KAATSU is coming!

KAATSU is the Japanese name for an already known principle, that however has escaped the attention of most people. Other names for KAATSU are:
–    blood flow restricted exercise
–    ischaemic training
–    occlusion training
–    remote ischaemic preconditioning (mainly used before cardiac surgery)

KAATSU was accidentally discovered by Y. Sato in 1966 when he was attending a Buddhist memorial and had to sit down in an awkward position for a long time, so his legs started to hurt. When recovered from  sitting in this awkward position, he discovered he had a lasting swelling of his legs  – the result of a restricted blood flow in his legs. Sato started to apply the principle of blood flow restriction (BFR) in his fitness training and as a body builder. After years of experimentation with the right level of pressure and the right methodology KAATSU became available for the general public in Japan in 1983.
Lots of research has been done, mainly in Japan and published in Japanese, but the effects of restricted blood flow now are also being researched in the West. Of course, in the past, research has been done on restricted blood flow, but mainly on animals and related to pathology, not in relation to a positive training effect.

We all know and read about athletes trying to get some performance gain from using PED’s, like GH or GH releasers, while if that is what they want, the use of BFR might be a much more effective measure.

KAATSU, designed as small bands around the limbs with adjustable pressure, can easily be worn while exercising.
Training characteristics:
–    cuff width: 5-6 cm for the lower body and 3-4 cm for the upper body
–    restriction, continuous during the exercise
–    pressure: 160-240 mm Hg for the lower body (100-160 mm will do for most athletes)
–    training intensity: 20% of 1 RM only (low intensity)
–    3-5 sets to fatigue with short rest
–    BFR frequency dependent of athlete, level and goal, from twice a week to twice a day.
–    another option is using BFR while walking.

Main effects of  BFR compared to exercise without BFR:
–    increase in lactate
–    increased growth hormone output
–    increased IGF-1
–    decrease in myostatin
–    increase in EMG
–    increase in all strength parameters
–    increase in muscle size (hypertrophy)
–    shift in muscle fiber composition (from ST to FT)
–    no change in biomarkers for muscle damage like CK

So here it is: KAATSU or  BFR-training:
It’s easy , it’s cheap, it’s fast, it works, it’s legal and doesn’t harm the athlete.

Some bibliography:

  • Hausenloy, D.J; Yellon, D.M: Remote ischaemic preconditioning: underlying mechanisms and clinical application; Cardiovascular Research, Vol.79, 2008, pg.377-386.
  • Wernbom, M;  Augustsson, J; Raastad, T: Ischemic strength training: a low-load alternative to heavy resistance exercise?; Scan.J.Med.Sci.Sports; Vol.18, 2008, pg.401-416.
  • de Groot, P.C.E; Thijssen, D.H.J;  Sanchez, M; Ellenkamp, R; Hopman M.T.E: Ischemic preconditioning improves maximal performance in humans; Eur. J Appl.Physiol. Vol.108, 2010, pg. 141-146.
  • Reeves, G.V; Kraemer, R.R; Hollander, D.B; Clavier, J; Thomas, C; Francois, M; Castracane,  V.D: Comparison of hormone responses following light resistance exercise with partial vascular occlusion and moderately difficult resistance exercise without occlusion; J.Appl.Physiol.Vol.101, 2006, pg 1616-1622.



    1. Hello Heth, as far as I know this method was not used in sprints and I can see why, first of all the exposure time in sprinting is just a few seconds, secondly, sprints in itself is already an anaerobic stimulus for the muscle in itself, third: the equipment will probably limit the range of motion while sprinting and for last: the vigorous contractions of e.g. the thigh muscles will lead to an fast alternation of expansion and a decrease in muscle circumference leading to change in pressure on the muscles. But why not give it a try and give us your feedback? Best regards, Henk

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