Occlusion Training Explained by Jeremiah Horne

Recently I have decided to start making my lifting more goal oriented and tackle powerlifting.  I am still relatively new to the sport and haven’t yet competed in a meet but I have scheduled myself to enter a meet May 17th  to see how I fare.  My roommate, Josh Miller, has been the main stimulus behind my move towards powerlifting because he has been diligently powerlifting since his teenage years.  The main objective behind powerlifting is to lift the most weight possible plain and simple.  Many factors including muscle size go into the sport of powerlifting because the more mass you have, generally, the more weight you are going to be able to lift.  In this picture: http://instagram.com/p/kXyNXNRIl8/  I have wrapped bands around my arm to decrease the venous return of blood in my bicep muscles.  The concept I am utilizing is called occlusion training.

Occlusion Training
Occlusion Training

 Occlusion training involves depriving the muscle of oxygen (new fresh blood); therefore increasing the reliance on anaerobic metabolism for ATP production, elevating blood lactate and decreasing blood pH (Manimmanakorn, et al., 2013). There are theories as to why this creates a hypertrophic response in the muscle, but not one has been singled out.  The most obvious piece of data is that low intensity vascular occlusion exercise (30% 1-Rep Max) causes an almost 4x increase in serum Growth Hormone release vs. traditional high intensity resistance exercise (70% of 1-Rep Max) (Manimmanakorn, et al., 2013).  The occlusion training also significantly stimulated exercise induced Growth Hormone release and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (a hormone closely related to growth in the body). (Takano , 2005)

 These implications are also applicable to a rehabilitation or elderly population because you can incorporate safe, relatively lower loads of weight and get muscle mass gain or retention equal to that of a heavier load placed on the muscle  (Takano , 2005). This training is particularly useful because it is suitable for those who are unable to sustain high loads due to joint pain, postoperative patients, cardiac rehab, and athletes (Loenneke & Pujol, 2009).  As one ages sarcopenia (degenerative loss of skeletal muscle) becomes a more important factor and this style of training could be useful to help combat it.  Occlusion training also could be used to potentially train patients with cardiovascular diseases, but more research would be needed (Loenneke & Pujol, 2009). 

 Having tried the occlusion training a few times myself (leg press, bicep curls, leg extensions, tricep extensions), I would recommend them to a generally healthy client, but would be wary if you have any cardiovascular or blood pressure issues.  I have no way of measuring in particular how the results of occlusion training have went for me, but it is tougher than the standard exercise and sends a good amount of blood to the specific muscle to help with recovery.  In each of the studies they used multiple sets of reps to fatigue while using occlusion training (i.e. 3 sets to failure with 30% of 1 RM on leg extension with a 30s Rest Interval).  I believe your training should always be specific to your goals and with my goal being to lift as much weight as possible come May, I will continue to use occlusion training to help me.  Currently my best lifts are 425 Squat, 370 Bench Press, and 615 Deadlift.

Works Cited

Loenneke, J. P., & Pujol, T. J. (2011). Sarcopenia: An emphasis on occlusion training and dietary protein. HIPPOKRATIA , 15 (2), 132-137.

Loenneke, J. P., & Pujol, T. J. (2009). The Use of Occlusion Training to Produce Muscle Hypertrophy. Strength and Conditioning Journal , 31 (3), 77-84.

Manimmanakorn, A., Manimmanakorn, N., Taylor, R., Draper , N., Billaut , F., Shearman, J. P., et al. (2013). Effects of resistance training combined with vascular occlusion or hypoxia on neuromuscular function in athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology (113), 1767–1774.

Patterson, S. D., Leggate, M., Nimmo, M. A., & Ferguson, R. A. (2012). Circulating hormone and cytokine response to low-load resistance training with blood flow restriction in older men. European Journal of Applied Physiology (113), 713–719.

Takano , H. (2005). Hemodynamic and hormonal responses to a short-term low-intensity resistance exercise with the reduction of muscle blood flow. European Journal of Applied Physiology (95), 65–73 .

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