The Official KAATSU Episode: Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Blood Flow Restriction For Muscle Gain, Injury Recovery, Testosterone, Growth Hormone & Much More!

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Alright folks, this is it: The Official KAATSU Training Episode.

I've addressed blood flow restriction (BFR) training, KAATSU training, and occlusion training in other podcast episodes, including:

And in this recent Instagram post, I showed one creative way I've been weaving it into my weekly at-home “quarantine” workout routine:


However, I have yet to do a comprehensive podcast on the origins of this so-called KAATSU training out of Japan, nor have I taken as deep a dive as myself and my guests do on today's show.

My first guest on this episode, John Doolittle, CAPT, USN (Ret), graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1992 and transferred to the U.S. Navy. During his 25-year career in the Navy, he was deployed around the world as an officer in the SEAL Teams, conducting special operations around the globe, including Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. John retired as a Navy Captain after his last assignment as Director of the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) Task Force at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Headquarters—supporting 73,000 Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Green Berets, Night Stalkers, Air Force, and Marine Special Operators. John is a certified KAATSU Master Instructor, an NAUI Dive Instructor, and has an MS in Defense Analysis/Irregular Warfare/Special Operations from the Naval Postgraduate School.

My other guest, Steven Munatones studied under Dr. Sato, the Japanese inventor of KAATSU (pictured right), for 13 years before co-founding KAATSU Global with Dr. Sato. He translated much of the original KAATSU information from Japanese to English. Previously, he licensed high-tech Japanese sanitary ware technology at TOTO Frontier. At RealLiveSports, he designed the ESPN Play by Play, a 2006 Toy of the Year. He founded the World Open Water Swimming Association where he utilized 9 years of national team coaching and a 1982 world championship title to help promote the new Olympic sport of marathon swimming. The Harvard graduate has introduced KAATSU equipment and protocols to collegiate, professional, and Olympic athletes, military special operators, and thousands of aging baby boomers in 47 countries.

So what exactly is KAATSU?

KAATSU is a safe and effective form of exercise, rehabilitation, and recovery invented in Japan in 1966. Patented pneumatic equipment enables your arms and legs to modify venous flow which leads to a cascade of positive physiological effects. KAATSU is supported by decades of extensive research at top academic institutions with specific protocols proven by millions of users in 32 countries and patented procedures in sports, exercise, rehabilitation, and wellness activities—both in the water and on land. KAATSU is a Japanese word and trademarked term where KA (加) means “additional” and ATSU (圧) means “pressure.”

During today's discussion, you'll discover:

-How John and Steven got interested in KAATSU training…11:05

  • John:
    • Introduced to KAATSU while rehabbing an injury
    • A previous rotator cuff injury took ~11 months to fully recover
    • With KAATSU, he was at 95% recovery after 5 months
  • Steven
    • Saw a swimmer using them while coaching the U.S. National Swim Team in Japan
    • He met Dr. Sato, founder of KAATSU, who doesn't speak English nor travel outside Japan
    • Dr. Sato took Steven under his wing for 13 years, teaching him KAATSU to share with others

-KAATSU defined and what it does to the body…15:50

  • KA (加) means “additional” and ATSU (圧) means “pressure”
  • Increase pressure, thereby expanding and contracting the vascular system
  • The bands are not tourniquets; they are elastic with a bit of give
  • You never want to “occlude” or stop blood flow completely
  • The bands move with the muscles or limbs
  • The blood is always moving
  • Creating as much engorgement in the capillaries and veins as possible
  • Sends signals to pituitary gland
  • This releases growth hormone, IGF-1, adrenaline into the vascular system

-How KAATSU affects mood and alertness after using it…23:25

  • Endorphins and adrenaline
  • Athletes or executives will use it before a big performance
  • Ben refers to KAATSU as an “exercise smart drug”
  • Can see capillaries light up during brain scans while using KAATSU
  • You're tricking the brain into thinking you're working much harder than you are

