Faced with the constant challenge of training fatigued young athletes whose competitive schedules are already jam-packed with sport practices and games, the daily training regimen at our facility is comprised of a combination of development, recovery, and rehabilitation exercises. Train the way you compete serves as the motto at Murray Athletic Development (MAD). And while this mindset is the driving force behind our culture, we also need to adapt to the demands placed on our athletes.
Our athletes compete hard, and we want them to bring that same fire to their training sessions. But our athletes also compete a ton, which is not always a quality we want to mirror in their training. Though we have worked extensively with professional athletes from all walks of life and still assist with the annual NBA and NCAA Basketball Combines, much of our current work is focused on youth athletes hoping to make and excel on their high school and club teams with an ultimate goal of playing in college.
Although the sources of their demands may differ from pro athletes, the challenges these youngsters face are very much the same: maximize ability, maintain health, and excel in performance, all while balancing an exceptionally busy and hectic lifestyle.
To battle the demands of the modern-day youth athlete, one tool we use is blood flow restriction training (BFR) in the form of B Strong Training Systems. Whether for rehabilitation, training, or recovery needs, B Strong has been easy, fast, and impactful.
How to Incorporate the B Strong Blood Flow Restriction System in Team and Group Training
In my opinion, the only way to truly make BFR training widely available to the public is to make it safe and effective, but most of all, simple and easy to set up and use. If it’s not quick and easy, it won’t work in a group setting, and group/team-based strengthening is where we see the big win for BFR with B Strong and why we spent months of development solving this problem.—Sean Whalen, CEO, Co-Founder, and Co-Developer B StrongBlood flow restriction training helps our youth athletes attain adaptations without high-intensity resistance training. Click To Tweet
Our youth athletes, like many others around the country, are typically overskilled and undertrained. Because these kids no longer have rest periods between club and school sports, we are getting athletes who are way overstressed. The B Strong Training System helps us address this issue by providing a method to achieve physiological adaptations without high-intensity resistance training.
Based on the growing body of scientific evidence, as well as our own anecdotal training evidence, we at MAD use B Strong extensively with consistent success. We use it for three key purposes:
- For pre-workout preparation before a weight training session
- As a post-rehabilitation modality as part of a therapy regimen
- As an invaluable recovery tool conducting sessions between intense training days and competitions
For all of these applications, we follow a straightforward program:
- 6-8 minute duration
- High pressure, both upper and lower extremities
- Multi-joint compound movements to failure
Our B Strong BFR training approach is simple: it’s brief, it’s high pressure, and it’s multi-limb. We’ll do this before a weight training session as a warm-up or for recovery in between training days. For recovery, we use our BFR protocol with light trunk training, core stability and mobility exercises, and end with a yoga-based stretch.
Programming a Recovery Session with B Strong
In this post, we’ll touch on the basic points of programming a recovery session with B Strong and will follow up later with an entire article on the subject.
Key questions when addressing a recovery program are:
When. Off-season, pre-season, or in-season? We’ve found B Strong’s user-friendly components—easy to put on, set up, and clean—so convenient that we can incorporate a recovery session at any time during a full training macrocycle: at the end of an off-season training week, after a long tough pre-season practice, or on an off day during an intense in-season schedule. When we sense our athletes can benefit from a B Strong recovery session, we do it.
Who. Individuals or teams? Single-player sessions are simple to conduct, while larger athlete groups do pose some logistical challenges. Equipment is key—the more B Strong systems, the larger the group we can handle at one time. We also can circuit our recovery groups. For example, we’ll have one group of athletes conduct their session, which takes 15 minutes from beginning to end. The remaining athletes will do their light trunk routine. At the end of the first 15-minute session, the two groups will switch.
What. As described above, our recovery program is basic, focusing on a 6-8 minute duration, high pressure on upper and lower extremities, and multi-joint compound movements. We use 3 sets of 20 reps with a 20-second recovery between each set. Our athletes perform calf raises, grip squeezes, squat to an arm curl, push-ups (type depends on your athletes’ skill level), and an A March. Simple, fundamental movements.
Our athletes do all of these exercises using only their body weight. The key is the belt pressure. When put on safely and correctly, the intensity of the belt pressure will pose a tremendous challenge and have an amazing beneficial impact.
Monitoring B Strong Training: MAD Health Survey
We monitor the B Strong sessions with our subjective questionnaire, the MAD Health Survey. Sleep, hydration, nutrition, subjective RPE, and feeling of recovery are all monitored. Our athletes always report feeling much better following a B Strong session, regardless of when they use it.
Our MAD Health Survey serves a dual purpose. One, we get feedback directly from our athletes. Their answers provide insights into how they’re feeling, how they’re functioning, and how well they’re taking care of themselves.
Their answers also support the second purpose of our survey: dynamic program adjustments. Athlete communication is key to learning how they actually feel and is hugely important to guide the training process.
