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  • Writer's pictureMark Edwards

Buyer's Guide to the 8 Best Blood Flow Restriction Bands (BFR) for 2024

Updated: 2 days ago


BFR training while injured
Yours truly testing BFR bands post-shoulder/bicep surgery

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a reviewed product. This site is not intended to provide medical advice and is for informational and educational purposes only.



What are the basics of Blood Flow Restriction for resistance training?


A Brief Background of BFR Training


It's originally known as Kaatsu® training, since it originated in Japan, first developed by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato. It's also sometimes called "occlusion training," although the word "occlusion" doesn't really accurately describe BFR. It's technically NOT "occlusion."


Overall Benefits of BFR Training - Older Populations and Rehab


I believe that BFR training can be one of the most effective tools for older guys to integrate into their training to achieve results that are better than training solely with heavy resistance, especially if you're rehabbing an injury.


Let's discuss the whys, the ins and outs, the what-have-yous (thanks, Dude).





I became interested in this unique training tool as an older guy with a history of injuries. I coach older men both in nutrition and physical training, so BFR training is one incredibly useful tool that I have added to my toolkit.


I've personally undergone a right hip resurfacing, left knee cartilage replacement, left tibial bone graft, and most recently a rotator cuff repair with biceps tenodesis (reattachment of the biceps tendon).


I may eventually be held together with duct tape and super glue.


Because of the nature of my most recent injuries, I realized that training utilizing blood flow restriction bands could be a time-efficient and safe way to recover strength and muscle size without putting my post-surgery biceps tendon at risk - lifting heavy weights isn't necessary to recover size and strength if using BFR bands, so for those undergoing physiotherapy/rehab due to injury or post-surgery, BFR training is a real game-changer.


That's not to say that BFR bands aren't useful for uninjured guys under 40 (because they most definitely ARE), but because of some particular benefits of training with blood flow restriction bands, it can be a powerful way for guys in their 40's, 50's, 60's, and beyond to look and perform better than ever.


I'll cover the proper equipment that anyone can use to take advantage of this safe and effective training technique.


We'll go straight to the recommendations, followed by the things you need to know about BFR training.




8 Best Blood Flow Restriction Bands Reviewed



The Edge Mobility System BFR Cuffs

Let's start off with The Edge Mobility Systems bands. There are a lot of reasons to like these. These are great for dipping your toes into the water of BFR training.



Pros:

  • Ease of use: Analog, baby. They typically require minimal setup and feature simple adjustment systems without the need for a smartphone. A reliable, affordable analog option.

  • Durable materials: The cuffs are made of high-quality materials, providing users with a reliable and long-lasting product. The cuffs are hand-washable.

  • Cost-effective: The Edge Mobility System BFR Cuffs are more budget-friendly compared to other BFR bands on the market, making them a more accessible option for a wider range of users. They're a great BFR cuff for starting out. If you find BFR training isn't for you, you haven't invested a whole lot of money into these.

  • Educational resources: The brand offers educational resources and support for users new to BFR training, helping them learn how to use the cuffs safely and effectively.

  • Made in the USA.

  • Purchase the Edge Mobility System BFR Cuffs with discount code MINIMALIST_MARK and get 10% off of your order.


Cons:

  • Pressure adjustment: Again, some users may find it challenging to adjust the pressure of the cuffs to their preferred level, potentially leading to inconsistent or suboptimal occlusion levels during training. Just pay attention to what you're doing and you should be fine.


This is always a potential issue with analog-type occlusion bands. With some practice, most users can become adept at using analog-style BFR training bands. If you don't have the patience to adapt to the learning curve, go with an app-based option and built-in pump.


Kaatsu BFR Bands

No review of the best Blood Flow Restriction Bands would be complete without the granddaddy of the bunch, KAATSU® brand BFR bands and system. This is the original blood flow restriction device.


Their blood flow restriction bands and KAATSU® device are designed to provide safe, effective, and user-friendly BFR training. The KAATSU® system combines high-quality bands with a digital device that monitors and controls pressure, offering a comprehensive solution for individuals looking to enhance their fitness, strength, and recovery through BFR training.


