution pattern around your body, so by blocking blood flow out of the muscle part, you will also be blocking blood flow IN – which makes even less sense given that this blood flow is what is carrying the oxygen, nutrients etc. that your muscle needs!
FLAW 2: So let’s just say, for argument sake, that you were somehow able to isolate and restrict the blood flow OUT of the targeted body part without affecting blood flow INTO that same body part. This could potentially lead to hypovalaemia, where there is a decreased blood volume circulating round the rest of your body, leading to dizziness, nauseousness, thirst and can be fatal in extreme scenarios!
4. You look like an idiot
Don’t think I need to add anything to that.
So there you have it, my understandably one-sided take on occlusion training. Whether or not you decide to follow it is entirely up to you, but for your sake, please do some research before jumping on the bandwagon regarding revolutionary training ideas force-fed to you by fitness “models”.
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