What is Occlusion training and what is it good for?

What is Occlusion training?

Occlusion Training is a form of strength training in Occlusion trainingwhich the blood flow to and from the active muscles is decreased by a tight tourniquet. The decreased blood flow causes the exercised muscles to exhaust themselves much more quickly which causes a stronger training stimulus to these muscles than without this band. This form of training has been developed by the Japanese Yoshiaki Sato in 1966 and is also known as KAATSU training or Blood Flow Restriction Training.

Advantages and disadvantages

As a result of the decreased blood flow the muscles receive a much stronger training stimulus compared with regular resistance training at the same relative intensity. Even when training at very low intenstity (20% 1RM) can cause strong increases in strength and muscle size in beginners. These results are comparable to the results when training at 70% 1RM. When high training intensities are not possible, Occlusion Training can provide similar training results as regular resistance exercise. Until now however, no studies have been performed which compared Occlusion training directly with regular resistance training.

A large disadvantage of Occlusion Training is that not all muscle groups can be trained using this method. A tourniquet is needed to decrease blood flow, which can only be applied on the arms and legs. This limits the use of Occlusion Training for athletes training for a specific sport, but makes it quite suitable for body builders and fitness athletes seeking to improve their physique.

Another drawback is the possible risks involved with restricting blood flow. The increased pressure in the veins can make them expand greatly and damage the valves within. There is also risk of developing a blood clot which can block a blood vessel and cause a pulmonary embolism. (Sat himself was admitted in a hospital for a pulmonary embolism as a result of Occlusion Training). However a study to the appearance of blood clots during Occlusion Training did not find an increased risk and other studies did not report any significant negative effects. Blood pressure does increase more than during regular resistance training, which makes it unsuitable for patients suffering from high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases.

For who?

Although not much research has been performed Occlusion Training seems primarily suitable for healthy people seeking to improve the strength and size of their arm and leg muscles. For these pruposes Occlusion Training might be an effective alternative training method. People suffering from cardiovascular disease are advised to perform regular strength training and avoid this form of training.


For hypertrophy: Occlusion Training by performing isolation exercises for the arms (biceps, triceps and lower arm muscles) and legs (quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles) at 20-50% of 1RM and a tourniquet that restricts blood flow instead of training at 70-90% 1RM. Train 2-3 times a week and perform 3-4 sets of 60-70 repetitions with 30 seconds of rest in between sets. Make sure blood flow restriction is not maintained too long to minimize risks (15-20 minutes at maximum).

See also:

-Split training or full body workout?


-Sato, Y. The History and future of KAATSU training. International Journal of KAATSU Training Research 2005, 1, 1-5

-Lowery, R.P. et al. Practical blood flow restriction training increases muscle hypertrophy during a periodized resistance training programme. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, 2013 E-pub in press.

-Loenneke, J.P. Low intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2012, 112, 1849-1859.

-Fujita, S. et al. Increased muscle volume and strength following six days of low-intensity resistance training with restricted muscle blood flow. International Journal of KAATSU Training Research, 2008, 4, 1-8.

-Loenneke, J.P. et al. Potential safety issues with blood flow restriction training. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 2011, 21, 510-518.