This system was the first on the market, patented by Dr. Yoshiaki Kaatsu in Japan.


Their bands are used by a number of Olympians and numerous professional sports teams (Oakland Raiders, New York Knicks, Chicago Blackhawks, and more). Of course, these organizations have very deep pockets for training and rehab.


Pros:

  • Pressure control and monitoring: The KAATSU® device provides very precise pressure control and monitoring, ensuring the correct amount of pressure is applied during each training session. Pressure can be programmed to cycle on during a lift and cycle off for rest periods.

  • High-quality bands: KAATSU® bands are made from durable, high-quality materials designed to withstand regular use and maintain their performance over time.

  • Customized pressure settings: The KAATSU® device allows users to set individualized pressure levels based on their needs and goals, providing a personalized BFR training experience.

  • Automatic pressure release: The KAATSU® device is equipped with an automatic pressure release feature that ensures safety during training by releasing pressure in case of excessive occlusion or discomfort.

  • Portable and versatile: The KAATSU® system is compact and portable, making it suitable for use at home, in the gym, or while traveling. The bands can be used for a wide range of exercises, targeting various muscle groups.

  • Research-backed: KAATSU® training is supported by numerous scientific studies demonstrating its effectiveness in promoting strength, hypertrophy, and recovery.

Cons:

  • Price: Well, I won't mince words here. HOLY COW. These are expensive. The KAATSU® system, including both the bands and the device, is relatively expensive compared to other BFR training options. This high price point may be a barrier for some individuals, particularly those who are new to BFR training or have a limited budget. They are significantly more expensive than other brands. In my opinion, they're most suitable for BFR in a clinical setting where price is not an obstacle.

  • Learning curve: The KAATSU® system may require some time and practice to become familiar with the device's functions and proper usage. Beginners may need additional guidance or support to ensure they are using the system correctly and safely.

  • Band sizing: Some users may find it challenging to determine the appropriate band size for their limbs, which could impact the effectiveness and comfort of the BFR training session. Sizing instructions on the website should be closely followed.


In summary, the KAATSU® blood flow restriction bands and device offer a comprehensive BFR training solution with precise pressure control and monitoring, high-quality materials, and research-backed effectiveness. However, the system's high price point and potential learning curve may be considerations for potential users.



B-Strong BFR Bands



Pros:

  • Patented design: The B Strong patented design ensures safety and ease of use. They feature a patented pressure regulation system that provides a safe and controlled BFR experience.

  • Customizable pressure: The B Strong Blood Flow Restriction Bands allow users to adjust the pressure based on their individual needs and preferences.

  • Comprehensive training resources: The B Strong brand offers educational resources, including a mobile app and instructional videos to guide users to use their BFR Bands safely and effectively.

  • High-quality, durable materials: B Strong Blood Flow Restriction bands are built to last.

  • Quick-release: B-Strong bands have a quick-release tab that makes removal easy.

  • Made in the USA.

Cons:

  • Cost: Somewhat more expensive than other options, making B Strong bands inaccessible for some users.





SmartCuffs BFR Cuffs




Pros:

  • Ease of use: SmartCuffs BFR Cuffs are easy to use as they typically require less setup and adjustment than some other brands.

  • Durable materials: SmartCuffs are known for their high-quality materials, making them long-lasting and durable.

  • Comfort: SmartCuffs Blood Flow Restriction bands are more comfortable to wear compared to some other products, making them a better option for extended training sessions.

  • Quick-release system: SmartCuffs BFR Cuffs feature a quick-release system, making them easy to remove. This can be especially helpful when training around injuries if the user doesn't have full use of both arms/hands.

Cons:

  • Cost: SmartCuffs BFR Cuffs can be somewhat more expensive than some other BFR bands on the market, which may make them less accessible for some users.

  • App: Not as comprehensive as B Strong

  • Availability: SmartCuffs BFR bands may not be as widely available as some other products, which could make it more challenging for potential users to find and purchase them. In fact, they are sometimes sold out. Check their website for details.




