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Kaatsu Training



Aug 11, 2010
I feel like I must have been living under a rock not to have known about this until fairly recently. Kaatsu training, for those of you who are even further out of the loop than I am, involves applying a tourniquet of some sort (I believe that researchers use pneumatic tourniquets, similar to the cuffs that are placed on your arm when you get your blood pressure taken) to the proximal portion of one of your limbs to restrict blood flow (partially or fully) while you perform low intensity exercise. The interesting aspect of this type of training is that, despite the low intensity, gains in muscle mass are similar or even superior to those elicited by resistance training regimens designed to promote muscle hypertrophy.

A few of my friends that I have mentioned this to have all had similar responses: (1) they think that this type of training involves being lazy, (2) they are worried that restricting blood flow is dangerous, and (3) they recognize that the smaller forces utilized in Kaatsu Training produce gains in muscular strength, but would seemingly fail to adequately stress tendons and ligaments, thereby limiting the relevance of this type of training for athletes. I think objection 1 is unimportant, objection 2 is probably unwarranted for most healthy subjects, and objection 3 serves to show that Kaatsu Training could only serve a limited role within an athletes training regimen, if any at all.

My question to others on this board is, could this type of training serve a role in an athlete’s or bodybuilder’s training, and if so, in what capacity? I am not sure if anyone here (or anywhere for that matter) has enough information regarding Kaatsu training to be able to answer this question satisfactorily, but I am hoping that some knowledgeable individual might be able to offer some insight into the matter (or at least provide an interesting guess).

** Also, from the few articles I read concerning Kaatsu training, this was probably the most interesting tidbit:

“Another factor to consider is hormone action. Kraemer et al. (1990) have demonstrated that a sufficient amount of high-intensity exercise (approximately 6 sets at an intensity of about 80% 1RM for large muscle groups) carried out with an interset interval as short as 1 min transiently provokes more than a 100-fold increase in the plasma concentration of growth hormone (GH). Since such a dramatic increase in plasma GH concentration was not seen after exercise having a longer interset interval (3 min),it has been speculated that local accumulation of metabolites stimulates the hypophyseal secretion of GH. Our recent study with young male subjects also showed that low-intensity (20% 1RM) exercise with vascular occlusion of the lower extremities caused a 290-fold increase in the plasma concentration of GH, whereas no such effect was seen after the exercise without this occlusion (Takarada et al. 2000a). This stimulated secretion of GH may also play a part in the present effects of LIO.”

Effects of resistance exercise combined with vascular occlusion on muscle function in athletes
European Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue Volume 86, Number 4 / February, 2002
Pages 308-314
Yudai Takarada1, Yoshiaki Sato2 and Naokata Ishii1
(1) Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, Komaba Tokyo 153-8902, Japan
(2) Sato Institute for Rehabilitation and Fitness, Tokyo 183, Japan