One of the suggested methods of stimulating muscular hypertrophy is occlusion training. It is fairly new compared to other methods, and it has led to a lot of theories on its effectiveness. Scientific research is still undergoing, but enough has been learnt so far to make it worth considering.
What Is It?
Occlusion training is also known as blood flow restriction training or KAATSU training is as its name suggests. Basically, you restrict the amount of blood leaving your muscles in a bid to prolong the pump. Muscles appear fuller during workouts because they are engorged in blood. If you can keep this blood there for a bit longer, it should stimulate muscle growth? That is the theory as we shall explore.
Notice that the restriction is from muscles and not the heart. This means it is actually venous flow that is restricted. Veins are superficial and closer to the skin, so it is possible to restrict the flow of blood. This can be achieved by use of wraps. It matters how tightly and long you prevent the blood. Remember it is your life force, and you cannot keep it in one place for two long. Less than 30 minutes is the recommendation. It should only be slightly tight. Too tight and you risk cellular damage and vessel rupture.
Does it work?
According to many sources, experts and those who have tried it, occlusion training does yield results. It is able to stimulate muscle hypertrophy, and increase muscle mass. The how is not very clear, yet, but there are a few plausible theories that explain it.
First, it sends signals to the brain that more muscle mass is needed to hold the increased blood volume for the targeted muscle. Since the body is all about adapting, this increased volume will force muscle tissue to grow to accommodate it over time.
As it restricts the flow of blood back to the heart, the concentration of oxygen poor blood in the muscles recruits the fast-twitching fibers. This, together with the greater accumulation of lactic acid leads to metabolic stress in the muscles, and this forces growth.
The increased blood volume causes the cells to fill up with fluid. There is a bit more time for them to extract the nutrients from the blood. Because they get used to staying swollen, this becomes their default setting, and the result is hypertrophy.
These are some of the theories that receive wide support. But the exact science is still awaiting discovery. The role of neural signals, hormones and chemical messengers is still unclear.
When you have hit a plateau in your workout, occlusion training might be one way to beat it. It is safe, if the pressure used for occlusion, the length of time it is done, and the intensity are all gotten correctly. The intensity here should be low. High intensity is far too demanding with blood to make occlusion practical or safe. However, if you lower the intensity, and increase the number of sets and reps, then it should work.
It is important to listen to your body as you do occlusion training. Excessive redness or tingling sensations are signals that you should let the blood resume normal circulation.
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