2023 World’s Strongest Man Mitchell Hooper has been using blood flow restriction training to give him an edge in strongman. On July 19, 2023, Hooper published a video on his YouTube channel about how blood flow restriction can lead to strength gains and which bands he uses. See the full video below:
What Is Blood Flow Restriction?
As Mitchell Hooper describes in the video, blood flow restriction is “restricting how much blood can get out,” clarifying the difference between that and “no blood out.” The latter would lead to the arm exploding.
Restricting the blood flow starves muscles of oxygen. By doing so, Hooper adapts “to improve capacity in the absence of oxygen,” increasing oxidative enzymes, pulling more oxygen from the bloodstream and into the muscle.
How Mitchell Hooper Uses Blood Flow Restriction
Hooper suggests using blood flow restrictions as a workout finisher so the body can adapt to oxygen enzyme upregulation for the next workout. Blood flow restriction, when done properly and safely, can be done for various muscle groups but is primarily used during arm training.
Per the Journal of Athletic Training, “Blood flow restriction ) training offers the ability to mitigate weakness and atrophy without overloading healing tissues. It appears to be a safe and effective approach to therapeutic exercise in sports medicine environments.” (1)
Hooper has a machine called The BFR Cuffs from Saga connected to his smartphone. Wrapping cuffs around his biceps restricts venous pressure, restricting blood flow (though still enough arterial pressure for blood to enter the muscle). As he showcases in the video, vascularity increases as soon as he starts doing weightless bicep curls with the cuff on.
Hooper warns not to use the cuffs when performing heavy sets of five reps or less. Heavy lifts won’t benefit from blood flow restriction and could be dangerous. He uses blow flow restriction at the end of his session for muscular endurance via high-volume accessory work.
“This is a way to handle more volume with lower neural fatigue,” says Hooper before his workout. “Something I would do in the offseason to build a little bit of muscular endurance and capacity or into a competition where we had high volumes of, say, an overhead press.”
Mitchell Hooper’s Blood Flow Restriction Workout
- Bench Press — 15 reps (50 pounds)
- Bicep Curls — 15 reps (25 pounds)
- Skull Crushers — 15 reps (25 pounds)
Hooper performed three rounds with 30-second rest between rounds. Without the blood flow restriction cuffs, Hooper says this short workout would feel like a walk in the park. However, the cuffs create a fatigue response, even though the weight is light.
As Hooper enters his second and third circuits, the difficulty becomes apparent. However, he never feels like he’s risking injury despite his arms fatiguing.
Hoope feels no pain in his triceps tendons during the skull crushers. Blood flow restriction can help pain management via sufficient stimuli at lower weights. Per the Journal of Applied Physiology, “High-pressure blood flow restriction causes a greater hypoalgesia (decreased sensitivity to painful stimuli) response in the exercising limb compared with light and heavy load resistance exercise.” (2)
Mitchell Hooper is a believer in blood flow restriction as a finisher for muscle adaptations with lighter-weight training. Given his competitive accolades, including his World’s Strongest Man title, lifting heavy isn’t always what the strongest in the world needs to gain strength.
Lorenz, D. S., Bailey, L., Wilk, K. E., Mangine, R. E., Head, P., Grindstaff, T. L., & Morrison, S. (2021). Blood Flow Restriction Training. Journal of athletic training, 56(9), 937–944. https://doi.org/10.4085/418-20
Hughes, L., & Patterson, S. D. (2020). The effect of blood flow restriction exercise on exercise-induced hypoalgesia and endogenous opioid and endocannabinoid mechanisms of pain modulation. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 128(4), 914–924. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00768.2019
Featured image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram