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Kaatsu (Japanese: 加圧, often styled as KAATSU or KAATSU[1]) is a patented exercise method developed by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato that is based on blood flow moderation exercise (or vascular occlusion moderation training) involving compression of the vasculature proximal to the exercising muscles by the Kaatsu Master device.


In 1966 at the age of 18 while Yoshiaki Sato was attending a Buddhist ceremony in his native Japan, his legs went numb while sitting in the traditional Japanese posture on the floor.[2] Out of desperation, he began to massage his calves in an attempt to relieve the discomfort during the long ceremony. He realized that his blood circulation was blocked in his calves.[2] The feeling was similar to "the pump" he experienced as a bodybuilder, referring to the swelling of one's muscles during a workout.[2][3] This was when he conceived the original idea of blood flow moderation training.

Over the next 7 years, he experimented on himself by applying different bicycle tubes, ropes and bands at different pressures on various parts of his body.[2] After documenting his self-experiments, learning what worked and what did not, he developed effective protocols to safely modify blood flow for the purpose of enabling muscle growth.[2]

The "moment of proof" for Sato came at the age of 25. He suffered a badly broken ankle and tore knee ligaments during a skiing accident. Sato's father - a local doctor - told him that his injuries would take six months to heal. During his recovery, Sato performed isometric exercises with his injured leg while using his KAATSU bands. When the cast was removed after 6 weeks, doctors were shocked. Not only had his injuries healed completely, but there was no muscle atrophy.[2] This was an unheard of recovery for such an injury and attracted much attention from other people who asked Sato whether KAATSU would be effective for their health issues. In response, Sato opened a clinic in 1973 (the Sato Sports Plaza), which he operated between 1973 and 1982, treating thousands of people of all ages, and with a variety of health conditions.[2]


In 1994, Sato applied for his first patents in Japan (Patent No. 2670421), U.S.A. (Patent No. 6149618), and Europe (UK, Germany, France, Italy with 94206403.0) as he produced the first Kaatsu Training bands. In 1997, Sato introduced the Kaatsu Instructor educational program where his defined protocols were shared with coaches, trainers, physical therapists and physicians throughout Japan. Over 3,000 Kaatsu Instructors were certified.


Kaatsu Training was named one of the collaborative projects of the University of Tokyo Hospital's 22nd Century Medical and Research Center. Sato also began to offer an ischemic circulatory physiology course at the University of Tokyo Hospital and conducted joint development work with the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation.[2]

In the 1990s, Sato began joint research with Professor Naokata Ishii of the Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, at The University of Tokyo. Other researchers in Japan started to explore the benefits of Kaatsu and various research results were submitted to peer-review publications.[2] In 2014, Dr Sato established the Kaatsu Research Foundation.[2] Research on KAATSU has been conducted in the United States at Harvard Medical School and the University of Missouri, in Japan at the University of Tokyo Hospital and Osaka University, in China at Peking University and Jilin University, in Brazil at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in São Paulo, and many other academic research institutions.[4]

Chairman of the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, Shawn M Arent, is studying the effects of the method for the US Defense Department.[5]

How Kaatsu works[edit]

According to physical therapist Nicholas Rolnick, if someone exercises while restricting blood flow, blood and metabolic byproducts become "stuck in the muscle, unable to leave." Due to the presence of the metabolites, the muscles become 'fatigued', forcing the muscle to work harder than it normally would need to, to produce contractions under light loads. The extra effort created together with the blood flow restriction, speeds up the process of building muscle mass, increasing strength.[6][7]


The second generation of KAATSU equipment was launched in 2004 with the introduction of the KAATSU Master and the KAATSU Air Bands. The KAATSU Master device quantified and monitored the precise pressure applied to users’ legs and arms.

In 2005, the KAATSU Master Mini was released in Japan.[8]

A revised KAATSU Master unit and a new KAATSU Nano were released in the United States in September, 2014.[8]

The next generation KAATSU Master 2.0 was launched in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East in July, 2019.[8]

A successor to the Nano, the KAATSU Cycle 2.0 was released in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East in October, 2020.[8]

The KAATSU C3 (successor to the Cycle 2.0) was released in April, 2021.[9]

The KAATSU B1, featuring Bluetooth-controlled compressors mounted on the KAATSU Air Bands was released in September, 2022.[10]



  1. ^ "Photographic image of Kaatsu Training Logo" (JPG). Par-golf.co.jp. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Munatones, Steven (2016). "The Evolution of KAATSU" (PDF). KAATSU Magazine. 1 (3): 10 – via KAATSU Global.
  3. ^ Eitel, Joseph. "What Causes Your Muscles to Expand When You Work Out?". The Nest. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  4. ^ Munatones, Steven (October 20, 2015). "KAATSU Research Activities". KAATSU Global Blog. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  5. ^ Futterman, Matthew (2021-07-21). "A Hot Fitness Trend Among Olympians: Blood Flow Restriction". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  6. ^ Kristen Rogers. "Why kaatsu, a fitness trend spotted at the Games, isn't just for Olympians". CNN. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  7. ^ "Olympic Athletes Are Into Blood Flow Restriction Training | Everyday Health". EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  8. ^ a b c d Munatones, Steven (March 28, 2020). "The History, Mechanism and Relevance of KAATSU". KAATSU Global Blog. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  9. ^ Munatones, Steven (April 2021). "KAATSU C3" (PDF). KAATSU Magazine. 3 (2): 49 – via KAATSU Global.
  10. ^ Munatones, Steven (September 12, 2022). "Advantages and Benefits of the KAATSU B1 + Unboxing the B1 and Downloading the app". KAATSU Global Blog. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  11. ^ Centner, Christoph; Lauber, Benedikt; Seynnes, Olivier R.; Jerger, Simon; Sohnius, Tim; Gollhofer, Albert; König, Daniel (2019-11-14). "Low-load blood flow restriction training induces similar morphological and mechanical Achilles tendon adaptations compared with high-load resistance training". Journal of Applied Physiology. 127 (6): 1660–1667. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00602.2019. ISSN 8750-7587. PMID 31725362. S2CID 208041090.
  12. ^ Rolnick, Nicholas; Schoenfeld, Brad (October 2020). "Blood Flow Restriction Training and the Physique Athlete: A Practical Research-Based Guide to Maximizing Muscle Size". Strength & Conditioning Journal. 42 (5): 22–36. doi:10.1519/SSC.0000000000000553. S2CID 219095278.
  13. ^ Patterson, Stephen; Head, Paul; Hughes, Luke; Warmington, Stuart; Brandner, Christopher (June 2017). "Blood flow restriction training: A novel approach to augment clinical rehabilitation: How to do it". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 51 (3): 1648–1649. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097738. PMID 28642225. S2CID 206883223 – via Research Gate.

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