I may have read that wrong, but it sounds like you’re doing the whole workout twice for 150 reps total for each arm? Just do 30/15/15/15 one time for each arm.
You’ve done BFR enough times that you shouldn’t need to worry about DOMS. You can start taking the last set to failure. It sounds like you’re not using nearly enough weight. If you’re doing 150 reps per arm, double the weight, and take the last set to total failure. 30/15/15/15 is really just a guideline to give a rough idea of where the rep range should fall. If 16lbs is not enough weight to make you fail by the 15th rep on the last set, add more weight next time.
Not to worry, when you go to failure you’ll feel it distinctly. It’s unmistakable…
Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve been doing the whole 30/15/15/15 routine (=75 total reps with 30" rest in between each grouping) twice (which equals 150 combined reps)… largely because one set didn’t feel like enough.
You’re right … this has probably been a bit silly, indicating I need to “up my game” in an other way somewhere in the mix.
Oh, I’m quite familiar with failure … including in my resistance training
But doubling the weight to 16 lbs would equate to roughly 50% of my current 1RM. Most of the studies I’ve read covered BFR applied at loads of roughly 20%-30% (and as much as 40%) of 1RM during occlusion. So I’d feel a bit squishy going much beyond 30-40% just yet. Having said that, at my current 8 lbs (just under 30% of 30 lbs 1RM), I don’t have much headroom left, since 40% would be 12 lbs.
Maybe I’m just being too much of a wuss in terms of occlusion pressure?
My 2 cents is that for best results, you probably need to raise your occlusion pressure or raise your weight.
Here is an interesting article comparing the results of resistance training given varied occlusion pressures and weights (as a % of 1 rep max). BFR worked at 20% 1RM assuming you have 80% occlusion pressure. Even then, the hypertrophy is barely half that obtained with higher weights. Also, at 80% of arterial occlusion pressure, you’re flying very, very close the sun. You shouldn’t even attempt it without a doppler ultrasound to measure arterial occlusion pressure for each individual limb.
If you can’t safely do higher pressures, then you need to use higher weights. There appears to be an inverse relationship between occlusion pressure and the % 1 Rep Max necessary to get hypertrophy. If you want to work with 20% 1RM, you need to use 80% occlusion pressure. If you want to use 40% occlusion pressure, you need to use 40% of your 1 Rep Max.
The table below is showing results in the form 1 Rep Max % / Occlusion Pressure %. CSA stands for cross-sectional area (muscle size increase).
@Don_Q Thanks for the additional info. Well, you’re definitely on to something (!)…
Today I upped my bicep curl weight to 9 lbs, wrapped up those arms pretty well (those veins-were-a-'popping) and did 30/15/15… and then 100, trying to reach failure. It never came. After 100, I finally gave up; same experience with each arm. Never even felt much “burn” (if any).
Seems I really do need to keep increasing the weight further. Or maybe I’m just not getting good occlusion.
Go figure… if you saw me, endurance would not be the first thought that would come to mind
Palm refill runs around 2 seconds, maybe a tad faster. I keep cinching the ends of the straps to see if I can make it any tighter while continuing to ensure the capillaries don’t stop responding. Meanwhile, my veins are popping way more than usual - and the notable finger/hand coldness suggests circulation is being subdued. Not eager to push this envelope any further.
As for timing, I’ve been using an Android app I’ve carefully programmed (“Tabata Timer”) as follows:
Reps are set to one round-trip in 2 seconds (30 beats per minute) and rest periods between each set (e.g., 30, 15, etc.) are timed at 30 seconds each. Given the lack of burn, perhaps I might cut back to 15" or 20" rests, at least until I get this weight thing straightened out. (Then again, why bother? … I don’t think I’m resting so long to make that much of a difference.)
As for the strength growth curve, yeah, I guess it’s interesting compared to the experience others have reported. A 15 lb dumbbell weight would represent 50% of my 1RM (30lbs), so that’s where I’m likely heading. But perhaps I’ll try an interim 11-12 lbs first, just to see whether it’s enough to make a meaningful difference in things. I’d rather walk than sprint my way through this.
Clearly, there’s some weight at which I will fail Can’t wait to (slowly) find it. Meanwhile, thanks again for your wise counsel!
It could be a type 1 vs type 2 muscle fiber dominance thing. It varies a lot between people. Or it could be a training experience thing. My 1RM is also aroud 30, but 10lbs gets me to failure no problem in 30/15/15/15.
