Sports | August 24, 2021 2:34 pm

The Strange Routine Conor McGregor Is Using to Rebuild His Shattered Leg, Explained

One sports surgeon called occlusion training the Irishman's "secret weapon"

mcgregor recovery
Blood flow resistance could have McGregor strutting around the ring again soon.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Conor McGregor’s officially on the mend.

Don’t care? Sick of the outspoken Irishman? Fair enough. But you don’t necessarily have to be invested in the comeback of the one they call “Notorious” to be interested in the avant-garde methods he’s employing to make his comeback.

As one of the world’s top-earning athletes — he pulled in $180 million in 2020 — McGregor’s recovery process offers a look at the best tech and brightest minds in modern sports medicine. And according to a recent Instagram video, a massive key to rehabbing his broken tibia will be blood-flow restriction training.

Also known as occlusion training, BFR is a method by which trainees inflate band to a certain pressure, then situate them at a strategic spot on their limbs. For the upper body, it’s usually between the biceps and the deltoids. For the lower body — the area McGregor hasn’t been able to put weight on for five weeks and he’s eager to build back up — it’s on the upper thigh.

The idea is to partially limit blood flow (venous flow is blocked, arterial flow is able to pass through), so that blood cells have no choice but to collect around the muscles you’re trying to target. Without fresh oxygen streaming in, the entire area experiences significant stress. This leads to an increase in blood lactate concentration, which leads to swelling, which … believe it or not, leads to a highly efficient workout session.

When muscles are wrapped in what are essentially performance tourniquets, it takes less time — and extremely important for injured athletes — less resistance for them to max out. In fact, 15-minute workouts with light weights is the perfect approach for occlusion training. Going overboard defeats the purpose of the workout, and could lead to a blood clot.

Many in the weightlifting community have harnessed BFR in the last few years for chasing gains (headed by Mark Wahlberg, naturally), but its primary use case is for someone like McGregor, who’s looking to train his body as if he’s fully healthy, even though he still has months before he can start hopping around a ring again. Keep in mind: the man literally had a rod inserted into his tibia.

But now he can get after it again, weeks ahead of schedule, and actually register some gains. That’s one reason this orthopedic sports surgeon called BFR training McGregor’s “secret weapon.” Love him or hate him, the man will be back soon. BFR will be a big reason why.