Kaatsu

KAATSU is a Japanese word that means Additional (KA) Pressure (ATSU). KAATSU blood flow moderation training is the result of over 40 years of testing and research.

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HOW IT WORKS

Special air bands are worn on the upper legs and arms to safely modify blood flow. Two compressors inflate the air bands and once optimal pressure settings have been established, light training produces an engorgement of blood in the arms/legs and a variety of positive physiological effects in a short period of time, such as:

  • Disruption of homeostasis
  • Increase of nitric oxide in blood vessels, increasing their elasticity
  • Fast and slow twitch muscles are toned simultaneously
  • Lactic acid increases, stimulating receptors in the muscle and leading to elevated levels of growth hormone.

KAATSU’S light training produces effects similar to explosive exercise and provides superior:

  • Range of motion – narrow bands and flexible bladders enable movement
  • Portability – users are not tethered to the unit; no stand is needed
  • Proven safety record – zero instances of serious injury have been recorded over four decades of use
  • Smart technology – indicators for arterial and venous flow provide critical information to the KAATSU certified specialist

Safe, accelerated muscle development during rehabilitation; imagine what KAATSU could mean for your athletes.

To learn more, read these case studies and Frequently Asked Questions.

 SCIENCE

When KAATSU Bands are applied correctly (proper position and pressure), arterial in-flow is restricted, deep venous out-flow is impeded, and the capillary-venous space becomes distended and congested in the muscle distal to the KAATSU Bands.

Muscle contraction under these conditions of restricted and impeded blood flow and congested vascular space uses up intracellular phosphates, energy stores and oxygen at a rate greater than the circulation can replenish them. As a result:

  • Metabolic waste products accumulate.
  • Homeostasis in the active muscle is lost.
  • As the tissue becomes more hypoxic and energy stores deplete, anaerobic glycolysis attempts to compensate by increasing its rate.
  • This produces some ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) but also produces a marked disturbance in muscle homeostasis, ultimately raising intracellular, interstitial and blood lactic acid concentrations.

Hypoxia, acidosis, lactate ion per se, inorganic phosphate, AMP and many other local factors have been shown to turn on transcription and thus, protein synthesis in muscle cells. This is the so-called “local effect” of KAATSU that results in stimulation of muscle, tendon and vascular growth.

The marked disturbance of muscle homeostasis and vascular bed congestion is communicated to the central nervous system (CNS) by group III and IV afferent nerves. These afferent nerves communicate this “distress” to the CNS. It is perceived cortically (consciously), as a type of pain (i.e. what one feels when doing KAATSU), but there are many subconscious synapses that stimulate efferent output in a variety of centers.

For example, connections to and in the cardiovascular control centers stimulate an increase in breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. Another example is hypothalamic release of growth hormone releasing factor (GHRF) to the anterior pituitary, which releases growth hormone (GH), which in turn, stimulates insulin growth factor I (IGF-I) release from the liver. This is part of the “systemic response” to repair and grow skeletal muscle and repair injury.

In addition, various substances in the venous blood of the exercising muscle modifies and amplifies the changes occurring from both local and systemic mechanisms as the blood is redistributed to other vascular beds.

 STUDIES

KAATSU is supported by extensive research. Documentation below is representative of a greater body of published research and clinical studies.

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 CASE STUDY

Title

Year

Journal

Effects of resistance exercise combined with moderate vascular occlusion on muscular function in humans.

2000

Journal of Applied Physiology

Effects of resistance exercise combined with vascular occlusion on muscle function in athletes.

2002

Eur J Appl Physiol

Skeletal muscle size and circulating IGF-1 are increased after two weeks of twice daily “KAATSU” resistance training. 

