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How Recovery BFR is helping Aston Villa with their busiest season ever

Head of Fitness and Conditioning, Jordan Milsom, discusses how Aston Villa Football Club use Hytro BFR as part of their training programme.

Aston Villa Training Centre

With the Qatar World Cup on the horizon, elite football teams are set for their most disrupted season yet. Domestic games are scheduled to come thick and fast with plenty of Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday turnarounds to make space in the calendar for the mid-season World Cup, which begins in November. To ensure that players can perform at their best without suffering burnout or overuse, recovery protocols are critical to success.

 

We caught up with Jordan Milsom, Head of Fitness and Conditioning at Premier League side Aston Villa, to hear how he’s helping to maximise squad availability for manager Steven Gerrard.

 

Jordan Milsom the Head of Fitness & Conditioning of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion at Villa Park on November 20, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)

 

“In a football team you’ve got twenty individuals, many of whom have different cultural beliefs when it comes to recovery,” said Milsom. “What one person believes works for them may not work for another. We have to respect that, so rather than have one blanket recovery method for the entire squad, we try to understand the individuals, their beliefs and then accommodate them through a range of recovery protocols. One of those protocols is Blood Flow Restriction. We utilise Hytro to accelerate players back to homeostasis as quickly as possible.”

 

As the elite game increases in intensity, with greater sprints per game and distance covered, it is vital that players are ready to train to their maximum and play to their maximum.

 

“Everything we do should be geared toward making the player better,” Milsom adds. “That’s how we sell in the use of BFR to them. If they strap in, they will recover quicker. Some players are inquisitive and want to know more, while others simply do as you tell them. We make sure that BFR is done at the right moments in the week, at the right intensity and with the right volume.

 

 

“There are different ways that we implement BFR at Aston Villa. Passive BFR is used for rehabilitation and recovery. After players have trained or played they’re often sitting on a coach scrolling through their phone or eating their lunch. In those moments where they’re not doing a lot, we encourage them to put on Hytro BFR wearables for just ten minutes so that they can return to their baseline quicker. Some players also like to use BFR for pre-activation work. Strapping in before the main session allows them to receive a stimulus which produces a pump, making them feel more ready for training.”

 

Milsom has found that players have bought in to using Hytro BFR as part of their recovery protocol. The ease of use enables them to apply Blood Flow Restriction themselves, while the speed of the strap system means that BFR can seamlessly slot into players’ busy schedules. “The cleanness of it, the fact that they can see the effects of the strap and know that it’s working, that’s the benefit. We’re operating in an environment where players don’t want to do too much with anything that they consider to be a bit of a faff. We don’t want to impose on them too much, meaning that Hytro BFR is ideal. Players prefer being able to loosen and fasten the straps of the Hytro BFR wearables themselves, rather than having to wait for cuffs to inflate and then adjust the setting.”

 

Milsom points to Villa players who suffer from tendinopathy – any tendon condition that causes pain and swelling – that have particularly benefited from BFR. They have reported a lowering of pain response in training and post-training after using BFR. “For those who have seen the benefit, BFR has become part of their daily practice. However, there’s no one sole modality when it comes to recovery. We give our players lots of options – including BFR – and see what they like.”

 

As awareness of BFR and its benefits grows, an increasing number of football clubs are seeking to utilise it in their day-to-day plans. “Timing of its introduction is really important,” Milsom says. “For any player or club seeking to use BFR, start with a sensible approach and utilise it at the right moments. You can begin at the lower end of limb occlusion pressures. Use it for pre-training support and factor in weekly periodisation. Understand that with BFR you can work with a lower load and still get a decent stimulus, which can allow you to do more. It’s all about using intuition, being sensible, and then building up to higher pressures and loads when needed.”

 

 

Milsom sees the embrace of BFR as just one area where football conditioning is sophisticating. “A personalised approach will become increasingly important,” he suggests. “Players will need to be educated. Today’s players are far more inquisitive than those in the past. They want to know why they do certain things, they tend to be more open to new concepts. That understanding is growing, but there are still so many more basics that we can do better: understanding how players sleep, for example, along with their general wellness. There’s also a move toward water immersion, along with the molecular response to heat. Once we build out that knowledge of our individual players we can create player profiles and tailor specific interventions to them linked to their muscular profiles, allowing us to impact positively upon them.”

 

With sixteen rounds of Premier League fixtures between August 7 and November 12, in addition to cup commitments, the first half of Aston Villa’s season will rely on effective recovery to charge on-pitch success. The work of Jordan Milsom and his team could be critical as Aston Villa aim to surpass last season’s fourteenth-placed finish.

 

Explore Recovery BFR further in our journal.

Read the journal

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