I looked at Blood Flow Restriction training, the science and the history behind it and how the new SAGA cuffs can bring BFR training into your own home in my Part 1 article; but what has my experience of the SAGA BFR cuffs been like? I have been using the SAGA BFR cuffs for 6 weeks and I stuck to a training regime that looked something like this:
Training 4 days a week- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with weight training in the morning and a short Tabata session early evening all using the BFR cuffs. Mondays and Thursday I worked on a mixture of back, chest, arms with some core work too, Tuesdays and Fridays I hit the legs and shoulders with a little more core work. The evening Tabata session hit the same muscles as the morning to give them a slightly different stimulus.
Each exercise had 4 sets with reps as recommended by SAGA fitness: 30/15/15/15 with a 1-2 second tempo on each eccentric and concentric movement, ideally with the last set just reaching failure; all with 30 seconds rest between each set. This resulted in each exercise lasting 4-6 minutes with a deflation pause in between each exercise as required. With weights I started with 30% of my one rep max weight and moved up 1-2kg each session. Note, the SAGA cuffs have to be worn in the correct position, at the top of the arms where the Deltoids – shoulder muscles insert next to the Biceps and Triceps and with the legs at the top of the thigh. Avoid loose clothing which can crease causing painful ruts or they can slip causing the cuffs to move, so bare skin or tight clothing works best, so get yourself some Spidey tights!
Initially I went berserk and tried every exercise under the sun with the SAGA cuffs, but it soon became clear that it worked best on the muscles directly under the cuff or secondary muscles connected to the key muscles under the cuffs, like the Deltoid (Shoulders), Pectorals (Chest) or Glutes (The Butt), this is called ‘Proximal Hypertrophy’ which is caused through fatigue of the surrounding muscles. So I found with ‘pull-ups’ or ‘Lat pull downs’, my arms tired out before the back muscles really kicked in, so on certain exercises I went back to ‘Free Blood Flow’ training without the cuffs. I discovered the cuffs had taught me to push harder and to embrace the discomfort and really hit the back muscles more than before. So my sessions evolved to consist of various ‘Free Flow’ heavy weight exercises and other light weight exercises with the BFR cuffs to get the maximum out of each session. Single joint exercise like bicep curls suit the BFR cuffs really well and often better than some of the bigger ‘multi joint/muscle’ exercises, where certain muscles can fatigue before other muscles required in the movement creating an imbalance, however it has been shown that multi joint exercises result in more cardio with a larger muscle mass recruited and a larger body response. Using SAGA cuffs also means that one does not need a huge amount of heavy weights and equipment to achieve great results, perfect for the ‘Home Gym’.
The SAGA BFR cuffs certainly are a great tool to help get the best out of every session and they have taught me what I should be feeling on every exercise whether wearing BFR cuffs or not. The feeling in the muscles can be intense and sometimes painful, but in a good way… honest! The discomfort and muscle burn seems to get easier and easier and acts as a sign of whether I am hitting the exercise hard enough to engage the ‘Fast Twitch’ Type 2 muscles fibres and on my way to growing up to be like The Hulk! If you want results be prepared to work for them… no pain, no gain as they say. However, did my body respond to the BFR training? Well, my stats looked something like this:
From dates 11th January through to February 19th 2021 – covering 6 weeks
- Muscle measurements taken from Upper limbs (Biceps,Triceps), Lower Limbs (Quads, Hamstrings etc) and general Body/Chest area averaged at a 3.2 % increase overall.
- Weights increased for each exercise. Average increase of 33% (53% being the maximum).
- With some exercises, I had to start with just body weight and then eventually as strength increased I could add weights.
Numbers only provide half the story though, the mirror provides everything else you need. Of course 6 weeks is not a great deal of time for serious muscle growth, but I can certainly see things changing and I feel stronger; hopefully it is not all just in my head but it looks like there has been a little growth overall and not in the wrong places due to eating too many pies. I have always struggled building muscles in my legs, due to injury each time I push them and long limbs need a lot of muscle to appear, well muscular… but I am starting to see the various muscles of the Quadriceps Femoris take shape and stand out separately; it is still early days but I am excited to see where I can take this. As for the upper body, it is always easier to see what is directly in front of you and the first thing I noticed was my biceps and triceps started to achieve more growth with further definition. I feel like my whole upper body has bulked up a little too. Overall I am super impressed with what the SAGA BFR cuffs have done for me. They have created growth and tone in the muscles, especially in areas that I felt were previously plateauing, however SAGA has unexpectedly taught me an important mental lesson concerning weight training; tuning my mind in to the feeling of when Type 2 muscle fibres are engaged, what true ‘Pump’ feels like and how to take the mind through this feeling, embracing the pain and using willpower to push through to the end of the exercises and ultimately achieve those Avenger Demi-God like goals!!!
Well, I am super impressed with the SAGA BFR cuffs. They have taught me a lot and the cuffs have become a very important and one of my favourite tools in my quiver. I look forward to experimenting further with other exercises; early experiments with the punch bag, skipping rope and battle ropes have certainly been positive and exhausting.
To finish, I leave you with some rather apt wise words from Arnold Schwarzenegger:
‘Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength’
For more information on SAGA and their BF Cuffs see online.
If you love the science behind training and are a bit of a self confessed training geek it would be worth signing up for the online course Education BFR to understand more about BFR training. The course is 4 hours in length spread over several modules, although aimed at health and performance professionals, I found it fascinating and took a lot away with me that I can use in my training.