Occlusion Cuff Elite



Pros:

  • Affordability: Occlusion Cuffs Elite BFR Cuffs are more budget-friendly compared to other BFR bands on the market, making them a more accessible option.

  • Comfort: Users generally report that Occlusion Cuffs Elite BFR Cuffs are comfortable to wear during training sessions, which can enhance the overall experience.

  • Ease of use: SmartCuffs BFR Cuffs typically require less setup and adjustment than some other brands.

Cons:

  • Pressure adjustment: Some users may find it challenging to adjust the pressure of the cuffs to their preferred level since there is no smartphone app, but instead an analog pressure gauge, potentially leading to inconsistent or suboptimal occlusion levels during training. However, this setup is common in the intermediate price range. It takes some getting used to in order to adjust the pressure to the level you want.

  • Limited guidance: Compared to other options, resources are a little more limited.


SAGA BFR Bands


Pros:

  • Comfort: SAGA Fitness BFR Bands feature soft materials and an ergonomic design that minimizes discomfort during training sessions.

  • Built-in air pump: very precise pressure control via the integrated air pump.

  • Ease of use: SAGA Fitness BFR Bands are easy to set up and adjust.

  • Calibration: SAGA Fitness BFR bands can be calibrated via their smartphone app.

  • Durable materials: SAGA Fitness BFR Bands are made from high-quality materials.


Cons:

  • Cost: A little more expensive than some BFR bands because, as noted, these are wireless BFR cuffs. However, looking at the quality and features, the cost is justifiable.




Airbands BFR Cuffs


Pros:

  • Comfort: AirBands BFR Cuffs are known for their comfortable design and soft materials, making them enjoyable to wear during training sessions.

  • Durable materials: Made of high-quality materials, AirBands BFR Cuffs provide users with a reliable and long-lasting product.

  • Lightweight and portable design: Since the pump is built-in, there are no tubes to attach and there is no pump to carry around.

  • Precise pressure control: The built-in pump and app-based system allow for precise pressure adjustments, enabling optimal occlusion levels during workouts.

  • Educational resources: AirBands offers educational resources and support to help users new to BFR training learn how to use the cuffs safely and effectively.


Cons:

  • A little pricey: But still not as expensive as some other options.

  • App Dependency: While the app-based system offers convenience and precise control, it also introduces a dependency on the app's functionality and compatibility with the user's device.

These wireless BFR cuffs are a great offering, but some users may prefer a more analog option. This may or may not be an issue for some users, but other options don't require a smartphone.








FitCuffs BFR System



Pros:

  • Comprehensive BFR System: FitCuffs offers a complete BFR system that includes cuffs for both the upper and lower limbs, a pressure gauge, measuring tape, web app, and a hard carrying case.

  • Innovative design: FitCuffs are designed with a unique ergonomic quick-release system that makes them easier to apply and remove during workouts. Single-handed attachment is a breeze because of this particular design.

  • Durable materials: The cuffs are made of high-quality materials, providing users with a reliable and long-lasting product.

  • Pressure tracking: FitCuffs are designed with a built-in pressure gauge that allows users to monitor and adjust the pressure during training to ensure optimal occlusion levels.

  • Educational resources: FitCuffs provides educational resources and support for users new to BFR training, helping them learn how to use the cuffs safely and effectively.-quality construction and materials.

Cons:

  • Cost: FitCuffs BFR System can be more expensive than some other BFR bands on the market, which may make them less accessible for some users.

  • Learning curve: The unique design of FitCuffs may require a learning curve for users to become comfortable with the quick-release system and pressure-tracking features.


FAQ


Why Use Blood Flow Restriction Bands for Training?


Blood flow restriction training has gained significant traction in recent years as an effective method for improving muscle strength, hypertrophy, and endurance. BFR bands or cuffs partially restrict blood flow to a specific muscle group, which creates metabolic stress and increases muscle activation.