-How KAATSU allows you to build muscle without the use of heavy weights…26:55

  • Improving blood flow by opening the capillaries
  • Greater mechanical tension in the muscle
  • Mitochondria respond by growing in density
  • Tricking the muscle into a hypertrophic state
  • Dr. Sato's typical KAATSU workout:
    • First set: 60-90 reps with 40 lb. bar (priming the pump)
    • Second set: 20-30 reps
    • Third set: 4-8 reps
    • Rest 20 seconds between reps
    • Continue until exhaustion

-Should you use the bands on both arms and legs simultaneously…38:45

  • Not recommended for most users due to risk of passing out due to blood pressure dropping
  • High performing athletes may use both arms and legs in a very limited way (ex. 2-3 jump shots) then do the same motion sans the bands
  • Many professional athletes are utilizing KAATSU bands, most notably Carmelo Anthony

-How KAATSU affects longevity…44:15

  • Dr. Mercola suggests an increase in NAD levels from using KAATSU
  • Explosive or plyometric training more correlated with longevity
  • Use Nature Beat app with KAATSU to gauge sympathetic stress
  • Military special ops often get “stuck” in the sympathetic mode (fight or flight)
  • KAATSU has been shown to turn on the parasympathetic aspect of the human body
  • Dr. Sato has an “insomnia” protocol with KAATSU
  • Book: KAATSU – The Pressure Training From Japan – New perspectives in sport, therapy and health promotion
  • It's possible to do multiple workouts per day, and work the same muscle set with minimal rest

-Why KAATSU is not the same as BFR training…50:45

  • BFR is by definition occlusion training
  • KAATSU approach is completely different; gradual increase vs. a decrease
  • Much safer approach
  • Hypoxia element is critical; akin to running at sea level, then 500 ft., 1000 ft., etc. above sea level
  • Dr. Sato worked with 7,000 cardiology patients
    • Did not work them hard, put bands with light pressure
    • Learned how the body responds in a vulnerable state
    • Indicative of how elite athletes may use the bands
  • Maintain the pressure until one becomes 60-70 years old
  • It's more of a vascular training than a muscular training

-Potential effects of KAATSU on the immune system…58:15

  • John uses cycle mode while walking at night
  • Many studies indicate nitric oxide synthase in the endothelial system
  • Dr. Sato encouraged KAATSU users to do it 3x per day because of its efficacy in promoting the immune system

-How KAATSU has helped service members with severe injuries…1:09:00

-How KAATSU is differentiated from BFR in the scientific community…1:11:45

-And much more…

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

– Podcasts:

– Book: KAATSU – The Pressure Training From Japan – New perspectives in sport, therapy and health promotion

– PDF: Effects of KAATSU Training on Human Mitochondria-related Factors and Comprehensive Effects on Cardiovascular System

KAATSU device and bands (code BEN to save 5%) Here's a tip for those outside the US: You may want to consider purchasing from a friend in the states as I've been hearing prices in other countries can be considerably higher.

BFR bands (code BEN10 to save 10%)



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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for John, Steven, or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

30 thoughts on “The Official KAATSU Episode: Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Blood Flow Restriction For Muscle Gain, Injury Recovery, Testosterone, Growth Hormone & Much More!

  1. Paul says:

    HI, old post but hopefully someone can answer. How long can you wear the bands for during a workout. Doing a body weight session that lasts for normally 45mins can you wear the bands on cycle mode for the whole duration?

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      Hi Paul, feel free to contact the KAATSU team: +1-866-217-3460 or

