There is a ridiculous amount of peculiar training styles surrounding fitness and muscle building and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the ones that are complete codswallop and the ones that actually work. People who are new to resistance training especially appear to be the most impatient when it comes to making progress and tend to look for new magic routines, exercises, supplements and methods to make progress quicker than they are.
While we can’t blame people for wanting to see results quickly, it’s important to be realistic and understand how the body actually works in order to recognise how long it takes to lose fat, build muscle and get in better shape. For example, 1lb of fat consists of 3500 calories; and this must be created through a surplus of calories. 1lb can be lost at a reasonably quick rate, for instance, if a person lowered their TDEE by 500kcal per day for 7 days, they would reach a deficit of 3500 calories and therefore lost 1lb in weight (hopefully entirely from fat).
Unfortunately, there’s a limit to how much muscle your body can hold, which is referred to as your Fat-Free Mass Index (FFMI); and as well as this, there’s also a limit to the rate at which your body can actually build muscle; it’s thought that the longer you have trained for, the slower you’ll be able to build muscle. Those who are within their first year training can expect to gain up to 2lbs of muscle per month, while those who have been training for 4 years may only be able to put on this amount per year. Where am I going with this? I’m simply trying to help you understand that the progress you’re making is probably quick progress as it is; so don’t expect any particular new exercising method to help you build muscle ridiculously quickly.
Although! There are still muscle building methods which can be very effective at helping break through plateaus in progress and simply stimulate new muscle growth by forcing muscles to adapt to new stresses and tearing down fibres in different ways. Occlusion training is one method which is proven to work, and if you’re tired of performing the same training styles constantly, this may be a method you want to try out.
Different Training Methods
I’m sure you’ve all tried numerous training methods to stimulate more muscle growth such as tri-sets, super-sets, 21s, drop-sets, 100s, TUT, GVT… and so on. But have you ever wondered how you can get an even bigger pump while training and force more blood to the area? There must be another way to build muscle other than increasing weight.. It seems that all of this extra effort ends in the same pump at the end of your sets; leaving you feeling good, but simply feeling like there must be another way to stimulate more growth.
Occlusion Training is another name for “restricted blood flow* training” (*RBF). What’s important about this method is not the exercise you perform, or the amount of repetitions and sets you try to cram into a space of time… it’s adding an extra stress to an exercise in order to increase blood flow to the muscles being worked. So, theoretically, you could still use methods like drop-sets/suer sets/tri-sets while performing this type of training, to promote even more muscle protein synthesis and hopefully hypertrophy if you’re eating enough of the right macronutrients.
How Does it Actually Work?
This means that when restricting blood flow, you should create a perceived tightness level of 5-6/10 for upper body limbs and 6-7/10 for lower body limbs when applying the wraps.
Muscle cells are somewhat forced to grow when using this method, as they are so extremely inflated with blood which cannot travel back to the heart. This method really emphasises the anaerobic processes of the body and spikes recruitment of fast-twitch fibres to help handle the load and supply more strength to the working muscles. Due to the low level of oxygen in the working muscle, more lactic acid than usual is accumulated, creating a further burning sensation; which feels more intense than the average pump. This lactic acid build up can also increase protein synthesis.
Due to blood flow restriction, your strength will not be optimal when performing exercises using this method; however, occlusion training actually works best when using just up to 40% of your 1RM for higher rep ranges and taking just 30 second rest periods between sets while simply focussing on lifting with good form and squeezing on the concentric movement to flush blood into the working muscle.
One very interesting thing about occlusion training (which actually makes complete sense) is that the concentric contraction is the most important phase of the lift and stunts the most muscle fibre tears. Usually, muscle is built mainly through the eccentric motion, as fibres lengthen and are therefore torn; however, due to the veins not being able to carry blood back to the heart, and oxygen being deficient in the working muscle during occlusion training, the concentric contraction is the most important, as this method is purely focussed on filling the muscle with blood and forcing growth.
Take Home Message
If you’re looking for a new way to stunt muscle growth and break through a plateau, or even just a new exciting way to promote hypertrophy, this method is definitely worth a try. Make sure you always apply the restriction equipment carefully and never too tightly.