As a result, users can achieve significant muscle growth and strength gains with lower training loads.


This is a huge advantage since recovery from injuries necessitates using very light loads to gradually regain strength and mobility.


Do I Need Leg Bands AND Arm Bands?

Yes. Virginia.


Don't attempt to buy just leg bands and then use them on both your arms and legs, or buy arm bands and try the same stunt on your legs. You have arms and legs and your arms and legs aren't the same size (if you're a homo sapien).


A proper fit is paramount, but you won't get that if you try wrapping arm bands on your legs and vice versa.






Increased Hypertrophy and Strength Without Lifting heavy weights

Training with Blood flow restriction bands has been shown to promote muscle hypertrophy (growth) through several mechanisms:


1. Metabolic stress:

The restricted blood flow during Blood Flow Restriction training leads to a buildup of metabolites such as lactate and inorganic phosphate in the working muscles. This increased metabolic stress triggers a cascade of cellular events that stimulate muscle growth, including the activation of muscle satellite cells and the release of anabolic hormones like growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).


2. Increased muscle fiber recruitment

Blood Flow Restriction training promotes the recruitment of both type I (slow-twitch) and type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers. Under normal circumstances, low-intensity exercises primarily recruit type I fibers, while high-intensity exercises recruit type II fibers. However, blood flow restriction training allows for the activation of both fiber types even during low-intensity exercises, contributing to greater muscle hypertrophy.


3. Cellular swelling

Partially restricting blood flow using Blood Flow Restriction bands leads to an increase in fluid accumulation within the muscle cells. This cellular swelling can act as a mechanical stimulus for muscle growth by promoting the synthesis of muscle proteins and inhibiting protein breakdown.


4. Reduced myostatin levels

Myostatin is a protein that inhibits muscle growth. Blood Flow Restriction training has been shown to decrease myostatin levels, removing this inhibitory effect and allowing for greater muscle hypertrophy.


5. Enhanced muscle protein synthesis

The combination of metabolic stress, increased muscle fiber recruitment, and cellular swelling that occurs when using Blood Flow Restriction bands can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, leading to muscle growth and repair.


6. Neural adaptations

Blood Flow Restriction training can lead to improvements in motor unit activation and coordination. These neural adaptations can result in increased muscle activation and force production, even with low-intensity exercises.


7. Reduced Body Fat and Improved Glucose Metabolism

Yes, that's right. A randomized control study conducted in 2022 showed that obese individuals who used BFR in conjunction with High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) decreased their visceral fat and increased growth hormone, in addition to several other improvements in health markers. That study can be accessed HERE.


This is some pretty significant stuff.


8. Reduced muscle damage and faster recovery

Since Blood Flow Restriction training is performed with low-intensity exercises, it causes less muscle damage compared to traditional high-intensity strength training. This reduced muscle damage allows for faster recovery, enabling individuals to train more frequently and consistently, which can contribute to strength gains over time.


Bigger muscles and more strength with light weights?


These benefits segue pretty nicely into the next big benefit.


Think about it: using lighter weights to gain strength and muscle mass. That could make Blood Flow Restriction bands the perfect tool for recovering from injuries.


Let's talk a bit about that.





Improved Recovery When Healing from Injuries


Blood flow restriction training has the potential to improve recovery when healing from injuries, particularly when traditional high-intensity strength training is not feasible or recommended. The benefits of blood flow restriction training in injury recovery as a supplement to professional physical therapy and rehabilitation can be attributed to several factors:


1. Lower-intensity training

Blood flow restriction training allows for muscle strength and hypertrophy gains while using low-intensity exercises (around 20-30% of one-repetition maximum). This reduced intensity can be particularly beneficial for individuals recovering from injuries, as it places less mechanical stress on the affected joints, tendons, and muscles, minimizing the risk of re-injury.


Lift less weight and recover size and strength? Exactly the recipe we're looking for when recovering from surgery and injuries.


2. Increased muscle activation

As already mentioned, BFR training enhances the recruitment of both types I and type II muscle fibers, even at low intensities. This increased muscle activation can help prevent muscle atrophy commonly associated with injuries, immobilization, or disuse.


