Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) is becoming quite popular among fitness professionals and athletes. And it is already pretty common among people recovering from a surgery or injury. However, if you are new to the training technique, you might be a little confused regarding BFR cuffs and bands.
Are they the same exercise protocol? If they are not, which will be better when it comes to BFR cuffs vs. bands? These questions might be going in the back of your head. And the good news is that you are at the right place to learn about the topic.
1. What Is BFR?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of the topic, we would like to talk about blood flow restriction training a bit. Basically, BFR training involves blood pressure cuffs or blood flow restriction bands that can partially restrict the blood flow. You would need to use them while carrying out light-intensity aerobic exercise sessions.
Now, why would you want to use BFR bands or BFR cuffs while exercising? Well, these exercises have a lot of advantages. Among all of the benefits that the blood flow restriction training method can offer, the serious athletic advantage is that you can max out the results of your typical workout sessions.
But that is not all! As we have mentioned earlier, blood flow restriction training can also help patients that are rehabbing from an injury. And the reason that BFR cuffs and BFR bands are getting so popular is due to all of the benefits BFR training can bring to the table.
2. How Does BFR Work?
The science behind blood flow restriction training is continuously showing greater results in enhancing performance and strength levels in a low-load exercise. But the real question is, how does the BFR training actually work?
Long story short, the BFR training works by placing BFR cuffs or bands around a limb of the body. While you exercise with the blood flow restriction equipment, the arterial blood flow to the muscle will be optimal. However, it will restrict venous return.
Now, when the arterial blood pressure is restricted, the blood can go through the muscles but not out of them. That will eventually result in better diastolic arterial blood pressure.
That said, when you use these restricted venous blood flow equipment, you will get desired pressure on tissues and joints without opting for high-intensity exercises. Eventually, after getting the desired pressure on the weaker regions of the body while exercising, you can enhance your strength level and recover faster.
3. Using Blood Flow Restriction Bands
You can use a lot of different devices to restrict venous blood flow during exercises. However, BFR cuffs and bands are the most common because they are the least expensive BFR training equipment. Even if you opt for a smart BFR band, you will not need to worry about breaking your wallet.
However, you will face some downsides when using the bands for restricted muscle blood flow exercises. The blood flow accompanying exercise sessions with these will not always be consistent. Sometimes, you might have an exaggerated blood pressure response.
On the other hand, the level might be lower than resting systolic blood pressure sometimes. These lowered and heightened blood pressure responses make the bands pretty inconsistent. In other words, if you continue recording blood pressure on different days, it will not be consistent.
4. Using Blood Flow Restriction Cuffs
In comparison, cuffs are better at offering consistent results in BFR training sessions. You will not notice lower systolic blood pressure or diastolic blood pressure on different days of the sessions. They are also uniform in muscle activation and skeletal muscle pump.
But that is not all! If you conduct a walking exercise test with the cuffs, you will notice that they efficiently lower the risk of injury during BFR training. And when you can accurately measure the level, the need for guesswork goes out of the equation. That will also eliminate the fear of overt cardiovascular risk.
Additionally, the leg blood flow restriction cuffs have an electronic pump system. It will let you set a personalized pressure level. And you will eventually get better systemic vascular resistance.
There are manual modes available in some of the cuffs. This mode will let you precisely inflate the cuff, allowing you to get the desired pressure.
5. What Are The Differences Between BFF Bands and BFR Cuffs?
So, if you want to get to the bottom of the topic, you need to understand what makes one different than the other.
From our discussion, one thing is clear, that the bands are the most affordable ones. They are pretty inexpensive in comparison, and you can easily get one of them for BFR exercises.
If you have a pretty tight budget, you should not really explore BFR cuffs. Instead, opt for the good BFR bands.
5.2 Safety and Ease of Use
It goes without saying that the BFR cuffs are the easiest ones to use. You will not need to worry about peripheral nerve injury or other sorts of exercise injuries while using them. And in contrast, you should be highly cautious while using the bands.
On that note, the cuffs even have built-in safety mechanisms. Those enhance the overall safety level. You will not find any robust safety features on the bands. And they take quite a bit to get used to as well.
5.3 Personalized Pressure
The accuracy and pressure level are inconsistent among the bands. You can not get the level of accuracy that the cuffs can offer. That eventually poses a greater risk of injury during the exercise sessions.
Now, as you can personalize the pressure with high precision, there will be the least risk of injury with the cuffs.
6. What to Consider Before Getting a BFR Device?
Now that you know the differences between cuffs and bands, you must be ready to get a BFR device, right? Well, do not make any purchase decision without keeping these factors in your mind:
You need to consider the material, whether it is a cuff or a band. It will determine the build quality, which will eventually dictate the device’s durability. But durability is not the only reason why you need to factor in the material.
Mostly, the bands and cuffs will be of elastic or rigid materials. More often, you will notice elastic material on the bands. These will be comparatively cheaper than the others. However, as we have mentioned earlier, the pressure will not be consistent for these. So, you might end up with a less productive BFR training session.
On the other hand, there are not many bands out there that will be of rigid materials. You will mostly find the cuffs coming with a tough material build. And these are better at offering consistent pressure. Therefore, you will have a much better and more effective BFR session. But, these are more expensive than the elastic versions.
Aside from the material, you need to consider the size. Remember, the device should be large enough to fully wrap the limb or limbs that you want to train. Also, you should know that wider cuffs and bands do a better job at reducing the flow without the need for excessive pressure.
However, the narrow BFR devices will be significantly cheaper than the wider ones. But no matter how inexpensive the narrow ones seem, you should always opt for the wide ones. Those will allow you to effectively enjoy all of the benefits of BFR sessions.
6.3 Pressure Application
The process by which the device exerts pressure on the limb is important. And it is a crucial factor that needs to be in your mind before making a purchase. Usually, some cuffs will rely on a manual process, which is more accurate than others.
On the other hand, the automatic devices will inflate the bladders of air within the device. Many will argue that the air-inflated options are better because they are easy to use. Well, it is valid to some extent.
However, you will not get the accuracy the manual process can offer. So, if ease of use is more important than accuracy to you, opt for automated air bladder systems.
6.4 Pressure Management
Last but not least, consider the pressure management technique of the devices. Cheap options will not have any management features. As a result, you will not get consistent results through the exercise sessions.
In comparison, the options that have pressure management mechanisms will allow you to properly calculate the optimal amount of pressure. That will result in an optimal training session and let you quickly get the benefits of BFR sessions.