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Blood flow restriction training (or BFR) involves placing bands around the tops of your arms or legs to partially restrict blood flow to the limbs. But not all BFR bands are created equally, and some can cause damage to the nerves or arteries if they’re not used correctly.
Which is the best blood flow restriction band? The best blood flow restriction bands are the Gymreapers Occlusion Straps. They’re made from a rigid but flexible material that’s comfortable and easy to adjust without assistance. They also have numbers that allow you to get the same level of tightness on each limb and from workout to workout.
In this article, I’ll discuss:
- Why someone would use blood flow restriction training
- The 6 best BFR bands on the market
- What to look for when buying a set of BFR bands
Why Use Blood Flow Restriction Training?
There are several reasons why someone would use blood flow restriction training, including:
- 1. Increased hypertrophy
- 2. Ability to increase strength without lifting heavy weight
- 3. Improved recovery times when healing from injuries
1. Increased Hypertrophy
Studies have shown that blood flow restriction training with light weights can produce hypertrophy results similar to those of heavy resistance training.
This is because BFR training produces a low-oxygen environment and creates metabolic stress in the body. As you continue to workout, the body responds by trying to pump more blood to the working muscles, which produces the “muscle pump” feeling.
When the muscles start to fatigue, the cells then begin to repair damaged tissue and build new muscle, which helps them get bigger.
2. Ability to Increase Strength Without Lifting Heavy Weight
Blood flow restriction training is done with very light weights, around 20-40% of your 1RM. Even though the weights are light, BFR training can still help you maintain or increase strength, especially when combined with a regular resistance training program.
According to a study published in the European Journal of applied Physiology, participants who performed a combination of high-intensity resistance training and blood flow restriction training showed a 15.3% increase in their bench press 1RM.
3. Improved Recovery When Healing from Injuries
Several studies such as this one have shown that BFR training is an effective recovery method for patients who have undergone ACL reconstruction surgery.
Researchers believe this is due to increased muscle protein synthesis and improving muscle activation.
Top 6 Blood Flow Restriction Bands
The top 6 blood flow restriction bands are:
- Gymreapers Occlusion Straps – Best Overall BFR Bands
- Shape Savages Blood Flow Restriction Bands – Best for a Good Muscle Pump
- Ronin Strength BFR Bands – Best for Thick Thighs
- BFR BANDS Occlusion Training Bands – Most Versatile BFR Bands
- Vikingstrength BFR Bands – Most Cost-Effective Option
- IronBull Strength BFR Bands – Best for People New to BFR Training
1. Gymreapers Occlusion Straps – Best Overall BFR Bands
Out of all the BFR bands I tested, the Gymreapers Occlusion Straps were the most comfortable. I’ve worn the arm bands while training in my humid garage without the fabric becoming itchy or irritating once I started sweating.
The Gymreapers leg bands are 2” wide, which is standard for BFR bands for the legs. The arm bands are 1.25”, which is a little wider than the 1” width you’ll find with some other brands.
These BFR bands have numbers, which allows you to get a consistent amount of pressure on both limbs or from workout to workout.
I also like that they have half-size indicators as well, so if your desired level of tightness falls in between two numbers, it’s easy to get the same result on both limbs.
These bands have a locking mechanism that keeps them secure during your workout. It can be easy to pinch the skin on your arms if you’re not careful, but as long as you take your time and pay attention to what you’re doing, this shouldn’t be an issue.
- Have numbers so you can get a consistent amount of pressure
- Comfortable material
- Come in a pack of 4
- No carrying case
- The buckle can pinch your skin
2. Shape Savages Blood Flow Restriction Bands – Best for a Good Muscle Pump
The Shape Savages BFR bands were the most rigid bands out of the ones I tested. It didn’t take much to achieve the correct amount of tightness, and I was able to get a good muscle pump from them.
The fabric is elastic and stretchy. It’s not quite as comfortable as the Gymreapers fabric, but I was still able to wear these bands on my arms while wearing a tank top without them irritating my skin.
Unlike a lot of other BFR bands, the Shape Savages arm bands are 2” wide. I believe this is what caused me to get a better pump from these than the other bands I tested.
These bands don’t have a loop to secure the additional fabric. The arm bands are short, so this isn’t as much of a concern when training the arms. But for the legs, the extra fabric could get in the way.
The only thing I didn’t like about these bands is that the buckle is pretty large. When I wore them on my legs, I had to move the buckles to the outside of my thighs so they didn’t get caught in my hip crease when I did squatting movements.
- Rigid fabric
- Comes with a carrying case
- 2-inch width on both sets of bands makes it easy to get an intense muscle pump
- No loop to secure additional fabric
- No numbers
- Large buckles
3. Vikingstrength Blood Restriction Bands – Most Cost-Effective Option
Because the Vikingstrength Blood Restriction Bands are available in a package of four at a similar price to some bands that only come as a set of two, they’re the most cost-effective option.
The Vikingstrength BFR bands have a small slide-through buckle. At first I was concerned that it wouldn’t be enough to keep the bands in place, but once they were on, I didn’t have to readjust them at all.
However, the bands have a rubber logo on them that’s difficult to get through the buckle on the arm bands. Since the buckle on the leg bands is larger, I didn’t have this same issue on the leg bands, though.
Another thing I like about these bands is their all-black design (with a small amount of white in the logo). Design may not seem like a big deal for something as simple as a BFR band, but as someone who likes simplicity, I appreciate the minimalist color scheme.
- Simple design
- Soft material
- Come with a carrying case
- Rubber logo is hard to get through the buckle
- No numbers
4. Ronin Wraps – Best for Thick Thighs
The Ronin Wraps are made from a neoprene material that’s the perfect combination of rigidity and stretchiness.
