Nobody likes wires these days. Blood flow restriction training, which was invented back in 1966, has always been with hand pumps, tubes, and straps. This is where SAGA Fitness stepped in.
The BFR Cuffs from SAGA are smart, wireless, and finds the right settings for you using intelligence. The controls are given to the companion app which connects over the Bluetooth protocol. It can as well be inflated/deflated electronically by tapping a button on the app.
So the question, is this another gimmicky product in the market or does it deliver? Let’s find out in this review!
The main module of the SAGA BFR Cuffs is made of plastic which snaps onto their velcro band. There is a hook-and-loop fastener to adjust the tightness. The button is located at the center where it says SAGA. It is a multi-functional button that is also responsible for powering the device on and off.
The LED ring sitting around the button shows the current status of the device. For example, a continuous blinking means it is in the pairing mode. The LED will flash red when the battery is low and it will change to steady white when it is connected to a power source.
The device is controlled from the app for most parts including inflation, deflation, and changing pressure. While it is certainly a smart move, the lack of enough physical buttons on the device will make the device unusable when you don’t have your phone around or when the phone’s battery dies.
Aside from that, they aren’t many design cons to talk about. It is sweat-resistant so that you can confidently take it to your high-intensity exercises. It is not a fit for swimming though since Bluetooth doesn’t work underwater and the device does not have certification for submerging in water.
These cuffs are completely wireless. This is the biggest selling point of this device as most occlusion bands in the market involve some sort of tubes to pump it up.
They also managed to cut the size since now they only need a small module that responds to wireless commands. Carrying these doesn’t feel heavier than a pair of rubber bands.
It uses Bluetooth LE 4.0 as the connectivity medium. Mobile devices with Bluetooth 4.0 capability will work provided the platform is either Android or iOS.
Optimal pressure calibration
Setting the right amount of pressure is crucial. Blood flow restriction training is effective but if you fail to set the pressure right, you won’t see much success.
How difficult could this be? First of all, there isn’t any fixed number. You have to figure out what is optimal for you while not being excessively tight. Not too loose either, otherwise, the blood won’t be restricted to offer you benefits.
SAGA removed this guesswork with their automated arterial occlusion pressure (AOP) calibration. Once you tap the ‘Calibrate Pressure’ button, it will pump one of the bands to find out what is optimal for your limbs.
On top of that, you also have the option to manually increase or decrease the pressure. It can create a pressure point up to 250mm Hg which is sufficient, even for legs.
Electronic inflation and deflation
Hand pumps are outdated now. It takes time to pump something manually. At the same time, you have to keep an eye on the gauge so that you don’t over-pump it.
The SAGA Cuffs have electronic inflation. You can configure on the app to which level of pressure you want to inflate it, and it will do it for you. You can also deflate it the same way using the mobile app.
As for the configuration, SAGA recommends that you set it to 50% of your calibrated AOP for arms and 80% for legs. The concept is using the bare minimum pressure to achieve good results.
These smart cuffs are unisex. But the size of limbs can often vary by gender. A man’s arm is typically larger in circumference than a woman’s. One-size-fits-all is not ideal in this case.
It is good to see that SAGA offers the bands in two sizes. One is medium and the other is large. The following table will show you which size is optimal for whom. Do consider the size of your thighs since you would want to use them there as well.
|Medium (M)||25-44 cm (10-18 inches)|
|Large (L)||45-64 cm (18-26 inches)|
Controls on the companion app
The SAGA app works on Android 5.0+ and iOS 10.0+ devices. It is available on Apple and Google’s app store. The other requirement is that your phone has at least Bluetooth 4.0 support. It is important to download the app and pair the bands with it as most of the controls are there.
The app starts with a screening process where they ask a couple of questions to figure out if it is safe for you to use. This assessment is quite basic and therefore, should be accompanied by an actual medical test or consultation.
After the screening process (if it didn’t flag anything), you will be asked to pair and calibrate the device wearing the cuffs. Once that is done too, you can start your training.
The app gives you the option to use automated and manual pressure modes, electronic inflation and deflation, and an emergency deflation button on the device to override the app’s control (pressing and holding the central button on the device will deflate it).
Protection against water is a bare necessity for fitness devices. When you have to wear something for exercise, it will be exposed to sweat for sure.
These bands are sweat-resistant including the main module. While technically it should work fine with sweats, the limited 1-year warranty will cover you for damaged created by sweat.
The SAGA app has session analysis in place. It will tell you how long the session was, how many times you inflated in your entire session, and what the average pressure was in mm Hg including the minimum and the maximum. This summary will pop up at the end of the workout.
The report is pretty basic. It needs more features, to be honest. For example, it does not record the sessions so you cannot look back at your previous workouts. I am definitely sure they are working on it.
The band from SAGA Fitness does what it advertises. It allows you to find optimal pressure for your limbs and restrict blood flow wirelessly with automated inflation/deflation.
When you are wearing this, lactic acid builds up surprisingly fast making your muscles work harder. To give you an example of this, if you normally feel fatigued after 10 reps of bicep curls, you will feel the fatigue after just 4-5 with these bands on. The whole point of BFR training is to lower the weight but increase the repetitions for muscle growth.
A few things to note though. When it inflates or deflates, the motor inside the device makes some noise. When you are wearing them on your arms, they are easily audible. But it is not uncomfortable in any way.
The app recognizes when to inflate or deflate. For instance, if you press the start workout button, it will start inflating. Also in middle of a session, if you press the pause workout button, it will deflate so that your body can relax.
Even though the app is straightforward, it needs some work. First of all, when you hit the stop workout button, the bands will unpair. When you start a workout again, it will pair for a second again and then inflate. They could remove this extra step by keeping it paired as long as the device is on.
The battery life on this good I would say. A single charge will give you 100 inflations which should be enough for several days. It charges via micro-USB cable and works with most power outlets (except those which output 65+ watts).
4. Value for Money
There is no question SAGA BFR Cuffs are expensive. It is much more expensive than those manual BFR bands available in the market. But for a reason.
Manual BFR bands can be risky if you don’t know what you are doing. It makes you pump the device manually and it is also usually pretty large in size. There is no comfort in using them.
But with these cuffs, the app takes care of most things like finding the optimal pressure for your limbs and inflating/deflating the bladders wirelessly with a tap of a button.
There is SmartCuffs from Smart Tools as an alternative which works great but it is wired, is even more expensive, and doesn’t have an app to control things conveniently.
While there is still room for improvement, SAGA BFR Cuffs are pretty much the best you can get right now. The app is where they have to work more. They have some exercise programs in the app like Strength, Aerobic, and such. To make the money more worth it, they can include more video content for those who are new to BFR training.
If you want to compare SAGA bands to the others, go check out our post on smart cuffs where we briefly reviewed other smart BFR bands including this one from SAGA.
5. Our Rating
SAGA Fitness BFR Cuffs are worn on arms and legs to increase the intensity of workouts by restricting blood flow to an optimal point. The heavy lifting like finding the right amount of pressure, inflation, and deflation is done by their companion app. There is very little chance to mess settings up if you delegate the task to the app's built-in intelligence. The design is wireless and it works over Bluetooth connectivity.
- Wireless, no cords involved
- Finds optimal pressure (AOP) electronically through calibration
- Automatic inflation and deflation
- Controlled via the mobile app over Bluetooth
- Battery life is around 100 inflations, rechargeable
- Expensive compared to manual BFR bands
- Reliant on the companion app for most parts