BFR: Muscle Mass is King


In the last article, we discussed what blood flow restriction, or BFR, actually involves, as well as touched on its safety.

Next, let’s look at skeletal muscle as well as atrophy so we can better understand why/when BFR could be useful.

Most people already know the role of skeletal muscles in movement. But what about skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ?


Here’s three points to consider:

1) skeletal muscle is the largest disposal site of blood glucose (which is that blood sugar that everyone is worrying about due to type II diabetes rates skyrocketing).

2) skeletal muscle helps with lipid oxidation, AKA breaking down or decreasing body fat.

3) skeletal muscle naturally increases resting metabolic rate (RMR). This means that increasing skeletal muscle mass directly correlates to amount of calories burned at rest (how’s that for a diet plan).

In summary, increasing skeletal muscle mass is key in not only building strength and resilience, but also in maintaining systemic wellness, which we are all about here at Refine PT and Performance.

But let’s talk about the opposite side of the spectrum. Atrophy. Atrophy is a loss or breakdown of skeletal muscle mass. This can be caused by multiple variables; however, we are going to focus on inactivity.


Here’s the hallmark response to inactivity:

1) Decreased quality and quantity of muscle mass. Research has shown that as little as 7 DAYS of bed rest could cause negative responses and jumpstart the atrophy process in muscle.

2) Impaired immune and cardiovascular function. The effects of inactivity are systemic.

3)There is preliminary evidence that fully resting tendons can actually have similar effects to overtraining tendons.

4) Decrease in insulin sensitivity. This creates increased blood glucose levels, which prompts further release of insulin, causing decreased insulin receptor sensitivity and further resistance- insert downhill spiral- with the collision course set for type 2 diabetes.

With that being said, is everyone who has to spend 7 days in a hospital bed destined for diabetes and a lifetime of weakness?

Absolutely not.

But I will warn that prolonged periods of bed rest significantly increase that risk (specifically in the aging population). The great news is that our bodies were created to be resilient, and with proper application of movement and exercise, we will generally respond very well! The key thing to note here is how paramount physical activity and skeletal muscle health are!

After surgery or with inactivity due to pain, atrophy is often seen. One of the best ways to combat this is, in order to keep muscle size, is with the use of BFR. A bigger muscle doesn’t necessarily mean a stronger muscle, but a bigger muscle does allow for more potential to be a stronger muscle.

So, now that we’ve covered the basics, as well as the importance of physical activity in strength development and prevention of atrophy, our next post will cover applications of blood flow restriction.

Stay tuned for more in this series in the coming days! If you’d like to find out more, or think you could potentially benefit from one-on-one physical therapy in the Daphne area, please don’t hesitate to contact us.



Tyler Vaughn


Owner Pathology Apparel

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