The arm bands were easy to fasten by myself. With the leg bands, it took a lot of pulling and adjusting to get the right amount of tightness.
Once I got them to fit the way I wanted, there was a lot of extra material, even after I secured the excess through the slack loop. For this reason, I recommend these bands for people with thick thighs.
The Ronin Wraps have a large rubber logo that’s difficult to get through the buckle – even more so than the Vikingstrength bands I reviewed above.
The material was also itchier on my skin than some of the other bands on this list, and I had to wear a T-shirt when I wore the arm bands. I usually wear leggings or shorts with a longer inseam when I train, so I can’t say for certain if I would have had the same issue with the leg bands.
With all that said, these BFR bands are still effective. I was able to get a good muscle pump with them, even though I had to make some small adjustments.
- Comes with an instructional e-book
- Comes with a carrying case
- Easy to adjust without assistance
- No numbers
- Can get uncomfortable on bare skin
- Thick rubber logo is hard to get through the buckle
5. BFR BANDS Occlusion Training Bands – Most Versatile BFR Bands
The BFR BANDS Occlusion Training Bands are only available as a set of two, making them a convenient option since you can wear them on either the arms or the legs.
Because the buckle is made out of metal, it’s pretty heavy, especially on the arms. It’s easy to pinch your skin if you’re not careful, and these bands are more difficult to adjust by yourself. It’s doable, but it requires a little more effort.
Getting these bands tight enough on my legs was also more difficult than it was with the other bands I tested. If you have thick thighs, it may take a bit of practice for you to achieve the right amount of pressure.
Once the bands are on and fitted properly, they stay in place. Despite the buckle’s heaviness (or perhaps because of it), you won’t have to worry about the bands becoming undone in the middle of your workout.
These bands are also numbered, and like the Gymreapers bands, they also have half-size indicators. This makes it easy to get the exact same fit on both arms or both legs.
- Comes with an informational e-book
- Can be worn on either arms or legs
- Secure buckle keeps the bands in place
- Buckle is heavy
- Doesn’t come with a carrying case
- Difficult to get the right amount of pressure on the legs if you have thick thighs
6. Iron Bull Strength BFR Bands – Best for People New to BFR Training
The Iron Bull Strength BFR bands aren’t as rigid as the others on this list, and the material is softer. For these reasons, the IronBull Strength BFR Bands are a good option for people new to BFR training.
It’s pretty difficult to make these bands too tight, so if you’re concerned about wearing BFR bands correctly, these are an excellent product to help you get used to BFR training.
These bands are made from a cotton and elastic material. They’re stretchier than the other BFR bands on this list, but once you get them to the desired level of tightness, they stay in place and won’t slip during your workout.
These particular BFR bands can only be worn on the arms, but Iron Bull Strength also has leg bands as well as a set of bands that can be worn on either the arms or the legs.
- Comfortable material
- Locking mechanism keeps the bands in place
- Extra loop allows you to secure excess fabric
- Flexible fabric makes it difficult to get the right amount of pressure
- Can only be used for arms
Considerations for Buying BFR Bands
When buying BFR bands, there are a few features that you’ll want to look for.
BFR bands are usually either 1” or 2” wide, with the 1” bands intended for the arms and the 2” bands intended for the legs. However, some arm bands are 1.25” wide, and 2” bands can also be worn on the arms.
If you use BFR bands that are thicker or thinner than this, they may be less effective, or you may increase the risk of causing nerve or artery damage.
Most BFR bands will be about 40 inches long for the legs and 25 inches long for the arms.
This should be more than enough for most people, but I recommend measuring your arms and legs before purchasing BFR bands to make sure they’ll fit. (Keep in mind that BFR bands usually have some elastic in them, so you can stretch them as needed.)
A lot of BFR bands have loops to secure the additional material, so even if your bands are too long, you can use the loop to keep the extra fabric out of the way.
You don’t want to have to keep adjusting your BFR bands mid-workout. Look for bands that have secure locking mechanisms or strong slide-through buckles that will prevent them from slipping.
I also recommend plastic buckles over metal ones, as they weigh less and will be more comfortable, especially on your arms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is BFR Training Safe?
BFR training is safe for healthy individuals. There are some risks such as rhabdomyolysis or nerve or artery damage, but there is a minimal chance of complications occurring if you use the bands correctly.
However, if you are currently pregnant or have one of the following conditions, you should check with a doctor before doing BFR training:
- History of blood clots or DVT
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
How Do I Wear BFR Bands?
BFR bands should only be worn at the top of the thighs, right below the glutes, and the top of the arms, right below the deltoid. It is important not to cover a large surface area when wearing BFR bands, as this can completely occlude the nerves or arteries.
How Tight Should BFR Bands Be?
For the legs, BFR bands should fit at about a 7 on a scale of 1-10. On the arms, they should fit anywhere between 4-6 on a scale of 1-10.
Can I Do BFR Training Every Day?
Theoretically, you can do BFR training every day, but it’s not recommended. If you’re new to BFR training, you should start with 2 days per week. You can increase to 4 days per week once you get used to it.
Blood flow restriction training is a safe and effective training method for individuals who are unable to lift heavy weights.
The best BFR bands are the Gymreapers Occlusion Straps. They’re comfortable, easy to fasten, and the numbers make it easy to achieve the same amount of pressure each time you use them.
If you’re looking for more rigid bands that give you an intense muscle pump, I recommend the Shape Savages BFR Bands.
Check out my other articles on blood flow restriction training for recommendations on how to incorporate it into your training:
- Blood Flow Restriction Training for Arms
- Blood Flow Restriction Training for Glutes
- Blood Flow Restriction Training for Calves
- Blood Flow Restriction Training for Chest
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.