The efficacy of blood flow restricted exercise: A systematic review & meta-analysis

J Sci Med Sport. 2016 Aug;19(8):669-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2015.09.005. Epub 2015 Sep 28.


Objectives: To systematically search and assess studies that have combined blood flow restriction (BFR) with exercise, and to perform meta-analysis of the reported results to quantify the effectiveness of BFR exercise on muscle strength and hypertrophy.

Design: A systematic review.

Methods: A computer assisted database search was conducted for articles investigating the effect of exercise combined with BFR on muscle hypertrophy and strength. A total of 916 hits were screened in order based on title, abstract, and full article, resulting in 47 articles that fit the review criteria.

Results: A total of 400 participants were included from 19 different studies measuring muscle strength increases when exercise is combined with BFR. Exercise was separated into aerobic and resistance exercise. Resulting from BFR aerobic exercise, there was a mean strength improvement of 0.4Nm between the experimental group and control group, while BFR resistance exercise resulted in a mean improvement of 0.3kg. A total of 377 participants were included in 19 studies measuring muscle size increase (cross sectional area) when exercise was combined with BFR. The mean difference in muscle size between the experimental group and control group was 0.4cm(2).

Conclusion: Current evidence suggests that the addition of BFR to dynamic exercise training is effective for augmenting changes in both muscle strength and size. This effect was consistent for both resistance training and aerobically-based exercise, although the effect sizes varied. The magnitude of observed changes are noteworthy, particularly considering the relatively short duration of the average intervention.

Keywords: Ischemia; Kaatsu; Muscular hypertrophy; Muscular strength; Occlusion.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Hypertonia / physiopathology*
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology*
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Veins / physiology*