Is Occlusion Training Effective for Athletes?

Occlusion or Kaatsu training involves exercising with restricted blood flow to the working muscles. Decreasing muscle blood flow may trigger cell damage, inflammation, cell stress and anabolic hormone release. Muscles grow in response to physical and chemical stress, so it seems reasonable that restricting blood flow to muscles during training might promote hypertrophy— according to researchers from San Francisco State University and California State University, Fullerton. Muscles can increase in size using low levels of resistance, provided they’re pushed to near failure. Until recently, most muscle physiologists believed 60 percent of maximum effort was the minimum resistance for building muscle. Kaatsu training, however, achieves increases in strength and muscle mass at lower levels. Blood flow restriction during low-intensity weight training triggers muscle hypertrophy because it creates severe metabolic stress that stimulates muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy. To date, only three published studies on Kaatsu used well-trained athletes. All of the studies were positive, which suggests that occlusion training might be effective in athletes. (Strength and Conditioning Journal, 37: 48-53, 2015)

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