3. Enhanced muscle protein synthesis

Blood flow restriction training stimulates muscle protein synthesis by increasing the release of anabolic hormones and promoting cellular swelling. This can contribute to muscle growth and repair, ultimately supporting the recovery process.


4. Improved blood flow and nutrient delivery

Although BFR training temporarily restricts blood flow during the exercise, blood flow is restored once the cuffs or bands are removed. This post-exercise increase in blood flow can help deliver nutrients and oxygen to the injured area, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.





Is BFR Training Safe?

Yes. Blood flow restriction training, when performed correctly and under proper guidance, is generally considered safe for most individuals. However, like any exercise modality, there are potential risks and precautions to consider.


1. Appropriate pressure:

Using the correct pressure is crucial for the safety and effectiveness of blood flow restriction training. Excessive pressure can lead to complications such as nerve damage, muscle damage, or blood clot formation.


On the other hand, insufficient pressure may not provide the desired benefits. It's essential to use a reliable and accurate pressure monitoring system, follow guidelines for pressure levels, and consult with a professional if you are unsure.


2. Medical conditions:

Individuals with certain medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or blood clotting disorders) should consult their physician before engaging in blood flow restriction training. Additionally, those with compromised blood flow, peripheral neuropathy, or skin conditions that could be aggravated by the cuffs should exercise caution.


3. Technique and supervision:

Proper technique is vital for safe and effective blood flow restriction training. Beginners should seek guidance from a qualified professional or follow a reputable BFR training program to ensure they are performing the exercises correctly.


4. Duration and frequency:

Overdoing blood flow restriction training or not allowing enough time for recovery can increase the risk of injury or complications. Follow recommended guidelines for training duration, intensity, and frequency to minimize risks.


5. Monitoring for adverse reactions:

During blood flow restriction training, pay attention to any unusual sensations, such as numbness, tingling, or excessive discomfort. Stop the exercise and release the pressure if you experience any of these symptoms.



Smart watch


How long should you wear BFR bands?


The duration for wearing blood flow restriction (BFR) bands depends on the specific exercise protocol being followed. Generally, BFR bands should only be worn during the exercise session, which usually lasts for a short period of time. A typical BFR training protocol involves the following steps:


1. Warm-up:

Perform a light warm-up for a few minutes to prepare your body for the exercise.

Apply the BFR bands: Position and tighten the bands as explained in the previous section.


2. Exercise sets and repetitions:

Perform low-intensity resistance exercises (around 20-30% of your one-repetition maximum) in multiple sets with short rest intervals between sets. A common protocol may look like this:

  • 1st set: 30 repetitions

  • 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sets: 15 repetitions each Rest intervals between sets usually last for 30-60 seconds. Typically, since you'll be working with bodyweight or sub-maximal loads (light weights), lifting to failure is a common approach.


3. Duration:

The entire BFR exercise session, including all sets and rest intervals, typically lasts for around 5-10 minutes per muscle group. Total time with the occlusion bands will be somewhere in the 20-30 minute range.


4. Remove the bands:

Once the exercise session is complete, immediately release the pressure and remove the BFR bands from your limbs.


It is important not to wear the BFR bands for an extended period, as excessive occlusion of blood flow can lead to complications such as nerve damage or blood clot formation. Always follow the recommended guidelines for BFR training and consult a healthcare professional or qualified trainer for guidance on appropriate exercises, pressure levels, and training frequency.


By using better-quality bands with a pump and a gauge to accurately measure pressure, excessive occlusion can be mitigated.


Safety first. As always, if you aren't sure, talk to a coach and/or do your due diligence. Never jump into something like this without doing your homework and getting professional coaching when in doubt.


How many times a week can you use BFR bands?


The frequency of using BFR bands can vary depending on factors such as individual goals, fitness levels, and training experience. However, as a general guideline, BFR training can be performed 2-3 times per week for each muscle group.


