Kaatsu training is a revolutionary resistance training system that uses precise, pressurized cuffs to restrict blood flow to the limbs during a workout. It is a scientifically endorsed, safe, effective, and unique form of exercise that offers a host of benefits across a variety of populations.
The Kaatsu bands are attached either around the arms above the biceps, or around the upper thigh. The air pressure in the bands is adjusted automatically via a control unit, ensuring the correct amount of venous blood is occluded in the working muscles, without restricting arterial flow. Workouts consist of muscle contractions using very little to no weight, and can achieve in a matter of minutes the physiological benefits of prolonged, high-intensity exercise.
As the bands begin to tighten, blood pools in the working limbs and oxygen is depleted. This triggers the growth of new endothelial cells in the blood vessels, new capillaries (angiogenesis), and up-regulates nitric oxide production. All of this serves to improve blood flow and enhance blood vessel elasticity system-wide. As the blood continues to accumulate, acidity increases, oxygen is further consumed, and metabolites build up in the muscle tissue. This triggers the central nervous system to release a cascade of growth hormone and other compounds that encourage muscle growth and fat metabolism throughout the entire body. Another much discussed benefit of Kaatsu is that it triggers the activation of both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are normally activated during different forms of exercise, as fast twitch are primarily for maximal strength/ power, and slow twitch are primarily for endurance, but proper blood flow restriction effectively ‘tricks’ the brain in to thinking it is performing high-intensity exercise.
The implications for Kaatsu’s ability to produce these effects with such light loads and minimal training time are profound. While the ease, safety, and benefits make Kaatsu desirable and feasible for all types of individuals, certain populations seem particularly well suited to Kaatsu training. These populations include the elderly, individuals recovering from certain injuries where significant muscle atrophy has occurred, individuals suffering from various muscle wasting or neurodegenerative diseases, individuals with chronic joint pain, and individuals who have very little time and/or space to devote to training. The light loads involved are perfect for those whose joints or bodies may be too fragile to handle other, more strenuous forms of exercise.
Kaatsu was developed many decades ago in Japan by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato. In recent years, Kaatsu has been gaining recognition and popularity in the United States, and has been adopted for use by athletes, coaches, and physical therapists, with great success throughout the world.
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