Occlusion Training

Posted: June 1, 2011 in About Training
Tags: , ,

How Does Occlusion Training Work In Increasing muscle?

BEGINNER | May 19 2009

Can we use lights weights and still grow big muscles? It seems you can with occlusion training.

exercise with occlusion

What is Occlusion Training?

Occlusion training involves partially restricting (occluding) the blood flow to the muscle when you are lifting weights by using a tourniquet cuff.

Why has Occlusion Training become so popular?

Lighter Weights: For muscle growth, you need to use heavy weights (> 65% of your 1RM). However, occlusion training with lighter weights (20 -50% of 1RM) has shown to achieve muscle & strength gains comparable to conventional training with heavier weights (around 80% 1RM).

Rehabilitation: Heavier weights are not recommended when you are recovering from injury. Occlusion training improves strength and muscle gains with lighter weights which is beneficial for rehabbing injuries.

Studies: Number of scientific studies have confirmed the above results with occlusion training.

So how does Occlusion Training increase muscle growth?

The major factors that could explain muscle growth with occlusion training are:

Recruitment of Type 2 Fibers: Muscles are made of two types of fibers: Type 2 & Type 1 fibers. Type 2 fibers are the ones which grow easily and make you look big. But Type 2 fibers are only recruited when you go to failure or when you use heavy weights (>80% 1RM).

When lighter loads are combined with occlusion, Type 2 fibers are recruited way early in the set just like when you are doing a heavier weight. So they get naturally bigger.

Increase in Growth Hormone: Lighter loads with occlusion have shown to increase GH levels more than heavy training. But recent evidences have shown increases in GH not to have much benefit for muscle growth.

Metabolic Accumulation: The accumulation of metabolites like lactic acid, hydrogen in the muscle (causes the burn) due to blood flow restriction may help in increasing muscle growth. But we are not sure.

Practical Application

The muscle is usually occluded when you are using heavier weights (> 60% of1RM). But you can occlude or reduce blood flow a bit more with some other techniques.

  • Not relaxing the muscle throughout the set. Or maintain the tension thought the muscle by doing partial movements and/or contracting them hard.
  • Keeping rest time between sets short
  • Doing a drop set with lighter weights after your heavy set. When you use heavy weight, you are recruiting ALL your fibers from the very first rep.So a drop set can give you some metabolic build up (the burn) which may help in muscle growth.
  • Occluding the muscles for more than 5-10 minutes with tourniquets can cause serious muscle damage.

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