2005

Int. J. KAATSU Training Research

Hemodynamic and autonomic nervous responses to the restriction of femoral blood flow by KAATSU

2005

Int. J. KAATSU Training Research

Hemodynamic and hormonal responses to a short-term low-intensity resistance exercise with the reduction of muscle blood ?ow

2005

Eur J Appl Physiol

Muscle fiber cross-sectional area is increased after two weeks of twice
daily KAATSU-resistance training

2005

Int. J. KAATSU Training Research

KAATSU-walk training increases serum bone-specific alkaline phosphatase in young men

2005

Int. J. KAATSU Training Research

Use and safety of KAATSU training: Results of a national survey

2006

Int. J. KAATSU Training Research

Electromyographic responses of arm and chest muscle during bench press exercise with and without KAATSU

2006

Int. J. KAATSU Training Research

Muscle size and strength are increased following walk training with restricted venous blood flow from the leg muscle, KAATSU-walk training

2006

J. Appl. Physiol.

Use and safety of KAATSU training: Results of a national survey

2006

Int. J. KAATSU Training Res

Effects of KAATSU training on haemostasis in healthy subjects

2007

Int. J. KAATSU Training Res.

Hemodynamic and neurohumoral responses to the restriction of femoral blood flow by KAATSU in healthy subjects.

2007

Eur J Appl Physiol.

Blood flow restriction during low-intensity resistance exercise increases S6K1 phosphorylation and muscle protein synthesis.

2007

J Appl Physiol.

Hemodynamic responses to simulated weightlessness of 24-h head-down bed rest and KAATSU blood flow restriction.

2008

Eur J Appl Physiol.

Resistance exercise combined with KAATSU during simulated weightlessness

2008

Int. J. KAATSU Training Research

Cross-transfer effects of resistance training with blood flow restriction.

2008

Med Sci Sports Exerc.

Muscle activation during low-intensity muscle contractions with varying levels of external limb compression

2008

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine

Muscle activation during low-intensity muscle contractions with restricted blood flow.

2009

J Sports Sci.

Effects of low-intensityresistance exercise with blood flow restriction on coagulation system in healthy subjects.

2010

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging.

Effects of low-intensity KAATSU resistance training on skeletal muscle size/strength and endurance capacity in patients with ischemic heart disease

2010

Int. J. KAATSU Training Res.

Effects of Low-Intensity Walk Training With Restricted Leg Blood Flow on Muscle Strength and Aerobic Capacity in Older Adults

2010

J Geriatric Physical Therapy

The effects of low-intensity resistance training with vascular restriction on leg muscle strength in older men.

2010

Eur J Appl Physiol

Neuromuscular fatigue following low-intensity dynamic exercise with externally applied vascular restriction

2010

Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology

Effects of walking with blood flow restriction on limb venous compliance in elderly subjects.

2011

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging.

Effects of Exercise and Anti-Aging

2011

Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine

Combined effects of low-intensity blood flow restriction training and high-intensity resistance training on muscle strength and size.

2011

Eur J Appl Physiol.

The effects of different initial restrictive pressures used to reduce blood flow and thigh composition on tissue oxygenation of the quadriceps

2011

J Sports Sci.

Effects of low-intensity, elastic band resistance exercise combined with blood flow restriction on muscle activation.

2012

Scand J Med Sci Sports.

TESTIMONIALS

WHAT CLIENTS ARE SAYING ABOUT Kaatsu

  Josh Saunders
Josh Saunders

New York City FC

  Chris Morgan
Chris Morgan

former Olympic Swim Coach

  Peter Lansbury
Peter Lansbury

Professor of Neurology, Harvard University

FAQ

What does the word KAATSU mean?

KAATSU means “additional pressure” in Japanese. Its Japanese kanji characters look like this: ??.

What is the origin of KAATSU?

KAATSU was invented in Japan in 1966 and perfected by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato.

Is KAATSU patented?

KAATSU equipment and protocols are protected by 47 patents.

Who uses KAATSU?

KAATSU is safely and effectively used by athletes and non-athletes of every age, ability and background in Asia, Europe and the Americas in order to gain muscular strength, increase range of motion, and enhance sports performance. Its products are used by Japanese, Chinese, and American Olympic gold medalists and world champions, professional athletes, collegiate student-athletes, high school athletes, military personnel, and individuals from all walks of life ranging between 4 and 104 years.

Does KAATSU enhance the effects of exercise even with light resistance?

