GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Paul Silvestri told me to prepare for my last set. Florida’s assistant director of sports health warned me this wouldn’t be easy. After three sets of leg extensions using Blood Flow Restriction training, I was inclined to believe him. Still, nothing he said could have readied me for the first rep of that final set.
“Go!” Silvestri said.
My brain told my left leg to move. It did, reluctantly. My thigh screamed exactly like it does on the final set of a workout using a Hammer Strength leg extension machine with each leg lifting 90 pounds. Yet the weight around my ankle hadn’t changed since the first set. It still weighed three pounds.
Get your sportswriter-can’t-lift-a-three-pound-weight jokes out of your system now. I thought Silvestri was partially kidding when he said a current Florida football player had struggled through the same workout the day before I tried it. He wasn’t. After four sets (one of 30 reps followed by three of 15 reps) with that three-pound weight, I felt like my left leg had gone through a moderate leg day at the gym. I also understood much better why so many people in the sports world believe Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training will help athletes shave valuable time off their injury rehabilitation and could help them come back from injury even stronger.
Florida is the first college athletic program to use BFR training, joining 13 NFL and NBA teams that have adopted the method in the past year. But the concept that helped Jadeveon Clowney return to the field for the Houston Texans has its roots in a far more serious world than sports.
BFR training is also known as tourniquet training. It is not a new concept. Scientists have studied it for decades, but athletic trainers and physical therapists have only recently begun using it to help patients heal faster. The concept is shockingly simple, even if the equipment involved is advanced. A cuff—similar to the ones used to check blood pressure—is placed either on the thigh or around the upper arm. The injured person does several sets of exercises using very light weights. Because the blood supply is cut off, the mind believes that the body is working much harder than it is. This triggers a physiological response that tells the body to begin repairing the area below the cuff.
For the full article on blood flow occlusion training, check out the page here: Sports Illustrated Campus Rush