Well, another day here and another round of BFR/preacher dumbbell curls. This time I increased to 10lbs. Put the elastic band on nice and snug. Checked for roughly 2 second capillary refresh. Hands got nice and cold as usual.
30/15/15/50… stopped at 50 (not failure) as it seemed silly to continue.
Will increase weight once again next time. Baby steps.
Keep an eye on this. I know you (@SomeGuy) probably know all this stuff, but it’s cheap for me to say it and the next reader coming along might find it useful.
A little cold is fine, frigid might mean it’s time to back off on the occlusion a tad. Occlusion duration is important to consider as well, if your hands are “cold” after a 2 minute set of preacher curls, it’s different than if it’s after a full 20 minutes of a variety of exercises. If “cold” turns turns the corner to “tingling” at any point, then it’s automatic readjustment time and a good time to break out the sharpie for a “do no cross” mark on your band…
This seems like a totally reasonable approach to me. Me, I’m in the windmill tilting business… my default speed is “Charge!!!”. During my first foray into BFR that bought me a big ol’ dose of the DOMs that had me side-lined for 5 days. In your case, you’re going to sneak up on the right weight within 5 days, and be in exactly the same spot in the same amount of time with no soreness involved. Seems smart to me!
Just some random thoughts addressed to no one in particular. Probably mostly a reminder to myself…
We often have a preoccupation with “optimal” and “efficient”. The reality is that the three most important questions in any of this stuff is:
What is effective?
What is safe?
What is sustainable for 25 more years?
Everything else is window dressing.
Henry David Thoreau once said “For every thousand men hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one man quitely chopping at the root”.
If you pick the right tree, and you find the roots, whether or not your “chopping” with the perfect axe, or with perfect swinging technique isn’t terribly important.
For me, BBS, BFR, and keto seem like pretty good tools that satisfy the 3 questions above, and are effective in building or maintain lean mass in order to set of that metabolic and hormonal cascade that Dr. McGuff has so eloquently summarized in his “area under the curve” lecture (it’s on YouTube y’all, go watch it if you haven’t… )
Yes indeed. I’m all over this concern - which is why I’m probably under-doing the occlusion thing rather than over-doing it. Perhaps that’s why I arrived at 40% of my 1RM and have yet to find the edge of failure for reps.
But your idea of laying this out clearly for others who follow in these (admittedly perverse) footsteps is generous and wise.
@Don_Q I’m still trying to figure out what hits all three factors…Keto is the answer to all three questions, the rest is tweaking. I eat once a day, I don’t have carb crashed during the day…a much more productive day than pre-keto. I’m histamine intolerant, I keep digging into all these rabbit holes of nutrition and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by science lately. I will do my regular keto diet (I haven’t had any nuts in 5 days, yeey!!) until the end of February, followed by “fire in a bottle” March, April and May.
I’ve been amazed by BFR and I’m looking forward to BBS in March, I am finally learning not to punish myself with exercise. There is no benefit to over-exercising, especially stupidly…
I decided to go back to uni in September, so keto and BBS/BFR will be the perfect complement.
Brief update: Today I tried one-armed preacher dumbbell curls with BFR bands using 11.5 lbs weight.
Performed 30/15/15/50 reps (with 30 second interim rests)… and then quit at 50 reps in the final segment without reaching any meaningful discomfort in either arm. (A teeny bit more effort during the final 50 reps, but nothing significant.)
In short: I continue to crawl along this gentle path, trying to discover the weight where - in conjunction with BFR - it begins to take me closer to failure.
Which raises the question: Is muscle failure really necessary?
Necessary, probably not, but it is optimal for strength and hypertrophy gains. It may be helpful to think about what we are actually doing:
Exercise obviously has many metabolic effects, but essentially you are showing your body that it is not currently capable of doing something (especially true if you go to failure or near it.) In response, the body adapts - it increases muscle protein synthesis, adds mitochondria, adds myonuclei, etc. Studies with heavy load, show that the response to stopping far short of failure is significantly less than going to failure. However, going to failure creates significant stress and fatigue, which can prolong recovery or lead to injuries.
That’s where, I think, high intensity resistance training and BFR have an advantage. You can take these to failure without the same amount of muscle damage as heavy load, particularly BFR. Both HIRT and BFR also increase muscle fiber recruitment - as you fatigue the muscle it will continue to recruit more fibers to accomplish the work. At the point of failure, all of the fibers have been recruited and fatigued. This is safer to do with HIRT and BFR than most heavy load styles.