KAATSU training is intended for use with light weights or resistances, which do minimal damage to muscle, tendons, bones and joints. This allows anabolic stimulation to improve tissues straight away without having to repair damage done by heavy resistances.

What is the difference between KAATSU and normal resistance training?

KAATSU provides a more robust anabolic stimulation in a shorter period of time and in a safer manner than normal resistance training. Gains in fitness and strength are realized quicker with KAATSU training than normal resistance training.

What differentiates the KAATSU Master and the KAATSU Nano?

The KAATSU Master identifies and monitors the safe and optimal pressure to do KAATSU training, rehabilitation and recovery. It is ideal for groups, corporations and teams. The portable, battery-powered robust unit can store training data up to 200 individual KAATSU sessions for 300 individuals.

The KAATSU Nano identifies and monitors the safe and optimal pressure to do KAATSU training, rehabilitation and recovery. It is ideal for individuals, travel, and home use. The ultra-light, compact, battery-powered handheld unit can store individual training data and show downloadable educational and inspirational videos.

Can multiple memory cards be used with the Nano?

Yes. A Specialist must save the information on the SYSTEM SETTINGS>SPECIALIST REGISTRATION>SPECIALIST INFORMATION screen. Once registered, that information must be saved to each card. The Specialist can then add 10 clients to each card. One simple way to track each player is to register them with their corresponding jersey number. The system uses a 3 digit number (examples: 001, 025, 064, etc.)

What is the standard battery life of a fully-charged KAATSU unit?

The battery is designed to last for two and one half hours of continuous use.

What are the three basic levels of KAATSU?

  • LEVEL ONE, KAATSU Cycle, requires no physical movement. This convenient form of blood flow moderation can be done anywhere (e.g., office cubicles, airplane seats, sofas at home, desks at school) anytime (e.g., before or after workouts) on the arms and separately on the legs. KAATSU Cycle helps relieve stress and results in an elevated energy levels.
  • LEVEL TWO, KAATSU THREE-POINT EXERCISE is a highly-efficient form of blood flow moderation exercise for both the arms and legs. It can be done anywhere, anytime and involves three sets of hand clenches, bicep curls and tricep extensions on the arms, and toe curls, toe/heel raises, and getting up and down from a seated position. Individuals of all ages and abilities can go to muscle exhaustion within minutes without use of weights.
  • LEVEL THREE KAATSU TRAINING is the most intense form of full body blood flow moderation exercise. It can be done anywhere, anytime and involves a full range of movements used in sports specific activities. Individuals of all ages and abilities, from beginners to professionals, can achieve muscle exhaustion within minutes without use of weights. Proper KAATSU Training results in no soreness and produces elevated energy levels.

What size of KAATSU Air Bands should you use?

KAATSU Air Bands are available in 3 sizes: Small, Medium and Large. Measure the circumference of the top of your arm in the narrower region below the deltoid and above the biceps and the circumference of the top of your leg (right alongside your groin). Those circumferences will determine the appropriate size for your KAATSU Air Bands.

ARMS

  • Small: 18 ? 28 cm (7.06 ? 11.02 inches)
  • Medium: 28 ? 38 cm (11.02 ? 14.96 inches)
  • Large: 38 ? 48 cm (14.96 ? 18.89 inches)

LEGS

  • Small: 40 ? 50 cm (15.74 ? 19.68 inches)
  • Medium: 50 ? 60 cm (19.68 ? 23.62 inches)
  • Large: 60 ? 70 cm (23.62 ? 27.55 inches)

NOTE: Those who exceed 48 cm in circumference on their upper arms or 70 cm in circumference on their upper legs are recommended to special order KAATSU Air Bands.

What is the best way to start KAATSU?

KAATSU Cycle is an easy, convenient and comfortable way to begin a KAATSU training because KAATSU Cycle is easy, convenient, automatic, and very safe. The KAATSU Cycle does not require significant levels of effort or induce high levels of discomfort. KAATSU Cycle can be done sitting down at a work desk, sofa or any sitting position while at work, school, home or travel. It can be habit-forming and a catalyst to do more vigorous KAATSU Training.

What are the side effects of KAATSU Cycle?

