Insight Update

How Everton FC are working smarter with BFR

Premier League side Everton FC are a club on the up. Currently sitting in mid-table after a positive start to the season, the confidence is returning to Goodison Park. We caught up with Head of Physical Performance, Jack Dowling, to learn how he prepares players to perform at their peak.

“In this stage of the season, my work is done on a much more individual basis,” said Dowling. “When it comes to pre-season, the goal is to return the entire squad to fitness. During the season, however, players are all at different levels. There are players who’ve played lots of minutes, some who have mainly been used from the bench, and others who haven’t played as regularly. When you factor in the players who have been away on international duty, it can be a challenge to manage.”

How Everton FC are working smarter with BFR

One way of getting more out of his players is the integration of BFR training for recovery. BFR involves applying a strap to the top of the arms or legs, while 1) performing exercise at a low intensity (BFR Training) or 2) recovering from exercise (Recovery BFR). The restricting strap allows oxygenated blood to flow to the muscles but restricts the amount that then returns to the heart. The restricted muscles are forced to work harder, delivering quicker and more effective adaptations including rapid muscle growth, increased endurance and quicker recovery.

Since introducing Hytro BFR, a device that integrates BFR into a wearable, to the Everton squad at the beginning of the season, Dowling has seen huge buy-in from the squad. Having used Hytro BFR at his previous club, Blackburn Rovers, Dowling had seen first-hand the numerous benefits that BFR has for elite footballers. “I slowly introduced Hytro BFR,” he said. “A couple of players had used BFR previously, but many hadn’t. They’ve found the practicality of Hytro BFR, how easy it is to apply, and the safety of the product, really positive. I now have a core group of players wanting to do extra BFR sessions on top of what they’re already doing, so that they can increase muscle mass.”

Hytro’s ability to stimulate hypertrophy is just one element that Everton’s players have embraced. For those recovering from injury, applying BFR has helped them to maintain muscle mass; Dowling has noted that those who used BFR while injured have regained muscle girth quicker and more effectively. It’s recovery, though, where many of the squad have benefited: “After games players come back into the changing rooms and find Hytro BFR recovery shorts waiting for them. That’s because we want to start the recovery process as soon as possible. The players will shower and then they’ll begin recovering. That means hydration, nutrition, and for some, Hytro BFR.”

Each player tends to have their favourite recovery modality. What works for one may not work for others. Dowling points to players who like ice baths, while others prefer heat. At Everton, no player is forced to use Hytro BFR after a game. The take-up, however, has been promising. “Players can wear the shorts while playing cards on the bus,” said Dowling. “As a squad, we’ve been for walks while wearing Hytro BFR. That isn’t possible with other forms of BFR. The sun is shining, it’s nice and social, and the recovery process is in place. We aren’t working harder with our recovery; we’re working smarter.”

How Everton FC are working smarter with BFR

Competing in England’s elite league, Everton’s players need to be ready to perform to their maximum level in each match. With many players full internationals valued at tens of millions of pounds, their health is of the utmost importance. Injuries or physical issues could be disastrous for both the club and the individual. As a result, Hytro were invited to Everton to give a safety demonstration. “After the demonstration, players understood that this isn’t just a gimmick, that there’s a lot of science that backs up Hytro BFR,” Dowling added. “I’d already explained the concept to them and what BFR does. After wearing the garments, they also received physical feedback. Players were able to feel the pump, the swelling, the flushing, and could understand what was going on within their bodies.”

With BFR firmly part of many Everton players’ personal training programmes, Dowling had some simple advice for any coaches looking to implement Hytro BFR with their own athletes: “Do it! Hytro BFR has been a massive game-changer, especially for recovery. Consider easing it into the schedule if athletes have never used BFR before, otherwise, you could lose them straight away. You could start at a tightness level of 2 and get progressively tighter. Hytro BFR shouldn’t be the only tool for recovery: think of it as another tool to add to your box. That said, Hytro BFR is taking up a lot of room in my toolbox!”

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