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Optimising fitness in football through BFR: Dr Mark Gillett explains Hytro BFR on the Football Fitness Federation Podcast

Chief Medical Officer at the Premier League and Hytro BFR advocate Dr Mark Gillett was recently invited onto the Football Fitness Federation podcast. In a wide-ranging interview, he updated the hosts on his preparation for the Tour 21, shared his experiences of BFR within football, and explained how Hytro BFR is perfect for use in the sport. Here, we share his key points.

Mark Gillett, Chief Medical Officer for the Premier League, wearing Hytro whilst performing bike flush

Dr Mark Gillett has more than thirty years of experience in the field of sport medicine and performance. After training in emergency medicine and sports medicine, he spent time in the NHS before being invited to run the medical team at Chelsea FC in 2008. Since then, he’s remained in football, working at West Bromwich Albion and the Premier League, a career that’s encompassed roles including Head of Medical and Director of Performance.


With tens of thousands of followers and well over 200 podcast episodes, Football Fitness Federation provides a voice of authority within the industry. In each episode they invite an expert to share their insight, enabling listeners to improve fitness and performance – in this case through BFR.


“We used BFR a lot when I was working in the Premier League with players,” said Gillett, “particularly as a performance supplement or as part of players’ rehabilitation. I was impressed with the results. In a busy football programme, there’s always a balance you need to strike as a medical department between loading the players and reducing the chances of contractile injury. If we load them too much by asking them to lift heavy, it can fatigue players going into their match and even cause injury. Because BFR requires sub-optimal loading which can be done quickly and in a measured fashion it proved ideal. We’d use it mainly on Thursdays, two days before a match, so we could get a neuromuscular drive without overloading the player.”


Increasingly, Gillett sees football teams using BFR to aid recovery. “Often players do it when they get on the bus,” he said. “You can do multiple things with the Hytro BFR Recovery Shorts. Because you’re not stuck to a machine you can walk around, refuelling and rehydrating. You can even go into a tactical meeting debrief with them on. They’re a time-efficient way to maximise recovery.”


Mark Gillett, Chief Medical Officer for the Premier League, wearing Hytro


Gillett’s work in football predates Hytro, however. He recalled that when he began using BFR with players, he’d have to inflate BFR cuffs to a certain pressure and then work the player to a certain percentage of their maximum output: “Medical teams, players and S&C coaches all liked using BFR. Back then it was mainly done to increase muscle size and strength after a period of de-loading or surgery. We’d work to bodyweight with prescribed sets and reps.”


Since Hytro’s arrival on the scene, Gillett has ditched the inflatable cuffs and embraced Hytro’s integrated BFR kit. “Hytro has really refined the protocols for various modalities,” he said. “Whether it’s neurogenic optimisation, recovery, or muscle hypertrophy, there are a variety of protocols they suggest. They’re credible scientists who take a lot of pride in the scientific basis of their products, for which they have an impressive evidence base. Their kit is a lot more practical than what we had before. It’s safe to use without coaching supervision so long as the wearer follows the protocols, which is really valuable for practitioners. The garments are well-made – mine are still intact after using them every day for four months – which gives the kit usability and reliability.”


Gillett’s own use of Hytro BFR is in preparation for the Tour 21, an epic challenge he is taking on that will see him complete all 21 stages of the Tour de France, raising more than £1,000,000 for Cure Leukaemia in the process. “I really like the passive recovery element of the kit,” he said. “I come in from a long ride and stick on the shorts straight away. At the moment, I’m also wearing it to prepare my body for big sessions. I’ll put the shorts on and do bodyweight squats to engage my quads. I’m training for up to 30 hours a week so there isn’t much space in my schedule to do more without a big fatigue rollout.”


As an amateur athlete, Gillett is only too aware of the benefits that BFR can have not only in the pro game, but also at a grassroots level. “There are two core groups of non-pro athletes likely to use BFR,” he said. “Those who are time-poor, who struggle to get to the gym or don’t have equipment at home. Then there are people like me. who are chasing a goal and looking for performance optimisation. BFR can really be a good tool to develop that over time.”


For those looking to add BFR to their schedule, Gillett had some simple advice: “Read about BFR, know what it does, be realistic about the results and have a plan around how you’ll use it. When you put it on for the first time it can feel strange, but that’s normal and if you follow the protocols you’ll get good results.”


Dr Mark Gillett sets off on the Tour 21 on 24th June, you can find out more, and donate to the cause, by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/markjgillett


Listen to the full episode over on the Football Fitness Federation Podcast here.


Hytro BFR is now used by many Premier League and professional football clubs. Discover how football is using Hytro BFR to optimise performance.

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