Tourniquet Training for Mass: Real Deal or Waste of Time

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Tourniquet Training

There have been several theories that have suggested that blood flow restriction can increase muscle mass by increasing fast-twitch fiber recruitment, metabolic and hormonal alterations, intramuscular signaling, and cellular swelling.

Tourniquet Training for Mass: Real Deal or Waste of Time

Tourniquet training is all the rage for bodybuilders to grow their arms or legs.  I have seen guys in the in excruciating pain doing bicep curls with elastic tie wraps tightly wrapped around their arms and the veins almost seem to be bursting out.  Blood flow restriction is performed using a low-relative-load resistance- training (20 – 30% of 1RM).  The collective body of research seems to suggest that blood flow resistance exercise elicits adaptations with minimal muscle damage and a faster recovery time when compared to traditional resistance training. The available research suggests blood flow restriction exercise is not associated with muscle damage, even during eccentric contractions. It seems that blood flow restriction training may increase muscle growth via a metabolic component independent of mechanical overload.

There have been several positive finding using blood flow restriction training for rehabilitation training and also in the elderly. There have been several theories that have suggested that blood flow restriction can increase muscle mass by increasing fast-twitch fiber recruitment, metabolic and hormonal alterations, intramuscular signaling, and cellular swelling. Another well-known form of training to induce muscle mass is the use of eccentric training.  Eccentric training results in muscle damage can lead to force deficits, inflammation, increased stiffness, swelling, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  To date, no one has examined the effects of tourniquet training to eccentric training.

Tourniquet Training

The researchers concluded that a 4-week period of eccentric resistance training improved muscular size whether performed in combination with blood flow restriction or not.

Subjects were randomly allocated to either a standard eccentric resistance training group, an eccentric resistance training group with blood flow restriction and a control group. The training groups performed six sets of eccentric bilateral seated preacher curls at approximately 50% of concentric 1RM. The blood flow restriction was applied using a pressure of 90 – 100mmHg. The researchers concluded that a 4-week period of eccentric resistance training improved muscular size whether performed in combination with blood flow restriction or not. Although similar increases in hypertrophy were found, the eccentric+blood flow restriction group, average load and volume were lower during all training sessions when compared to the eccentric training group. So if you train with eccentric only exercise, you can get the same benefits as cutting off the blood flow to your arms.  If you need to train with lite weight, the good news is that you can use tourniquet training and get the same benefits as training with a heavier weight.

Takarada, Y., Takazawa, H., Sato, Y., Takebayashi, S., Tanaka, Y. and Ishii, N., Effects of Resistance Exercise Combined with Moderate Vascular Occlusion on Muscular Function in Humans,
Journal of Applied Physiology. 2000, 88, 2097-2106.

Pope, Z.K., Willardson, J.M. and Schoenfeld, B.J., Exercise and Blood Flow Restriction,  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2013, 27, 2914-2926

Tee, J.C., Bosch, A.N. and Lambert, M.I., Metabolic Consequences of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage, Sports Medicine, 2007, 37, 827-836

Thiebaud, R.S., Loenneke, J.P., Fahs, C.A., Kim, D., Ye, X., Abe, T., Nosaka, K. and Bemben, M., Muscle Damage After Low-Intensity Eccentric Contractions with Blood Flow Restriction,  Acta Physiologica Hungarica , 2014, 101, 150-157