    2. Paul,
      I know Ben pushed you to our web team, but I’ll throw an answer out as well. Dr. Sato likes to say, “the more KAATSU Cycle, the better.” Of course, I hesitate to say that on here and find out that guys take it “next level” and go do 6-hours of Cycles which, of course, is NOT ideal. The short answer is, yes, you can do it for your entire 45-min workout if you like, primarily because you are letting fresh / oxygenated blood in every 30 seconds… and this sis how many of our U.S. Special Operation Command (USSOCOM) soldiers/sailors/marines use KAATSU. Dr. Joe Mercola (who lives near me) does KAATSU Cycles 2-3 hrs each day but is only “working out” for a small fraction of that time. The rest of the time he is walking around his house doing multi-joint movements like putting dishes away, making coffee, folding clothes, etc. Probably the most popular use of KAATSU Cycles with our customers is while responding to emails… I have arms in Cycle Mode as I type ;-). The key is that KAATSU Cycles, even in a passive mode are VERY good for generating endothelial nitric oxide and many other hormones associated with exercise… you are continually dilating and relaxing tissue… exercising from the inside-out. If any of you want an example of a good on-the-road travel KAATSU/TRX workout that only lasts 20 minutes, send me a note at [email protected]. I’ll also send you our entire manual for the KAATSU C3. Get some.
      -John Doolittle

  2. Paul Rupe says:

    i have used my kaatsu 2.0 three months and still unsure when to move to next level .And how many cyclels make a sesson .

    1. Paul, in general, if you are able to complete 4 sets of a movement (lightweight and/or resistance), with the first set being high reps… then, you are ready for some more pressure. You can first increase the base pressure (tightness of the bands) and then slowly increase the automated KAATSU Cycle (on/off cycles) pressure. I can give you many more details if you reach out direct: [email protected]

  3. Diego S says:

    Aloha from Maui, just wondering why I should buy KAATSU and not the B Strong bands? Is there a significant benefit that makes the extra $$ worth it for the KAATSU system? I wonder if people have compared the two and the results people are getting. I would love to get KAATSU, but it is a bit pricey. Hopefully price can come down some day.

    1. Hey Diego from Maui! Sure that question is for Ben, but I’ll take a stab. B-Strong does not have the patented and valuable “Cycle” function, which is an essential piece of KAATSU… the Cycle allows automated and passive expansion and contraction of vascular tissue distal to the bands, which helps with the production of endothelial nitric oxide synthase. Additionally, B-Strong is manually controlled by a blood pressure pump. KAATSU is automated and precise in its pressure settings. Hope that helps brother. V/r, JD

  4. John Lavin says:

    I’m curious about the recovery needed post Kaatsu training. After performing a strength workout with the Kaatsu, let’s say for legs, will my recovery needs be similar to a heavy-weights leg day? For example, could I Kaatsu squat in the AM and squat heavy in the PM. Or would I plan a couple days of recovery after my Kaatsu squat session?

    My goals are hypertrophy/strength oriented.

    Thank you!

    1. John Doolittle says:

      John L, in case Ben doesn’t get to your question, I’ll give you my perspective. If you do legs with KAATSU, use only 20-30% of your typical weight/resistance… it will still be very intense, but your recovery will be QUICK. Think of it this way, little to no muscle “tearing” taking place since you’re working at “light intensity”… so little to no inflammatory response. It will FEEL hard, and your body will react with a cascade of biochemical reactions similar to heavy training… but you’ll be good for more in a few hours.

      If you want to go “heavy” on legs, another approach is to conduct KAATSU Cycles on your arms WHILE working legs – KAATSU on your arms creates the systemic benefit of lactate, BDNF, NO, VEGF, HGH, etc… and you can still get after it on your legs with no KAATSU. While your body reacts to the metabolic stress on your arms, the biochemical reactions allow you to REALLY go hard on legs (where there is no KAATSU).

      There are several research studies in the piece I submitted after the PodCast… check it out:

      Towards the end of that article, in the “Additional Research” section, there is a link to a pdf magazine with several videos of Dr. Cory Keirn. Please take a look at some of his descriptions and video examples as well. Enjoy! V/r, JD

  5. Aaron says:

    Really enjoyed the podcast but wanted some more clarity on KAATSU vs BFR such as the Delfi unit. If I recall the main difference you spoke about was KAATSU doesn’t have as high of pressure to fully occlude or approach occlusion. But I didn’t pick up any specifics on why having a lower pressure would be more beneficial or used for a different purpose. My conclusion was KAATSU is very similar and has a lot of the same benefits as BFR but in the peer-reviewed medical research I’ve read a majority of research is using the Delfi BFR unit. Why use KAATSU over BFR?

