There is a mass of literature surrounding athletic development and on how we as coaches/professionals can guide athletes to peak shape over a long term plan but what happens when we get there? How do we ensure athletes continue to improve, manage load and have a “stress” or “overload” element without putting the body at great risk?

Chris Gaviglio is the senior physical performance coach at the Queensland Academy of Sport.  Studying a PhD in Philopospy Chris brings a fantastic depth of knowledge and energy to the athletes he coaches and the team he influences.

In preparation for the HP Knowledge Share Workshop, we asked Chris if he could give us some insight into some of the training methods and techniques he has found to be particularly successful with the athletes and coaches he works with.

HP: Chris, can you tell us what BFR is?

CHRIS: Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a unique training modality that has been shown to produce positive training adaptations at low intensities. BFR training is a method of strength training “with the addition of pressure” and where this pressure is applied to the arms or legs through the use of a special belt (e.g. occlusion cuff). The consequent restriction of blood flow creates a highly specialised environment for muscle training. The advantages of BFR training are numerous but the major findings are:

  • Gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy at low to moderate loads;
  • Type II fibre (fast-twitch) recruitment during low-intensity training;
  • Improvement in endogenous endocrine markers (e.g. growth hormone, testosterone and IGF-1);
  • Performing exercises at lower loads after a regime of high-intensity sets has shown greater increases in whole muscle area and muscle fibre area compared with a pure high-intensity routine; and
  • Improved bone response in fractures.

Gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy at low to moderate loads

HP: How might coaches and athletes use this form of training?

CHRIS: The applications for BFR are numerous. In respect to the athletic population, BFR has applications within the areas of:

  • Injury (post-operative, rehabilitation, bone stress),
  • Training (gym and pre technical sessions) and
  • Competition (creating an improved environment for potential performance).

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 12.06.50 PMHP: How old should and at what level should you be at to benefit from BFR training?

CHRIS: Although this is not a straight forward answer, athletes at any level could benefit from BFR training. However prior to commencing BFR training it is important to obtain medical history of the athlete to ascertain suitability for this type of training.

HP: Are there any parts of the body that BFR work particularly better on?

CHRIS: The upper thigh and arm are typical positions where BFR works best.

HP: Are their any risks associated with BFR? Should it supplement your more traditional training methods?

CHRIS: As with all training methodologies, there are risks associated with BFR use. A lot of these risks are associated with pre-existing medical conditions (contraindications) and unsuitable protocols. BFR training is a valuable training tool and it must be stressed that it is a too. Used at the correct time it is a great addition to your training. In power/speed events in particular, traditional training methods tend to typically yield the best results. However used at the correct time, BFR can assist traditional training methods.

In power/speed events in particular, traditional training methods tend to typically yield the best results.