How To “Train like an Olympian” Using BFR Training

 What if you could gain more strength, speed, and power in less time and at a lower intensity than you are training at right now? With Blood Flood Restriction Training, now you can. This method of training is quickly becoming a staple workout regiment for athletes of all ages and levels, including 2021 Tokyo Olympians. Blood Flow Restriction (BFR), is a technique that uses a tourniquet system on the upper and lower limbs in order to partially restrict blood flow. BFR along with low-intensity exercise produces similar results to a high-intensity exercise.

            The practice of blood flow restriction dates back at least 60 years beginning in Japan by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato. The technique was originally called “kaatsu training” which means “training with added pressure”. Kaatsu training, now commonly referred to as BFR, has been used in healthcare facilities for years and is quickly becoming more and more well known among Sports Medicine professionals.

            After the 2020 Olympics were postponed, we saw a large jump in the usage of BFR among Olympic Athletes who were trying to stay in shape for the rescheduled 2021 games. Olympic Physician, Sports Scientist, and Exercise Physiologist, Jim Stray-Gundersen, found great results after testing BFR on some of his athletes. Olympic Skiers Bode Miller, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Stray-Grundersen all found profound results. He found his athletes gaining more muscle power faster and safer. Training with heavy weights and with long intervals inevitably increases the risk of injury. BFR reduces that risk because it allows you to gain a larger yield while maintaining a safe weight routine.  Other Olympic athletes that partake in BFR training include Kate Grace (Middle Distance Runner), Amanda Dowdy Lawson (Beach Volleyball), Kayla Miracle (Wrestling), and Sarah Hendrickson (Ski Jumping).

            The research that the Olympic Sports Medicine Physicians have done on BFR makes it possible to “train like an Olympian” which is enticing to athletes of all levels. The eagerness to experiment with a trend promoted by Olympic Athletes is very common. The same attention surrounded the cupping technique after people saw purple circles on Michael Phelps during the 2012 Olympics.

It is no question as to why aspiring athletes follow trends set by athletes on the world stage. Claire Fowler, a rising sophomore lacrosse player at Ursuline Academy, is currently using BFR during her Physical Therapy appointments at Elite PT following an ACL tear sustained in April of this year. Following her injury, she credits her trust in the technique to pro athletes, “…knowing that professional athletes have used BFR, it helps me to be more trusting in the results because I know that these athletes have been able to bounce back from their injuries, and with the help of BFR, I will be able to also”. Claire is 4 months out of surgery and is seeing major improvement in her strength. She has found great success through the use of blood flow restriction, “BFR has been huge in my recovery process. Using it at the beginning of physical therapy, I immediately saw results in the growth of my quad which had shrunk immensely when I injured my knee. BFR has helped me to gain so much more strength and have a better, faster recovery.”

With Blood Flow Restriction training gaining more publicity, there is a growing population of people benefiting from the technique. BFR is available to anyone looking to improve peak performance, recover from injury, prevent injury, maintain fitness, and increase lean body mass results, all in less time than a traditional workout. Interested in seeing what all of the hype is about? Make an appointment with Elite PT today! BFR is utilized in all of our clinics.


By Kelsey Martin and Erin Jaskot


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Futterman, M. (2021, July 21). A hot fitness trend among olympians: Blood flow restriction. The New York Times.

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