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Occlusion Training: Get Bigger by Lifting Lighter

Kettlebell swing with occlusion

What is occlusion training?

First developed in Japan, occlusion training is a form of physical training that involves restriction of blood flow within the body. More precisely, occlusion training prevents venous blood flow OUT of the body part being trained, whilst arterial blood can still be pumped IN. 1

Tricep dips with occlusion

How does it work?

Restricting venous return from the working muscle group with a band prevents the release of lactic acid and other waste products. This causes increased muscular stress triggering hormonal responses that promote muscular growth.1

Show me the science! (because I can't stand BS)

Evidence #1: Growth hormone (and IGF-1), norepinephrine, and lactate demonstrated increases after 5 sets of 14 repetitions each at 20% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM) for bilateral leg extensions compared to the control group.2

Evidence #2: In another study, NCAA Division 1A football players had increases in bench press and squat 1RM as well as upper and lower chest girths after 3 weeks of occlusion training compared to the control group.3

Evidence #3: Cook et al. also found rugby athletes had improvements in bench press, squat, maximum sprint time, and leg power with observations of greater exercise-induced salivary testosterone and cortisol responses.4 Additionally, this study suggested that occlusion training may be systemic as bench press strength improved with lower-body occlusion.4

Occlusion Training

Based on the evidence presented above, blood flow restriction or occlusion training has shown promising results and can be used to enhance your performance in sport and in life. Consult a sports-oriented healthcare practitioner (physiotherapist, chiropractor, orthopedic surgeon, or physician) prior to commencing occlusion training. Guidelines for this particular training method have not been established yet. However, authors recommend:1

  • 150mmHg of compression

  • Wider cuffs are more efficient

  • 20% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM)

  • 3-5 sets of 15 reps at 3 times per week for 3-4 weeks



1. Heitkamp, H. C. (2015). Training with blood flow restriction. Mechanisms, gain in strength and safety. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 55(5), 446-456.

2. Takarada, Y., Nakamura, Y., Aruga, S., Onda, T., Miyazaki, S., & Ishii, N. (2000). Rapid increase in plasma growth hormone after low-intensity resistance exercise with vascular occlusion. Journal of applied physiology, 88(1), 61-65.

3. Yamanaka, T., Farley, R. S., & Caputo, J. L. (2012). Occlusion training increases muscular strength in division IA football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(9), 2523-2529.

4. Cook, C. J., Kilduff, L. P., & Beaven, C. M. (2014). Improving strength and power in trained athletes with 3 weeks of occlusion training. International journal of sports physiology and performance, 9(1), 166-172.

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