A hot fitness trend among Olympians: restriction of blood flow

“It’s a good supplement to training; It’s not all your training, ”Arent said. “It provides a physiological stimulus when other things might be limited.”

Sato said he accidentally discovered the benefits of restricting blood flow over 50 years ago, during a Buddhist ceremony at a Japanese temple that required him to sit on the ground in the seiza position – knees bent with his heels under his rear end – for long periods. His calves and toes started tingling and he couldn’t take the pain after 45 minutes. When he stood up he saw his calves swell with blood and his legs looked like they were in a workout.

Sato thought that maybe there could be a connection between cutting off the blood flow to the muscles and training them. He began to tie karate belts and later bicycle inner tubes around his legs and performed a series of experiments, tracking how much the circumference of his thighs and calves would increase even when he performed fewer repetitions.

In 1973, Sato broke his ankle while skiing and restricted blood flow to the area during rehabilitation, periodically letting it in. A recovery that doctors say could take four months took little more than one.

“Pressure on, pressure on,” he said. “The benefits for training and recovery have been understood.”

For someone like Andrew, who swims thousands of meters every day, or Rupp, whose diet includes over 100 miles a week plus strength training and core work, or Noah Syndergaard, the Mets pitcher, or Mikaela Shiffrin, the ski champion, or one of the other top athletes who have started to incorporate a restriction in blood flow, the technique allows them to reduce the likelihood of a repetitive stress injury and speed up recovery time. recovery.

For Andrew, the most important part of the technique may be how strongly he believes it works. As any athletic scientist knows, placebos can often be as powerful as any drug.

“I did something like 18 races in seven days at practice, and I felt fresh,” said Andrew. “I’m sure it was because I was so disciplined with the recovery. I used it all the time. “

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