We are unaware of any negative side effects from KAATSU Cycle when it is performed according to the standard KAATSU protocols.

What are the contraindications to KAATSU Cycle?

The only contraindications to KAATSU Cycle, when performed according to the standard KAATSU protocols, are situations where the person needs to be in a hospital or emergency room such as angina, hypertensive crisis, or cerebral vascular accident. If someone has an active, uncontrolled, soft tissue infection or active thrombotic disease, they should seek medical care and should postpone their KAATSU Cycle.

What might prevent me from doing KAATSU?

Nothing, as long as, you have the proper equipment and a Certified KAATSU Specialist to show you how to do KAATSU correctly. We don’t recommend starting KAATSU during pregnancy, but if the individual has been doing KAATSU and finds out they are pregnant, they may continue moderate KAATSU training. We recommend waiting 3 days after a general anesthetic before starting KAATSU.

What percentage of 1RM should be used with KAATSU?

One Repetition Maxes (1RM) are difficult to measure accurately and change almost daily. One of the principles of KAATSU Training is that light weight loads or resistances should be used with KAATSU Air Bands. To clarify, light loads or resistance are easy to do or where many repetitions can be done without the KAATSU Air Bands. A good example of light KAATSU exercise is arm curls with 2-5 lbs (1-2 kg) barbells. Any calisthenics where partial body weight is moved are also good examples of KAATSU exercises.

Is specialized knowledge about physiology required to become a KAATSU Specialist?

The best KAATSU Specialists possess knowledge in the areas of coaching, training, rehabilitation and physiology. While necessary principles are conveyed in the KAATSU Certification Course, it is recommended that those who wish to become KAATSU Specialists have some education and experience in coaching and training.

Is it useful to simultaneously use the KAATSU Air Bands on both your arms and legs?

We recommend that you never place KAATSU Air Bands on arms and legs simultaneously. KAATSU Air Bands attempt to impede circulation and produce muscle fatigue in the muscle involved. To do so safely, one group of muscles should be focused on at a time.

Is KAATSU a form of occlusion training?

No, KAATSU modifies blood flow patterns; it does not occlude blood flow.

What is occlusion training and why is it dangerous?

Occlusion training involves completely stopping blood flow into an extremity for substantial periods of time. It can damage tissue distal (below) to the occlusion. Completely occluding a limb for a substantial period of time increases the risk of blood clots in veins. Deep venous thromboses (DVT’s) can lead to pulmonary emboli, which can be fatal.

Occlusion training can lead to rhabdomyolysis (severe breakdown of muscle fibers) which can lead to kidney failure and possibly death.

What is the difference between occlusion training, blood flow restriction training and KAATSU?

The major difference between occlusion training or blood flow restriction training and KAATSU is that correct use of KAATSU modifies the pattern of blood flow; impeding and slowing down blood flow, butnever occluding it.

What are the effects of KAATSU on the heart?

KAATSU places very little extra strain on the heart and is used in cardiac rehabilitation in Japan.

Can the use of KAATSU Air Bands lead to pulmonary embolisms or blood clots?

If KAATSU is not performed according to the standard KAATSU protocols as defined by its inventor, Dr. Sato, it can be dangerous. If an individual mistakenly occludes blood flow for a substantial time, blood clots and pulmonary embolisms can occur. This is why it is important to take the Certification Course to learn how to do KAATSU safely and effectively.

What are the four safety rules of KAATSU use?

  1. Bands only in proper locations
  2. Never occlude arterial inflow
  3. Never lift heavy weights
  4. Never exceed 15 minutes on arms, 20 minutes on legs of band inflation time

If individuals can easily wrap their own arms with bands or surgical tubing without certification, why purchase KAATSU?

KAATSU training emphasizes safety and paying great attention to getting the pressures right. When too much pressure is used, dangerous occlusion training is the result. The application of too little pressure does not produce the benefits of KAATSU. Only patented KAATSU bands are specifically designed to provide correct KAATSU. Surgical tourniquets, blood pressure cuffs, tubing or belts do not have the proper characteristics.

What is the appropriate level of pressure when doing KAATSU?

