KAATSU: Training With Minimal Loads For Maximum Results

Pinch off your limbs and pump up your muscles as much as possible while training? Many people agree that it is a very useful training technique to add value to your training regimen, especially while training at home.

What is the KAATSU training technique?

KAATSU works through the mechanism of metabolic stress; the accumulation of waste products in the trained muscle (like lactate, phosphate, and protons, combined with oxygen deficiency in the worked muscle). This phenomenon is also known by a lot of people as “the pump”. The souring sensation of a muscle being trained with a higher number of repetitions.

With KAATSU, acute metabolic stress is achieved very quickly due to pinching off the muscle with an elastic material such as knee wraps (or specifically made KAATSU bands) and restricting the blood circulation. This is why the technique is also called “blood flow restriction training” or BFR.

Video credits: KAATSUMedical

Why you should use the KAATSU training technique?

Training programs should always be based on the three essential muscle growth mechanisms:

  1. Mechanical tension
  2. Metabolic stress
  3. Muscle damage

Your program should focus on all these essential factors, with the third point always being the results of the first two.

The implementation of the KAATSU training techniques uses lower loads for mechanical tension, therefore a reduction in muscle damage. And that brings us to a number of benefits;

  1. KAATSU is great for fast recovery and adding volume to your training due to the use of lower loads.
  2. KAATSU reduces stress on connective tissue due to the use of lower loads.
  3. KAATSU is joint-friendly. So people who are rehabbing or experiencing joint pain can use KAATSU to keep making progress and eventually get back to regular training.

How to use the KAATSU training technique?

First, you need to have material such as knee wraps or similar bands that can pinch off the muscle/limb. Something that makes you being able to regulate how tight you will wrap it around the worked muscle.

How to use the KAATSU training technique?

How tight should it be? On a scale of 1 to 10, aim for 4-6 for arms, shoulders and calves and a 7-8 for hamstrings. .

If you experience pain and your libs start to tingle or discolor when starting your chosen exercise then the wraps are too tight you should loosen the wraps immediately. You should experience a burning sensation and the most extreme pump you ever did during your sets. If you don’t, the wraps are not tight enough. The wraps should feel a bit uncomfortable, but never painful.

Do you need to keep the wraps on during the KAATSU sets?

Yes! It’s crucial that you don’t take of OR loosen the wraps during your sets because if you do, there won’t be a big buildup in metabolic stress. And that is the key point with KAATSU.

How many repetitions and sets during the use of KAATSU?

Due to the low workload, you should aim at using about 20-30% of your 1RM. That equates to about 30 repetitions. You should aim for 4 to 5 working sets with 15-30 seconds rest in between. That equates to 3 to 4 deep breaths in between the sets. Also, keep in mind that after the first set your number of repetitions can/will go down substantially due to the huge buildup of metabolic stress and fatigue. This does not matter, keep going until you hit muscular failure.


  • KAATSU is a very useful technique to add to your training arsenal if you want to train at a higher frequency.
  • Use it at about 20-30% of your 1RM, which equates to about 30 repetitions.
  • 4 to 5 working sets should be more than enough.

Application to the limbs:

Body Part Application Pressure
Biceps & triceps Tie the wraps where the shoulder goes into your upper-arm / underneath the armpit. Tightness level: 4-6
Shoulders Tie the wrap where the clavicle goes into your shoulder Tightness level: 4-6
Hamstrings & quadriceps Tie the wraps under your groin/underneath your glutes Tightness level: 7-8
Calves Tie the wraps underneath your knee Tightness level: 4-6

With this, I hope you can add some more intensity and progress to your home workouts. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback and feel free to send them through!

Happy training!

Bart de Winter
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dewinterbart
Owner DEWINTER Personal Training
Licensed Personal Trainer & Lifestyle coach.

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