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‘BFR has now become far more straightforward’: How Championship side Swansea City are using BFR for recovery

The Championship is a notoriously tough league. With games coming thick and fast, and upsets aplenty, teams need to make sure that their players are up for the fight. We sat down with Swansea City’s Head of Performance Thomas Barnden to learn how he’s been using Hytro BFR with the first team.

Swansea City’s Head of Performance Thomas Barnden

“I first came across BFR around seven years ago,” explains Barnden. “I was working at Brighton and Hove Albion as Head of Sport Science and noticed that the medical staff were using BFR to rehab players. They saw its potential to increase strength capacity and hypertrophy, which are really valuable for players coming back from injury.” With BFR’s ability to artificially increase exercise intensity proving particularly helpful for injured players, it has traditionally been used as part of the rehabilitation process. Such a modality allows injured players to make gains without stressing their impacted areas, ultimately allowing them to return to full fitness quicker. 


However, Blood Flow Restriction is not just a rehabilitation tool. Increasingly it is being used in other areas, which is also the case at Swansea. “We’ve taken BFR from a rehab process to a performance process,” says Barnden. “We still use it for rehab, but primarily it’s now used to optimise performance and help recovery.” 


Given the quick turnaround between games, rapid recovery is essential for Championship clubs. With 46 league games across the season – and as many as seven games in a month – at times it can feel as if weeks are split solely between games and recovery. There can be little time spent honing techniques and tactics on the training ground. “There are two key cornerstones to our recovery process: sleep and nutrition,” adds Barnden. “After that, it’s about adding in the next steps of the recovery process. We’ve found that Hytro BFR has been well-received by the players. After a game we’ll split players into groups and get them to go between three recovery stations: at one station they’ll go for a massage, another is the pool and cold water immersion, while at the third station they wear the Hytro BFR Recovery Shorts for a bike flush. We do this to promote freshness and mitigate fatigue.” 


Athlete training on a bike wearing Hytro BFR shorts


Player buy-in is essential when it comes to new modalities. With discoveries in sport science, innovations, and emerging trends, some feel sceptical about deviating from their established routine. For such players, Barnden explains, it’s important to respect their individual wishes while also educating them on the benefits of any new modality. Fortunately for him, players have really taken to Hytro BFR. According to Barnden, there is a significant take-up of the shorts as a recovery modality. In contrast, he estimates that fewer players choose to go in the ice bath. “What Hytro BFR has done is make the whole process of BFR so straightforward,” he adds. “Prior to Hytro, BFR meant inflating a cuff or a pressure gauge and supervising athletes. However, the simple incorporation of the strap now means that players can do it independently. The players can take them home and wear them while relaxing or walking the dog. Not all of them have home gyms, so Hytro BFR has unlocked another area for them.” 


It isn’t just the ease of access that Barnden points to. “Not every recovery modality feels like it’s doing something in the body,” he says. “As practitioners, we know that modalities work. However, players like to feel the benefit and that’s something that Hytro BFR gives them. When they strap in, they get that feeling of being restricted. There’s the pulsing, and then when they unstrap there’s the flush. It’s a euphoric effect.”

Swansea offers Hytro BFR alongside other recovery modalities such as cold water immersion and aqua-jogging. They even have a cryotherapy chamber at the training ground, which Barnden states a significant number of the players use. The variety allows for effective recovery, which is particularly important in a season when the Swans are pushing for promotion.  


Hytro BFR Recovery Shorts


“For anyone looking to introduce BFR to their training programmes, I’d advise them to understand the reason behind investing in BFR, understand what they’re applying, what benefit they want from it, and how they’re going to achieve it,” concludes Barnden. “Is it for rehab or performance, for example? As a practitioner, I always look for evidence-based practice, research, and journal articles around a modality. Hytro ticked the box for all those, which demonstrated integrity. Their BFR wearables are very practical, easy-to-use, and have a relatively low cost.” 


At the time of writing this, Swansea are five points off the play-off spots, and preparing for the final push of a marathon Championship season. A full, fresh squad will be essential for helping them to take the next step. 


Read how other football clubs such as Everton and Aston Villa are using Hytro to help their players. 

Interested in finding out how Hytro BFR could work in your club? Book a demo via the button below now.


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