Free Your Mind and Bigger / Stronger Muscles Will Follow

Lately, I have been bumping into way too many close-minded fitness “experts”.

Experts who honestly believe that their training method is perfect and that every other method sucks in comparison.

To these people, I dedicate this little nugget of exercise science.

The Science

occlusion kaatsu bicep

Researchers already know that single-joint training (ex. bicep curls) with blood flow restriction (aka Occlusion Training or BFR) results in significant increases in limb muscle size and single joint strength (aka Bigger & Stronger muscles).

What they don’t know is the effect of blood flow restriction (BFR) on multi-joint training (ex. bench press or squat)

To test their hypotheses, researchers grabbed a bunch of college students, restricted the blood flow to their upper arms (biceps/triceps) and had them perform the following bench press workout.

The Workout

  • Flat Bench Press
  • 4 sets / 75 reps total
  • 30% of one repetition maximal (1-RM)
  • performed twice daily,
  • 6 days week for 2 weeks.

During the exercise session, subjects in the BFR group placed elastic cuffs proximally on both arms, with incremental increases in external compression starting at 100 mmHg and ending at 160 mmHg.

Before and after the training, triceps brachii and pectoralis major muscle thickness (MTH), bench press 1-RM and serum anabolic hormones were measured.

The Results

Two weeks of training led to a 6% increase in 1-RM bench press strength in the BFR group. The control group increased their 1-RM strength by only 2%.

And it wasn’t just an increase in strength. The BFR group increased triceps and pectoralis major muscle thickness by 8% and 16% respectively while the control group increased pec thickness by 2% and actually lost 1% of tricep thickness.

Interestingly, there were no changes in baseline concentrations of anabolic hormones in either group.


These results suggest that occlusion training is not only effective for increasing the strength & hypertrophy of the occluded muscles (limb muscles), but that non-occluded muscles also receive significant strength & hypertrophy benefits from this form of training.


I am not suggesting that you start wrapping tensor bandages around your limbs before your next workout.

Restricting blood flow during strenuous physical activity may have unintended side effects as yet undiscovered, and I don’t want to be responsible for anyone throwing a blood clot and keeling over in the middle of the gym.

Let’s let the eggheads study it a bit longer.

Conclusions #2

Exercise science expands its knowledge base every day.

New training methods are created.

Old methods are improved upon.

And close minded “experts” who think that their method of training is superior to all others should get prepared for disappointment.


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  1. I agree with you about personal trainers and fitness “experts” getting stuck in ruts. Research is constantly revealing new methods. My entire career has been built on an open mind to what works for different people, different ages, different demographics. Fitness is not one-size-fits-all!

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