Endurance athletes are notorious for overtraining. If some training is good, more must be better. Right? What if I said that you could do less while increasing lean muscle mass, improving strength and endurance, and even reduce body fat?
Meet our Japanese friend, Kaatsu, a patented handheld pneumatic device that artificially restricts venous flow to your arms and legs, stimulating a neurological response to secrete Human Growth Hormone (HGH), increase nitric oxide production and help you recover faster.
How do I use Kaatsu?
There are a variety of ways to use Kaatsu to increase recovery and build lean muscle mass. The basic concept is that you strap the bands on your legs or arms and then the Kaatsu device inflates them to a specific pressure. It is a little like a blood pressure cuff, albeit more comfortable.
1. In Kaatsu Cycle mode, the pneumatic bands apply pressure for 20 seconds, followed by a release for 5 seconds. The pressure is incrementally increased during the 3-minute process to a safe and optimal pressure. This mode is ideal for athletes recovering from injury, reducing the rate of muscle atrophy, and maintaining strength and balance during rehabilitation. It is also a fantastic way to recover from jetlag or keep your legs fresh while flying.
2. Kaatsu Training mode offers all of the benefits of high-load resistance training using a fraction of the weight. By creating an oxygen-deprived environment, your brain is essentially tricked into thinking the body is undergoing a massive workout and sends a signal to the pituitary gland to pump out growth hormones.
There was a study that showed that control group of athletes lifted only 25% of their max squatting weight wearing the Kaatsu bands for 4 weeks, had greater strength gains than the group that lifted at their max squatting weight over the same 4 weeks.
Kaatsu strength training is great for everyone to safely build strength. It is also great for doing strength training in season, as you will be lifting lighter loads and hence your recovery the next day will be much higher than if you had lifted much higher loads.
Recommended training sessions last 15min for the upper body and 20min for the lower body. In Training Mode, you inflate to the desired pressure and then disconnect the air tubes so you have a continuous pressure on the bands for your training session.
You can start with just bodyweight exercises with the bands at a pressure of 340 to 400 and it will be challenging. Try to go for 15 to 20 minutes per training session, it will get progressively harder. Once you reach "failure" you can't do one more bodyweight squat or lunge, you are finished and you can deflate the bands.
Once you have mastered this you can start to use the bands in a lifting actual weight or while doing running intervals or riding your bike for more sport-specific training.
How do I know if the bands are too tight?
Press your index finger into the palm/thigh of your opposite hand/leg. Count the seconds it takes for your palm to turn from white back to color. If it is less than two seconds the bands aren't tight enough. If it is longer than three seconds the bands are too tight.
What does it feel like?
During your first Kaatsu training session, you will feel as if someone is strangling your muscles. While the sensation is temporary the results are permanent. By placing your muscles in a hypoxic state, they become engulfed in blood, resulting in a temporary swelling of the muscle. While this might seem alarming at first, you will grow to love the pump and the myriad of growth and regeneration benefits that come along with it.
Can I swim with Kaatsu Aqua?
Whether you are a competitive swimmer (healthy or injured), a triathlete, a masters swimmer, a water polo player, or a land-based athlete interested in working out in the pool, Kaatsu is fully waterproof and a great addition to any type of aqua therapy.
The principles of KAATSU Aqua are the same as KAATSU Training used on dry land. The primary difference is that your Base SKU and Optimal SKU levels should be lower than the dry land pressures that you normally use with KAATSU Air Bands.
Why does it cost so much?
Good question. Kaatsu is the industry Gold standard in blood flow restriction training and recovery. Just a handful of years ago, a similar device would've cost you close to $10,000. Thankfully the price has come down to below $1000 and the technology continues to improve. Kaatsu is the go-anywhere recovery device that should be a staple in every athlete's quiver.
Does it work?
Well, since we got our first Kaatsu device, the team at the Feed (including myself) have used it 3x to 4x a week for the past year. Most uses the Kaatsu Cycle mode every day. It is the most popular training device we have among the team of elite athletes at The Feed.