The Optimal KAATSU Pressure varies from day to day in the same individual and varies greatly from one individual to the next, depending on age, health and fitness level, size of extremities, hydration level and previous KAATSU experience. Therefore, it is important that Optimal Pressure be determined at the beginning of every KAATSU session.

What is the relationship between my blood pressure and the KAATSU pressure?

There is little relationship between your blood pressure and the KAATSU pressure. Your blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in your arteries inside your arm or leg. It is pulsatile in nature. When the heart contracts, the pressure in your arteries increases and then decreases when the heart relaxes. The pressure in the air bladder of a KAATSU Air Band is the KAATSU pressure. It is outside your extremity and far away from your arteries and deep veins. However, the KAATSU pressure is the force that modifies your circulation patterns by primarily providing an impediment to venous return, as well as, some diminution of arterial inflow.

Can KAATSU pressure go over your systolic (or diastolic) number?

Yes, it is usually higher than one’s systolic blood pressure. The pressure in the KAATSU band is only loosely related to blood pressure. The pressure in the KAATSU band is adjusted so that muscle contraction overcomes the venous impediment.

What if I do not want to put on extra muscle?

You don’t have to put on extra muscle with KAATSU. It depends on your athletic and fitness goals. The changes to body composition that occur with KAATSU are also dependent on your diet and other types of training you perform. For example, a body builder can put on extra weight and muscle with KAATSU, while an endurance athlete will get stronger and leaner without appreciable gain in body weight.

How many times per week should I do KAATSU?

The KAATSU Cycle has been performed as much as 3 to 4 times per day to as few as twice per week. Competitive athletes in their 20’s may perform up to 5 KAATSU sessions per week.

Can KAATSU be used even after an injury like a bone break or muscle tear?

Yes, KAATSU is uniquely suited to allow continued strength training while not disturbing the healing fracture or muscle tear.

Why do KAATSU Specialists recommend starting KAATSU on arms before legs?

There is a higher density of nerves in the arms that may provide a more robust systemic KAATSU effect to initiate an adaptive response sooner. However, this is a recommendation and people may use KAATSU on their legs first or KAATSU on their legs only if they prefer.

If I want to do KAATSU only on my legs, what is recommended?

Doing KAATSU on legs only is just fine. However, you will get a more robust systemic anabolic effect if you also include a KAATSU arm session. The greater the percentage of your total body musculature that you get sending a signal of disturbed homeostasis to your brain, the more robust of an anabolic systemic response you will get.

Can you explain the importance of the KAATSU Cycle?

The KAATSU Cycle is a series of KAATSU On (band inflation), followed by KAATSU Off (band deflation). By cycling the pressure on and off, one provides the modified circulation without muscle contraction, thus providing safe KAATSU in a setting where muscle contraction is contraindicated. This is often used in early stages of rehabilitation.

The KAATSU Cycle may also be used to “flush out” the deep veins by alternating distension in the deep veins with band release and robust venous return. In addition, the KAATSU Cycle can also be used as a “warm up” for a standard KAATSU session. The KAATSU Cycle produces vasodilation of the arteries, capillaries and veins distal to the KAATSU Air Band.

How do I work my core with KAATSU?

If you incorporate the use of core muscles into your KAATSU exercises, they will enjoy the similar adaptive responses as muscles that are distal to the KAATSU Air Bands. For example, if you do push-ups with KAATSU arm bands, not only do you stimulate development of your triceps, but also your pectoralis and core musculature, as you hold a good “plank” during the push-ups.

Is there a recommended period of time to do KAATSU?

There is no optimal time to do KAATSU. However, you may enjoy your KAATSU session more if you establish a regular schedule. It is not recommended to do KAATSU right after a large meal and for some, doing KAATSU or any exercise just before bedtime may impact their ability to fall asleep.

What types of exercises can you do with KAATSU?

Any light weight or partial body weight exercises can be performed with KAATSU. It is recommended that the three-point exercises first be mastered, then perform exercises most specific to the activities relevant to your lifestyle. Examples include cyclists KAATSU-ing on a stationary bike or baseball players throwing with arm bands on.

When should you NOT do KAATSU?

