London, England
Thursday 11th August 2011

Today, back in Lee Valley, I managed to catch up with Raph Brandon after a few weeks of me being away & Raph being busy at other sites.  Raph is the Strength & Conditioning Lead for EIS & attends to UK Athletics’ needs twice a week. 

One of the topics Raph has been looking into over recent weeks has been the use of occlusion training to regain muscle bulk & achieve recovery effects after training, whilst avoiding the onset of delayed onset muscle soreness.  

To date Raph has been working on two different occlusion-based protocols BUT I must emphasise, both must be medically supervised.

1)            3 - 4 sets to failure, with a 30 second recovery between sets but no release of cuff pressure

                This approach achieves massive revascularisation in addition to the exercise benefit

2)            3 - 4 sets of 15 reps, with a 60 second recovery between sets with the cuff pressure released

               This approach is suited to high intensity strength training, allowing for increased volume with a second set later in the day.  This is a gentler protocol that still achieves muscle bulk & strength       improvements

Occlusion DialThe cuff should be applied with the leg relaxed in neutral hip flexion.  The bladder valve should be pointing down the femur, as high up the thigh as possible.  The cuff pressure should then be increased to 150mmHg for exercise.

Given the nature of the stimulus, the training is best conducted on a machine such as the leg press, leg extension, calf raise or hamstring curl.  With regards resistance with the leg press we used 0.5 x 1 Rep Max, whereas with the single leg heel raise we used 0.5 x Body Weight & for each exercise the cuff is applied at the top of the thigh.

Raph’s experience to date suggests that the first protocol (to failure) allows a maximum of two exercises, whereas the 15 rep protocol allows greater recovery & as a result all 4 machines can be used.

Personally, I felt the 15 rep sets were much more tolerable from a mental perspective & left me feeling much fresher after exercise, whereas I did feel that I had been working a lot harder afterwards on the failure sets.  Of the sets we tried, the norm on the failure sets was over twenty on the first set, between 5 – 10 on the second set & about 3 on the final set…followed by huge relief & a massive flush after the pressure released.

We also discussed the use of occlusion training to achieve a recovery benefit after doing a track session, using the 3 set to failure protocol to achieve the extensive revascularisation & utilising the elevated human growth hormone levels that are experienced post-exercise.

To read up more about occlusion training, click on the links below:

Gualano (2010) Resistance Training with Vascular occlusion in inclusion body myositis a case study

Loenneke (2009) The use of occlusion training to produce muscle hypertrophy

Sata (2005) Kaatsu training for patella tendinitis patient

Takarada (2000) Applications of vascular occlusion diminish disuse atrophy of knee extensor muscles

Takarada (2000) Rapid increase in plasma growth hormone after low-intensity resistance exercise with vascular occlusion

Wernbon et al (2008) Ischemic strength training - a low load alternative to heavy resistance exercise

The BOA & English Institute of Sport have published guidelines aimed at managing the risk of working in a blood flow restricted state.  Click on the link below to refer to these:

BOA/EIS Blood Flow Restriction: Managing the Risk

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