FitnessStrength Training

The “Easy” Way to Get a Hard Workout in Just 15 Minutes – Especially If You’re Not a Weight Lifter


What if you could spend just 15 minutes a day doing a light exercise (even just walking) – and still build muscle as weight lifters do?

Sounds crazy, but Dr. Yoshiaki Sato came up with a breakthrough idea to “trick” your body into believing it’s working a lot harder than it really is.


You do light exercise that does not damage your muscle tissues. However, your body reacts as though you performed an intensive weight lifting workout. That means it grows your muscles so they quickly increase their strength.

And it takes only 15-20 minutes a day. As I mentioned, many people obtain a great workout for their legs just by using this technique while they walk – and for no longer than 20 minutes.

This allows seniors, the disabled and all the rest of us who are not able to perform high-intensity weight training to get the strength and muscle-building results of dedicated athletes.


This technique is much more common in Japan, but it’s spreading to the United States. It’s growing in popularity with clinics that use it to help injured people. Professional sports teams use it. Bodybuilders use it to magnify the results of their hard work.

But the word is just beginning to get out to the people who need it the most – ordinary folks, especially seniors, who need to maintain muscle mass and fitness as they keep growing older.


No, you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you will grow stronger. You will keep your ability to walk, lift, carry and perform your ordinary daily activities for many more years.

In Japan, it’s known as KAATSU. In America, it’s called blood flow restriction (BFR) training.


Why the Middle-Aged and Seniors Need to Grow Muscle Mass

As we grow older, we lose muscle – and strength. It’s called sarcopenia.

That’s what turns a 25-year-old athlete into a frail 85-year-old who needs help standing up from a chair.

The more muscle you can grow and pack on now, the more of a cushion you’ll have later in life when you begin to lose it.

Along with muscle, as you age you tend to lose mitochondria. Those are the energy powerhouses inside your cells. As you lose mitochondria, you lose both strength and energy. You feel tired and weak because you are tired and weak.


The traditional way to overcome sarcopenia is with high-intensity resistance training – which is mainly lifting heavyweights. But most older people can’t do that.

With BFR, you can use only light weights or simple bodyweight exercises. This reduces the danger of injury. Yet your body thinks you’re working out as hard as an Arnold-wannabe and builds muscle accordingly.

Remember – This Isn’t About Showing Off Like Jack LaLanne – It’s About Keeping Your Ability to Live on Your Own


I have a friend who worked at his local airport as a Passenger Assist. That means he pushed people in wheelchairs to and from their airplane flights. He’s not young himself, so it depressed him how many people have lost their ability to walk more than a few feet. And how many needed help just to stand up from a sitting position.

The vast majority were not paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. They were just so weak they could barely function.

Losing muscle mass makes surgery more difficult for seniors, and to recover from it.

To put it bluntly – the weaker you are, the higher your risk of dying from any and all causes.


What is BFR?

You wear two snug bands around your upper arms when you’re exercising your arms. When you’re exercising your legs, you wear two snug bands around your upper thighs.

(You should not wear both the armbands and the legs bands at the same time, although you can find pictures online of people doing that.)

Perform arm exercises with the armbands on for no more than 15 minutes. Take them off.

Perform leg exercises with the leg bands on (or just walk) for no more than 20 minutes. Take them off.

Rest. Repeat the next day, or whenever you feel ready again. You can exercise your arms one day, your legs the next.

The bands should be tight enough to block some of the flow of blood in your veins, but not your arteries.

Holding back the blood in your veins sends a strong signal to your body that you are exercising intensely – even though you’re not.


What Happens With BFR?

Everybody has two kinds of muscle fibers: fast twitch and slow twitch.

When you’re just moving around in your daily life, you use only the slow-twitch fibers. 

But to make your muscles stronger, you must activate the fast-twitch fibers – and that requires hard work. Long, slow, low-intensity exercise is not enough.

That’s why athletes need high-intensity training.

But with BFR, stopping the flow of blood in your veins activates the fast-twitch muscles. Therefore, you get the benefits of building muscle – but without lifting really heavyweights.


How Do You Get Started?

You can buy BFR bands online at Amazon and maybe from local stores. They range in price from 1,000s of dollars to around $25. Personally, I would say don’t get fancy and spend lots of money unless you’re under the guidance of a doctor or physical therapist.

Armbands should be 1 1/2 inches wide. Leg bands should be 2 inches wide.

Do NOT keep them on longer than recommended. That’s no more than 15 minutes for your arms and no more than 20 minutes for your legs. And don’t wear both arm and leg bands at the same time.

You will not work hard, but you will feel the muscle burn and get out of breath. So, stop and rest as you need to. Recover for as many days as you need to. 

If you have cardiovascular conditions, consult your doctor before trying BFR.