    Can you speak more to the differences, please?

    Thanks again!

    1. John Doolittle says:

      Hi Aaron, John here… thanks for this important question. There are many important differences between Delfi and KAATSU. To me, the most important distinguishing factor is that Delfi (and some other companies) use a “tourniquet cuff” to occlude blood to the limbs. This is extremely important; while Delfi uses a SURGICAL TOURNIQUET specifically engineered to cut off blood flow, KAATSU uses a specifically engineered FLEXIBLE, ELASTIC, & NARROW pneumatic band that gradually and precisely reduces the venous flow, NEVER occluding arterial flow. This safely enables KAATSU to be used on individuals of any age (our oldest is 104), and with a wide variety of conditions.

      There are many other factors to consider as well; KAATSU is portable, can be used on more than one limb at a time, can be used anywhere (train, plane, hotel room, etc), is less than 1/4 the price, allows full range of motion (compared to wide tourniquets), can be “untethered,” has waterproof bands, was used on thousands of cardiac rehab patients in the developmental years at the University of Tokyo Hospital, and the list goes on.

      As for peer-reviewed and published research, here’s 100+ in support of KAATSU… some light reading:
      V/r, JD

    2. Benjamin says:


      I think it is also important to note that KAATSU is the unit that started the BFR craze. Most research has been conducted on KAATSU until recently and almost all research cites KAATSU findings. Remember, research on KAATSU started way before other competitors came out. This shows that the KAATSU method is the method showing all the benefits and how the physiology works. The reason many companies do not follow this method is because the amount of patents KAATSU has with their bands meaning other HAVE to find another way to produce a product. Therefor these others will use research specific to their product to try to and show it works. My questions for you, if all the research from KAATSU show amazing benefits and other companies products don’t work like KAATSU, can they claim their products have the same effects/ cite KAATSU findings?

      Dr. Sato started his KAATSU adventures in the 1960s, way more experience and way more time to prove the safety aspect.

      I hope this helps some.

  6. Damon says:

    Sound issue. Cannot hear your guests. Have tried your site as well as apple podcasts over the past two days.

    1. Ryan says:

      This podcast was is stereo mode for whatever reason unfortunately. Made for a weird drive haha. I suspect you may have just the left earbud in. It took me a little while to find, but you can temporarily switch your phone (if you’re using a phone) to output audio in mono mode, then all audio comes out both left & right sides of your speakers/headphones. Hope this helps!

  7. Alex says:

    I hear a fair amount of discussion around price. I bought from UK for over £1530. Turned out the Greek distributor bought from US then put their own 100% markup and sold on to me. I am very satisfied with the bands and machine but not at all satisfied with how selling and distribution is managed within the company. Alex

    1. Dear Alex,

      I’m glad you enjoy your machine.

      At the moment we have a price down in Uk for £999 until 30/04/2020.

      Furthermore I still don’t think you understood that you purchased the machine and the licence at great price and it’s not appropriate to create misunderstandings on the web.

      You bought the Kaatsu Cycle 2.0 and the Professional Licence of KAATSU Specialist Certification Program for £1530 for Professional Use.

      Now about the profit that you are saying of course we must have some as a company.

      Unfortunately it’s not 100% as you claim.

      Here is exactly how much a machine costs to come in Uk from the United States.

      $899+ $70 delivery fee+ 20% import taxes at customs (all of which you would have to pay any time you legally bring the machine into the U.K.

      Total Price: $1163
      (each machine is covered by insurance in case of loss or damage that’s why the delivery is so high).

      Your purchase in total money cost us:

      $1163 + the cost of the certification program.

      The after tax profit and the product liability insurance is less than 20% which I assume you agree is the least a non charitable business should make otherwise there would be no point in working with the states as distributors.

      Please don’t give wrong impression about how we manage the products and our business without understanding the full facts.


      Dimitrios Gryfakis
      KAATSU Specialist Ltd
      United Kingdom

  8. Cj says:

    Have you tried the X3 workout with the bands ?