For example, if an athlete reports feeling tired and their answers on their sleep questions reveal that they’re getting less than 8-10 hours of sleep, we’ll cut back on their training volume for a day or two. Occasionally, when we learn that an athlete has been especially busy with school demands and had a few long nights of studying, we’ll give them a day off and send them home.
Over the past five years of using BFR (and the past three years using the B Strong Training System), we’ve kept thousands of athletes (from youth to professional) healthy and greatly improved their performances. Just like a standard training program, consistency is key. We aim for at least two B Strong sessions per week coupled with a full 2- to 4-day weight training split (depending on athlete training age and season).
Key Physiological Processes in BFR Training
The beauty of B Strong’s BFR Training System is that it’s simple to use while providing profound physiological benefits—benefits unattainable from a program that does not use BFR.
This section will address how BFR training actually works. First and foremost is the importance of properly fitting the belts to the upper arm and legs, making sure the belts are extremely snug on one’s skin. Once fitted correctly, the belts must be pumped up to an appropriate pressure. This is very subjective. Everyone is different. The key is the level of pressure an athlete can safely handle—safe intensity is imperative. The greater the pressure, the better the results. The beauty of B Strong: it’s virtually impossible to occlude wearing their belts.
Next is training. During low-intensity resistance exercises, type I fibers are immediately fatigued, and the recruitment of type IIx fibers begins, which follows with an immense increase of lactic acid. This increase of lactate then stimulates receptors in the muscle and leads to elevated levels of growth hormone, adrenaline, and anabolic hormones.
- Type IIx muscle fibers use The Cori Cycle for energy. Lactic acid is the key metabolite responsible for a host of anabolic signaling pathways, including the activation of mTORC1. It also inhibits the negative muscle anabolic pathways, such as myostatin.
- Lactate raises systemic growth hormone, providing additional superstructure to tendons, ligaments, bone, and muscle.
- Growth hormone increase: as a huge direct benefit from the increased lactate, the pituitary gland upregulates the formation of endogenous growth hormone. Growth hormone is associated with bone, muscle, and other tissue growth and repair; increased fat mobilization and metabolism; blood sugar control; muscle protein synthesis; and immune function.
- Myogenic stem cells: IGF-1 induces hyperplasia through the fusion of satellite cells to muscle fibers, which is thought to play a role in the donation of additional myonuclei to a muscle cell. This is accompanied by substantial muscle contractile protein synthesis, increasing muscle size and strength.
- Slow-twitch muscle fibers are activated soon after modified blood flow begins.
- When venous blood flow is modified, oxygen runs short in the early stages of restriction and instantly fatigues type 1 muscle fibers. This modified blood flow mimics an anaerobic environment in the limbs, which is comparable to the effects of exercise at maximal intensity.
- Due to the lack of oxygen within the limb, type IIx muscle fibers are activated.
- This leads to simultaneous stress on both type I and type IIx.
- When all the multiple working muscles are fatigued in the early stages, lactic acid is produced in a large volume.
- Lactic acid stimulates receptors in the muscles that result in signals sent to the pituitary gland, resulting in the secretion of a significant amount of growth hormone.
- The buildup of waste products from energy production results in enhanced muscle growth and hormonal benefits, including elevated growth hormone levels.
- Growth hormone levels go up, which helps athletes recover faster between training sessions.
- The B Strong Training System is the safest and most effective BFR training method and has been shown not to occlude blood flow fully when used according to instructions.
From kids to pros, modern-day athletes are competing at extremely high levels while having to navigate the many challenges that confront them in today’s society. Sport participation has taken on a life of its own, making huge demands on its participants at younger and younger ages.
Long gone are the simple days of neighborhood pickup games with friends. Now, youth athletic activities are dominated by club teams and an obsession with optimizing college opportunities. Overstressed, overskilled kids are constantly pushed to handle extreme demands that today’s sports participation imposes.
As strength coaches and sports medicine providers, our task grows ever more daunting. Regardless, our goals will always remain the same: to maximize our athletes’ health and enhance their performance.
Fortunately, BFR Training and specifically the B Strong Training System provide invaluable tools to accomplish this. Whether for rehab, training, or recovery, B Strong brings amazing physiological benefits and should be part of every athlete’s arsenal.
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Eric’s career in Strength & Conditioning began in 2010 at the Riekes Center, after completion of his internship, and still in college Eric transitioned to a Strength & Conditioning Coach. At the Riekes Center, (Menlo Atherton, CA) Eric coached a great variety of athletes at all levels of competition ranging from youth, high school, college, professional, and Paralympic ranks.
In 2013, Eric began his tenure as a Head Athletic Performance Coach and facility manager with Revolution Athletic Performance and Sports Health Science in Alameda, CA. At Revolution Sports Eric coached Collegiate, NBA, and NFL athletes, he also lead many team-training programs for numerous high school football and volleyball teams. As part of his leadership with the high school programs, Eric and his staff provided professional style combines with conjunction with BAM (Basic Athletic Measurement) that provided athletic performance assessments and health screenings.