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How elite sport is using Hytro to maximise performance

Elite sport is embracing the advantages provided by Hytro BFR and using it in a variety of ways to maximise recovery and performance across a range of sports.

Blackburn Rovers player's recover using Hytro BFR

Elite sport is constantly innovating for the latest advantage, looking for any way to get a marginal gain. Adding that extra 1% to a performance can prove decisive in the fine line between victory and defeat, between good and great. With Hytro, more and more coaches and athletes believe they’ve found the tool that can give them the edge throughout a season.

 

Until recently, Blood Flow Restriction’s (BFR) use in elite sport was largely confined to rehabilitation work. The technology was expensive, cumbersome and complex, while devices had to be operated with supervision on a one-to-one basis. This meant that entire squads could not easily use BFR, and when they did, it impacted upon their normal training programme.

 

However, with the innovation of Hytro BFR wearables, athletes are able to strap in with ease. There is no supervision required, meaning entire squads can safely apply BFR at the same time, in the same session (Dhokia et.al, 2022). Such simple mechanics make BFR training more accessible as there is no need for athletes to make any changes to their current training program, instead, they’re enhancing what they’re already doing simply by strapping in. As a result, teams such as Blackburn Rovers, St Helen’s and Alpine Academy are increasingly integrating BFR into their training programmes.

 

From football to rugby, baseball to boxing, elite sportspeople are using Hytro to great effect. They’re doing so in four particular areas to maximise performance: preparation, recovery, strength and endurance.

Preparation

For any elite athlete, efficiently preparing the body for exercise is imperative to build a robust athlete, to optimise movement quality, and ultimately support performance gains. Usually, this takes the form of mobility work, and when performed in tandem with BFR, it is known as ischemic pre-conditioning. Such work warms up the structural tissues and muscles ready for exercise, while significantly reducing joint pain and improving the quality of movement when exercising.

 

Adding BFR to an athlete’s mobility will multiply its effectiveness, improving the elasticity of tendons and preparing muscles to exercise by driving in nutrient rich blood. A secondary but extremely important effect of performing mobility with BFR is a reduction in joint pain. It’s for exactly this reason that Blackburn Rovers FC have incorporated Hytro BFR into their regular mobility work. By increasing the preparedness of their athletes to begin training, they are able to train at higher intensities, with better movement quality, and with better outcomes.

 

Blackburn Rovers player's recover using Hytro BFR

 

Recovery

Athletes are also strapping in to aid their recovery. There are three important physiological benefits associated with Recovery BFR:

 

1 – Recovery hormones. When the BFR straps are applied, blood begins to pool in the muscles causing them to swell and become stressed. This triggers the body to produce recovery hormones in the muscle, and when the straps are released, these hormones flood the whole body providing a systemic impact. Every muscle, organ, or structure in the body with a blood supply will receive and benefit from these recovery hormones.

 

2 – Flushing. When the BFR straps are removed after a period of application, the build-up of pressure in the limbs is released causing a powerful flush that removes waste materials from the joints and muscles. This process is immediate and would typically take the body 48 hours or more to achieve unassisted.

 

3 – Re-perfusion. When the BFR straps are removed, fresh nutrient rich blood is driven into the muscles and structural tissues, helping them recover in a process called re-perfusion.

 

Hastings is one such athlete benefiting from Hytro BFR wearables. He experiences a lot of kicking load in his training programme, which has an accumulative effect straining his hips and knees. Using Hytro not only helps him to recover more quickly, but also helps him maintain a full training programme.

 

One of the most significant benefits of Hytro’s BFR wearables is that they can be used passively for recovery at any time, and anywhere. The simplicity and ease of use means practitioners no longer have to rely on more invasive methods like ice baths, or more complex and time-consuming methods like recovery boots. For example, Blackburn Rovers’ players use BFR passively on the bus back from games. Others apply it in the changing rooms immediately after a game, or even while out for a coffee, taking a walk, watching TV, or playing video games. Unlike other methods of recovery, it seamlessly integrates within everyday life and requires little thought from the athlete, while aware it’s giving them an effective result.

 

Traditionally, BFR use in elite sport has been centred around rehabilitation; helping athletes offset atrophy, and regenerate muscle strength and size much more efficiently from injury without the need for heavy weighted loads. Although Hytro has opened up other avenues for performance enhancement, rehabilitation work remains a key benefit of strapping in. It can be applied passively just a few days after injury or surgery, so long as inflammation is reduced in the affected area (check with your medical practitioner prior to using BFR post injury/ surgery). While the limb cannot be loaded when injured, muscles can still be stressed to create adaptation through the application of BFR. This creates the conditions needed to up-regulate muscle building hormones in the affected area (and body wide when unstrapped), while also producing a flushing effect once the strap is removed. Often injured players see huge losses in muscle strength when unable to train as normal; with BFR such losses are offset. By minimising muscle loss when unable to deal with load, the athlete can transition to the next stage of their rehabilitation programme from a position of greater strength.

