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 come out with products recently. And 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, so choosing the appropriate device is needed for both your health and for consistency of performance.
In this, the first of three articles coming out on blood flow restriction training we will cover the first step in BFR…choosing the right device. 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.
First up, and most commonly used are various compression bands to occlude blood flow. These bands have one really great advantage in that they are very cheap (or even free if you have some lying around). 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 reliable performed in multiple workouts at the exact same level of occlusion. It makes standardizing the level of pressure very difficult. Thus, 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. Again, these are a cheap option but have two bid drawbacks. The level of occlusion with these again cannot be reliably reproduced. 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 create 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 Occlusion Cuff has been recently released and does a great job of addressing the above problems. It is essentially a specialized blood pressure cuff designed for blood flow restriction training. At $125it’s a great deal given that it is wide enough to not put unnecessary pressure on the underlying nerves and the sphygmamometer on the Occlusion Cuff allows the individual to precisely measure the level of occlusion. This means workouts will be more standardized to the individual and the exact same amount of pressure can be applied at different workouts. The Occlusion Cuff also comes in a two-pack, allowing you to train both right and left sides at the same time.
For a detailed program on the science and use of BFR check out Dr. Mario Novo’s Blood Flow Restriction Training Manual, available in our store.
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 the only FDA-approved 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 Occlusion Cuff is the clear best for athletes, strength coaches, and personal trainers. Its ability to measure pressure to accurately reproduce pressure between workouts is great. At a price tag of $125, it meets most people’s budgets as well.
For the rehab professional, the Delphi unit wins. This machine is fantastic, with doppler ultrasound and safety features built in. The FDA-approval also makes it a much better option from a legal standpoint.