This frequency allows for adequate recovery between sessions while still providing sufficient stimulus for strength and hypertrophy gains.


For individuals who are new to BFR training, it is recommended to start with a lower frequency (1-2 times per week) and gradually increase as the body adapts to the training modality. It's also important to listen to your body and adjust the frequency based on how well you recover between sessions.


Keep in mind that BFR training is not meant to replace traditional strength training completely but can be incorporated into your existing workout routine to enhance results or as an alternative when heavy lifting is not possible, such as during injury rehabilitation.


As always, consult with a healthcare professional or qualified trainer before starting any new exercise program, including BFR training. They can provide guidance on appropriate exercises, pressure levels, and training frequency to ensure safe and effective implementation.


Conclusion


I love BFR cuffs. Blood Flow Restriction is a game-changer for older guys to get an edge on building bigger stronger muscles at an age when it can be harder to do.

As a post-shoulder surgery BFR cuff user, I cannot recommend BFR training enough. You'll be back in the game sooner than you thought possible.


The best blood flow restriction training cuffs and bands on the market offer a range of options to suit different preferences, budgets, and requirements.


Avoid the Cheap-o's

Be aware that there are a large number of cheap occlusion bands on the market.


I cannot recommend cheap occlusion bands that have no air bladders. These products simply rely on manually tightening the band around the limb.


You'll see this sort of cheap band recommended on a number of websites that purport to be giving you the "top occlusion training bands," but I cannot see any advantage to these cheap occlusion straps. They're simply cheap and it's nearly impossible to adjust the pressure on the limb. The result can be too much occlusion, and too much occlusion can lead to serious problems.


Don't buy them. I won't mention any brand names. Brand names are unnecessary in this case. You'll be able to spot them immediately. They're just stretchy straps that you could possibly tighten until you turn blue. That's simply a no-go.


Do a search on Amazon and you'll get a whole list of these cheap BFR straps.


You get what you pay for.


Take the time to carefully consider the pros and cons of each brand to find the perfect fit for your BFR training needs.


Each of the products reviewed here is excellent and will get you results. As the price increases, features tend to get more refined, so there are always tradeoffs when buying Blood Flow Restriction bands.


The BFR bands I've reviewed here are effective options that will allow you to stay within your budget. Give Blood Flow Restriction training a try!





Research References:


Loenneke, J. P., Wilson, J. M., Marín, P. J., Zourdos, M. C., & Bemben, M. G. (2012). Low intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis. European journal of applied physiology, 112(5), 1849-1859. Link


Yasuda, T., Ogasawara, R., Sakamaki, M., Ozaki, H., Sato, Y., & Abe, T. (2011). Combined effects of low-intensity blood flow restriction training and high-intensity resistance training on muscle strength and size. European journal of applied physiology, 111(10), 2525-2533. Link


Laurentino, G. C., Ugrinowitsch, C., Roschel, H., Aoki, M. S., Soares, A. G., Neves, M., ... & Tricoli, V. (2012). Strength training with blood flow restriction diminishes myostatin gene expression. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 44(3), 406-412. Link


Fry, C. S., Glynn, E. L., Drummond, M. J., Timmerman, K. L., Fujita, S., Abe, T., ... & Rasmussen, B. B. (2010). Blood flow restriction exercise stimulates mTORC1 signaling and muscle protein synthesis in older men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 108(5), 1199-1209. Link


Wernbom, M., Järrebring, R., Andreasson, M. A., & Augustsson, J. (2009). Acute effects of blood flow restriction on muscle activity and endurance during fatiguing dynamic knee extensions at low load. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(8), 2389-2395. Link


Hughes, L., Paton, B., Rosenblatt, B., Gissane, C., & Patterson, S. D. (2017). Blood flow restriction training in clinical musculoskeletal rehabilitation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(13), 1003-1011. Link



Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a reviewed product. This site is not intended to provide medical advice and is for informational and educational purposes only.

Disclaimer: All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. No information provided is to be construed as medical advice. If you have medical issues, always consult your doctor.


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