    1. John Doolittle says:

      Cj, I’m sure that question is directed at Ben… but I’ll give some input here. While I have not used the X3, I have used surgical tubing, Therabands, rehab elastic bands, swimming “stretch cords,” etc. Anything that creates resistance can be used in conjunction with KAATSU. Just remember to bring the resistance/weight down to 20-30% of what you usually work out with… it gets intense quick. V/r, JD

  9. Bruce wright says:

    Great info commercial. Why not mention cost of device. It would of been helpful to discuss benefits of practical BFR in comparison studies.

    1. John Doolittle says:

      Bruce – good point. The cost is $854 with the discount code, “Ben”… that’s the KAATSU Cycle 2.0, two leg bands, two arm bands, online training/certification, and a KAATSU virtual magazine subscription. Hope that’s helpful. V/r, JD

      1. Roger says:

        The price is a little high in my opinion. I’m using bfr bands with great results today, but would love to try KAATSU. Wish you could make a cheaper version for people that are not executives

        1. John Doolittle says:

          Roger, we’ll get there eventually. Dr. Sato started his first automated KAATSU machine at $16,000 USD, then the $5K “Master” device, then the $2100 “Nano” device, and now the under $900 “Cycle 2.0” device. We’re working hard to get the key element of KAATSU (the automated Cycle functionality) as effective, efficient, and cost-effective as possible. It’s taken us 20 years to get the price down to where we are today… and we’ll keep going; a marathon, not a sprint. That said, if you would like to find a local facility and/or trainer to try it out first, you can reach out to us via the web site listed above in Ben’s article. V/r, JD

          1. Rafa says:

            Would you ship to Germany?
            The price here is near 2600 $… so it would make sense to me to order it from the USA

          2. Roger says:

            Tnx for your feedback John. Do really want to try the KAATSU bands.

            Do you have an Norwegian supplier?

            The customs and tax makes it quite more expencive as well for me to get hold of your bands.

            Best regards

        2. John Doolittle says:

          Additionally, we had to make these devices to be safe for cardiac rehab patients, the military, and clients up to the age of 104. That requires a level of precision that is not possible by inexpensive BFR bands. I’ll be posting an article that will have links to studies done on cardiac rehab patients at the Univ. of Tokyo Medical School… more to follow. V/r, JD

          1. John Doolittle says:

            To Rafa. Many European countries have exclusive distribution agreements in place for KAATSU (including Germany). Unfortunately, we cannot ship to any countries that fall under an exclusive distributor agreement. V/r, JD

        3. John Doolittle says:

          Roger, reference your Norway supplier question. If you need a supplier in your neck of the woods, we have one in Denmark that covers down on Norway. You can get me at [email protected] for further info.

    2. Leslie Kenny says:

      Hey Bruce,

      I hear where you’re coming from, but I have to say that, having bought a Ka’atsu Nano several years ago at more than twice the price of the Nano, the after sales service from these guys have been absolutely outstanding. I *love* Ka’atsu and tell everyone I know about how amazing the results are. Unlike other companies, they have decades of research behind them conducted at Tokyo University, which is Japan’s Harvard. The Chinese Olympic team would not have chosen Ka’atsu unless they were 100% convinced that the Ka’atsu BFR was way better than cheaper alternatives. Given the fact that this is proven to get your body to naturally increase GH (and to get HGH shots would be prohibitively expensive and probably dangerous), nitric oxide (which was seen by the Swedish Infectious Disease Institute as an effective anti-viral against the SARS virus:, protection from sarcopenia, etc, I think this is an awesome and highly cost effective piece of kit. Just my personal opinion. I have zero affiliation with the company.

      1. John Doolittle says:

        Leslie… thank you for the kind words. V/r, JD

        1. Leslie Kenny says:

          For sure, John. And for Bruce, I should have written that the Kaatsu Nano was more than twice the price of the Kaatsu Cycle 2.0 which is what Kaatsu are selling right now. So the price has definitely come way down, not to mention the savings on things like HGH (were you to be one of those people doing monthly HGH injections or even buying a secretagogue like SeroVital which purports to raise HGH).

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