While I’m pretty sure the above is true, it’s more the framework I use to think about things - we do things to our body to elicit an adaptive response.
BFR today. B Strong recommendation is 3 sets 30-30-30 with 30 seconds rest between. Asked why not 30-15-15-15, which is what most literature has, and they said it’s easier to remember and shouldn’t matter if going to failure (failure would be about 30-27-24 or so)
That’s an odd recommendation for them to make, and an even stranger justification. It’s contrary to pretty much all the literature I’ve read as well. That said, to the extent that BFR causes hypertrophy due to metabolic stress rather than mechanical tension or muscle damage, even lying on a hammock with while occluded with BFR bands will cause some small degree of hypertrophy though perhaps barely measurable. We know from the research that even walking will cause hypertrophy to measurable though small extent. The other end of that continuum is muscle failure. Depending on your goals, any of these strategies are perfectly reasonable.
Given that there seems to be a inverse relationship between % of 1RM and occlusion pressure with respect to resultant hypertrophy, it makes sense to me to use somewhere between 20% to 40% of 1RM and 40%-80% of arterial occlusion pressure. The rep scheme of 30/15/15/15 is the most widely cited in the literature. The second most frequent scheme is to perform the 3-5 sets to concentric muscle failure. My BBS workouts have demonstrated the value of failure training to me, so it seems like the best of both worlds is to take a 30/15/15/15 set scheme and take it muscle failure. The key reason for this is that I don’t believe it’s possible to do 40% of 1 rep max for 30/30/30, but 30/15/15/15 seems achievable. Just one man’s opinion obviously.
The most comprehensive meta-analysis performed to date, published in October of 2019 is entitled “Blood Flow Restriction Exercise: Considerations of Methodology, Application, and Safety” and was published in the journal “Frontiers in Physiology”. The purpose of the article is not merely an academic overview of the topic, but rather as a guide to implementing BFR training best practices into a clinical setting in the safest, most efficacious way reinforced by the research and science published to date. It’s 20 pages long, so I’ll just paste the relevant section on set structure and recommended % of 1 rep max. I’ve linked the full article below; it’s well worth reading in it’s entirety.
Exercise Load, Volume, Rest Periods, Duration, and Frequency
The pressure applied during exercise may also be dictated to some degree by the relative load lifted during resistance exercise. For the majority of individuals exercising with loads corresponding to 20–40% of an individual’s maximum strength level (e.g., 1-RM) will likely maximize muscle growth and strength (Lixandrao et al., 2015; Counts et al., 2016). When loads used are at the bottom end of this recommendation (e.g., ∼20% of 1-RM), a higher pressure (∼80% AOP) may be required necessary to elicit muscle growth (Lixandrao et al., 2015), however, further study is warranted to confirm this. The majority of studies have investigated the elbow flexors and knee extensors and it is unknown whether different muscle groups require different pressure recommendations. For example, it has been suggested that targeting muscle groups proximal to the cuff may require a higher applied pressure for maximal adaptation (Dankel et al., 2016). In conclusion, we suggest that exercise loads between 20 and 40% 1RM be used because this range of loads has consistently produced muscle adaptations when combined with BFR.
Inter-set rest periods used during BFR-RE are generally short and typically the restriction is maintained throughout this period. For example, Loenneke et al. (2012d) conducted a meta-analysis that demonstrated strength adaptations with both 30 and 60 s inter-set rest periods. Some acute research has used rest periods as long as 150 s (Loenneke et al., 2010), but this was not found to increase metabolic stress any more than LL-RE, and thus may not provide training benefits. However, rest periods of both 30 s (Yasuda et al., 2010a,2015b; Loenneke et al., 2011a) and 30–60 s (Madarame et al., 2010;Patterson and Ferguson, 2010, 2011; Yasuda et al., 2015b; Loenneke et al., 2016; Ladlow et al., 2018) are common within the BFR literature, which reflects the recommendations for achieving skeletal muscle hypertrophy (Kraemer and Ratamess, 2004). On occasions it is not always required to maintain pressure during rest periods. For example, Yasuda et al. (2013) demonstrated similar muscle activation with both continuous and intermittent pressure during rest periods, but only when a high cuff pressure was applied. Overall we recommend rest periods should constitute 30–60 s, however, intermittent BFR may reduce swelling/metabolic stress compared with continuous, which could limit the stress for adaptation.