What is Occlusion Training?
If you’ve been around for a while in the fitness world, you may or may not have heard or seen this type of training called occlusion training. It’s a type of training that is becoming more popular in my gym and once in a while, I’ll see some guys doing it on arms day. What is occlusion training?
Well to start off, occlusion training is a type of training that helps to increase the size of a muscle by lifting lighter weights. Some guys also perform this training to increase vascularity in their arms. This sounds awesome right?
How it works:
Occlusion training is a totally different style of training that is usually targets arms or legs exercises only. It involves performing the exercises that you normally do, with weight that is that is about half of what you would normally lift for the exercise. Seems pretty normal right?
Well that’s not all. With occlusion training, you restrict the blood flow either the arms (when you are training them), or legs (when you are training them) by either using leg wraps or arm wraps. Occlusion training is mostly commonly performed for arms though, not many people use it for leg training. If you’ve ever been in the gym and seen guys with wraps around their upper biceps while doing curls, chances are they were performing occlusion training. Either that or they are injured. One or the other.
Like stated before, unlike traditional workouts where you should lift moderate to heavy weights to stimulate muscle fiber growth, with occlusion training, you are lifting only about 20-30% of your one rep max and you are performing very high reps to increase the volume of the muscle by increasing blood and cellular fluid. Read my two types of muscle article for more information.
***Before you do this type of training, please note that you SHOULD NOT perform this type of training for more than 10 minutes max. This type of training should be quick and short. DO NOT have your arms or legs restricting blood flow for the whole entire workout or you will risk destroying muscle tissue and causing either injury or damage to yourself.***
With that said, if performed correctly, occlusion training is 100% safe.
How should the workout be structured?
Occlusion training is typically performed at the end of your arms or legs workout for two or three sets. You should also not have the leg or arm wrap too tightly wrapped. You want to restrict blood flow, not stop it completely!
The most common way to do occlusion training is to grab 20-30% of your one rep max and perform 3 sets with 15-20 reps each, with 30 seconds rest intervals in between. If you have restricted blood flow properly, the first few reps should be fairly easy, every single rep after that, you will be using every ounce of strength you have to lift the weight. This is because your muscle fibers are fatigued by the lack of oxygen. Also, you might feel a sharp pain in your arms and want to remove the wrap after every single set. You must not remove the wrap until after your sets are finished, but take caution to what your body is telling you. If you are too uncomfortable, stop immediately.
I’ve tried occlusion training about 3 times and in my experience with this type of training, it is very effective in increasing vascularity of the arms. I notice a crazy arm pump and popping veins even 2 hours after my workout. I’ve also noticed that performing the exercises with restricted blood flow is actually quite taxing on the body and I don’t recommend that you go too heavy.