 

In the early stages of loading, athletes can progress from passive BFR to active BFR. At first this involves strapping in while performing bodyweight exercises. Adaptations are often quick, soon allowing the exercises to evolve into (slightly) heavier load-bearing. Just 30% of an athlete’s one rep max load is the ideal trigger for BFR to work its magic. Before they know it, the athlete is back at their pre-injury level of strength and with BFR, the pre-injury level can soon be enhanced then further.

 

Strength

Athletes know that protein builds muscle, and increasingly, they understand that the reason is due to the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the body’s central regulatory pathway for muscle function. That’s why they take great care ensuring their diet contains a sufficient volume and mix of healthy proteins. However, awareness is growing around BFR’s unique ability to stimulate the very same MPS pathway, supporting muscle growth. Such stimulation is gold for recovery and muscle adaptation, increasing power output and muscle strength.

 

Athletes are well aware of the importance of strength for performance. It is the foundation upon which elite sport is built, yet not all athletes are able to train efficiently for strength. Those who are load compromised or approaching the twilight of their careers are rarely able to undergo five heavy sessions a week. Their bodies are generally less capable of experiencing higher training loads without damage, meaning their training emphasis is on maintaining what they have rather than building what they haven’t. BFR can give such athletes a way to stay at the top of their game without degenerating structural tissues.

 

Sam Tomkins, rugby league’s man of steel, found that BFR has revolutionised his sessions. The Catalans Dragons fullback trains with reduced loads to save his joints by strapping in with BFR to lift light weights with high intensities, enabling him to maintain strength while avoiding joint issues. Initially, he used pneumatic BFR cuffs, however, these were bulky, complex, and rubbed together during exercises, limiting the benefit of the training. Between rounds, he had to plug in the wires to decrease the pressure of the cuffs for his rest periods before re-pumping up the cuffs and removing the wires again to train. It was long, cumbersome, and complicated, making his sessions longer than desired.

 

When he discovered the practicalities of Hytro’s BFR wearables, he found that the long pauses between strapping and unstrapping were gone, and without the rubbing associated with pneumatic cuffs, he could seamlessly perform any exercise required. Now, Tomkins can easily train the way he wants to and is seeing enhanced results: “Hytro BFR wearables reduce joint pain and help improve my strength and power without needing to lift ridiculously heavy weights.”

 

Sam Tomkins wearing Hytro BFR Recovery shorts

 

And Tomkins isn’t the only athlete benefiting from Hytro when it comes to strength. Josh Charnley managed to increase his leg strength and power by over 10% after integrating Hytro into his training over just 6 weeks. As a professional athlete looking for marginal gains, this is anything but marginal. Another example includes Alpine’s Racing Academy who use Hytro whilst on the road. While travelling around the world, there is limited access to gym’s or gym equipment. Hytro ensures that their athletes can experience an intense training session using whatever is available to them (body weight or very light weighted loads) by simply adding BFR, providing the same muscular stimulus as from heavy loads or specialist equipment.

 

Whether generic or specific, strength or power, Hytro is fast becoming an essential ingredient when it comes to gaining muscle – and so much more.

 

Endurance

Hytro enables athletes to achieve their goal of being stronger for longer. Strapping in creates a hypoxic – or low oxygen – environment, which stresses the muscle. The stress forces the muscle to adapt to the low oxygen availability by increasing the capillary networks delivering oxygen and glucose to the working muscles. At the same time, the muscles create more mitochondria (powerhouses of the cell that create energy) to receive more oxygen and glucose for energy production. Together, the muscles become much more efficient at delivering the ingredients needed for energy production and creating more energy from these ingredients. The athlete can ultimately take in and use more oxygen, create more energy for longer, and delay the onset of fatigue.

 

Such adaptations gives athletes that extra push when they need it most. Just two-to-three sessions of slow cadence cardiovascular work a week is enough for athletes to see the benefits. For example, Chris Billam-Smith, Welterweight European, UK, and Commonwealth champion boxer, increased his punch endurance in the later rounds of fights after using Hytro in his conditioning sessions. Blackburn Rovers, meanwhile, put their whole squad through three rounds of five-minute bursts with Hytro on the exercise bikes to enhance their aerobic conditioning.

 

Chris Billam-Smith wearing Hytro BFR Tee whilst training

 

A blended approach

Clubs and athletes rarely work in isolation. Strength, endurance and recovery are all key cogs in any training programme and Hytro has a role to play in all three.

 

St Helen’s apply Hytro across the entire squad twenty-four hours after matchday. They rotate a circuit of three different recovery stations, all while strapped in with BFR; 1, light lifting using exercises such as kettlebell squats and trapbar deadlifts, 2, cardio incorporating several minutes of low-level exercise on a bike or rowing machine, and 3, passive breathing and mobility exercises. Between stations players unstrap allowing the muscles to flush and re-perfuse. After, players report that they feel much fresher, less muscle soreness, and more ready to train.

 

An elite training tool

With rapidly increasing use in elite sport, Hytro is helping elite athletes and teams to gain a competitive advantage. Seamlessly slotting into pre-existing training programmes, Hytro is enhancing what teams and athletes are already doing. It’s simple-to-use, safe nature has revolutionised the use of BFR.

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