09 Feb The Best Blood Flow Restriction Bands and Devices
The Best Blood Flow Restriction Bands
I am frequently asked about the best devices for performing blood flow restriction training. As with any trend in the fitness world, many manufacturers have designed blood flow restriction products recently. Like most fitness tools, the best device is highly related to your goals. Unfortunately, some devices on the market have the potential to cause more harm than good. This makes choosing the appropriate device important for both your health and for consistency of performance.
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This article will focus on helping you choose the best device for BFR. Choosing the right device based on your goals and safety needs is the first and most important step in implementing BFR into your training or rehab program. My other articles cover the science behind BFR and how to apply it to your performance goals.
Disclosure: some of the below links are affiliate links. No product inclusion decisions were made based on affiliation.
The most commonly used piece of equipment for BFR is compression bands. These bands have one great advantage in that they are very cheap and many athletes already have a set.
The athlete wraps his or her extremity with a compression band at 4-5/10 intensity for the upper arm, or 6-7/10 intensity for the legs is most commonly prescribed.
The major drawback of these compression bands is that they cannot be reliably performed in multiple workouts at the same level of occlusion. It makes standardizing the level of pressure very difficult.
So, one workout may be super intense at the prescribed weight and reps, while the next may be unbelievably easy.
BLOOD FLOW RESTRICTION BANDS
Up next, you’ll find various commercially sold blood flow restriction bands. Similar to the compression bands, these are relatively inexpensive.
They do have major drawbacks. The level of occlusion with these cannot be reliably reproduced making session to session intensity vary wildly. More importantly, many of these bands are very thin. Thus, the pressure of the band is put through a much smaller area, risking injury to the underlying nerves. In fact, on several occasions, these bands have created nerve paralysis. So, if you are buying one of these bands, please choose one that is thick, preferably covering about ¼ to 1/3 of the extremity.
The biggest drawback to these is that I’ve never found a band that provides enough occlusion to trap the metabolic build-up in the muscle during exercise. These styles of BFR bands simply don’t get the job done.
The Occlusion Cuff
The Occlusion Cuff is one of the more popular BFR devices on the market. At ~$114 USD they are a reasonable price tag with some solid features. First, the band width and quality allows us to do a good job of restricting blood flow and trapping metabolite build-up. Second, the pressure gauge allows for accurate pressure management to keep the training stimulus similar between workouts.
But with the occlusion cuff, you have two options for identifying the pressure you workout at. First, we can load to a pressure rating based on your own subjective comfort levels. Usually, 5/10 feeling of pressure is recommended for the upper body and 7-8/10 for the lower body. You can combine the Occlusion Cuffs with a doppler ultrasound for a much more objective measurement of how much pressure you should use.
SAGA Wireless BFR Cuffs
SAGA recently came out with my favorite BFR device for personal use. Their system connects with your smartphone to wirelessly control the pressure of the cuffs. Their technology accurately measures the correct amount of pressure to use to occlude blood flow without the need for using handheld doplar ultrasound machines. This means workouts will be more standardized to the individual, and the same amount of pressure can be applied at different workouts, an important consideration with BFR devices.
The SAGA BFR comes in between $259-289 depending on the size of the cuffs you are purchasing. While the price is more, the features of this cuff make it my preferred device for athlete use.
My affiliate code “thebarbellphysio” will also save you 5% off the purchase price of this fantastic product.
DELPHI PERSONAL TOURNIQUET SYSTEM
The gold standard blood flow restriction training device is the Delphi Personal Tourniquet System from OwensRecoveryScience.com. This device contains a Doppler ultrasound within the blood flow restriction cuff. This means we have the most accurate way possible to measure blood flow in the extremity and can precisely occlude the appropriate amount of flow. Safety features within the device include rapid shut-offs, automatic times, and the Doppler are amazing features.
Most importantly, for those in the medical community, the Delphi Blood Flow Restriction device is and FDA-listed device for BFR. The FDA defines full or partial vascular occlusion under “tourniquets” and is regulated that way. Thus, if a patient were to have a negative side effect during BFR training while using a Delphi unit, you can feel legally safe. Using other devices opens you up to litigation because a non-FDA approved device is being used to restrict blood flow.
So, What’s The Best?
There are two winners:
First, the SAGA Wireless BFR device is the best for athletes. Its ability to measure pressure to accurately reproduce pressure between workouts is great. And, its’ price tag also meets most people’s budgets as well (again, save 5% with code “TheBarbellPhysio”).
For the rehab professional, the Delphi unit wins. This machine is fantastic, with doppler ultrasound and safety features built-in. Plus, the FDA-approval also makes it the best option from a legal standpoint.