One should wait 3 days after a general anesthetic before resuming KAATSU. Out of an abundance of caution, we do not recommend pregnant women to start KAATSU during pregnancy. One should definitely not do KAATSU when dehydrated. In this case, please rehydrate, then KAATSU.

If it is true that no muscle fibers are torn while doing KAATSU without weights, how do people get bigger and stronger with KAATSU?

Generally, light weights and concentric exercises do not damage muscle fibers, while heavy weights and eccentric exercise can damage muscle. The more damage done to a muscle, the longer it takes to repair that damage before moving on to build bigger and stronger muscles.

Does lactic acid have a role in KAATSU?

Yes, lactic acid is one of many factors that helps stimulate adaptation and growth of muscle. However, it is not a goal in and of itself to get high lactate levels in blood with KAATSU. Lactate levels increase in muscle fibers when the rate of glycolysis (breakdown of carbohydrates, glycogen and glucose) exceeds the rate of the mitochondria to process carbohydrates and oxygen. By limiting the circulation with KAATSU, we reduce the ability of the circulation to re-supply oxygen to the working tissue. This results in the earlier onset of higher lactate concentrations in a workout at lower absolute work levels.

If there are no micro tears in the muscles with KAATSU, what does the increase in lactic acid and subsequent secretion of Growth Hormones do?

Micro tears are not necessary to stimulate lactate production or Growth Hormone secretion. It is the disturbance of homeostasis that stimulates lactate production and Growth Hormone secretion and they, in turn, stimulate an anabolic response in exercising tissues.

What is the risk of rhabdomyolysis from KAATSU?

There is a very low risk of Rhabdomyolysis Rhabdomyolysis does not occur when individuals do KAATSU properly and would only occur if multiple other predisposing factors were present while KAATSU was performed in a grossly negligent manner (e.g., the KAATSU Air Band compression on the limbs was significantly above the mandated levels, heavy weights were used, and the maximum time periods were exceeded).

Rhabdomyolysis is defined as major destruction of muscle fibers. The intracellular contents are released into the circulation and are attempted to be cleared by the kidney. If the load of cellular debris is too great, renal failure ensues. If not treated, death follows. There are many causes of rhabdomyolysis. The most common causes include:

  • The use of alcohol or illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine or amphetamines
  • Extreme muscle strain (especially in someone who is an untrained athlete; it can happen in elite athletes and can be more dangerous if there is more muscle mass to break down)
  • A crush injury such as from an auto accident, fall, or building collapse
  • Long-lasting muscle compression such as caused by prolonged immobilization after a fall or lying unconscious on a hard surface during illness or while under the influence of alcohol or medication
  • The use of medications such as antipsychotics or statins, especially when given in high doses

Other causes of rhabdomyolysis include:

  • Electrical shock injury, lightning strike, or third-degree burn
  • A very high body temperature (hyperthermia) or heat stroke
  • Seizures
  • A metabolic disorder such as ketoacidosis
  • Diseases of the muscles (myopathy) such as congenital muscle enzyme deficiency or Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy
  • Viral infections such as the flu, HIV, or herpes simplex virus
  • Bacterial infections leading to toxins in tissues or the bloodstream (sepsis)

There was a famous case in the occlusion training (or tournique training) community where a Norwegian ice hockey player experienced rhabdomyolysis while using Delfi equipment. He was not doing KAATSU and did not use KAATSU equipment. Instead, he tightly occluded his blood flow to his limbs while lifting extremely heavy weights for a long period of time. This was the first time he had worked out in a long time due to injury. It is unknown whether he was dehydrated or if he had a fever from an infection.KAATSU is not occlusion training or tourniquet training.

The conditions necessary for rhabdomyolysis due to KAATSU would be extreme and extremely rare and likely to include multiple other conditions that can cause rhabdomyolysis.

The KAATSU equipment is specifically designed not to occlude and not to be used for more than 20 minutes on the legs and 15 minutes on the arms, ideally performed without weights or heavy resistance. KAATSU equipment uses pneumatic bands that provide empirical data for the coach/trainer/physician/therapist/patient/athlete to understand and safely utilize in their training.