SAGA Fitness Review: Unlimited Pump

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

Blood Flow Restriction can be tricky business—sure, you can go with elastic bands, but those take forever to get on and off. And it’s difficult to know if you have enough inflation in your bands when you pump them up yourself.

SAGA Fitness aims to solve those problems with their Bluetooth activated BFR bands, so we put them to the test to see if they’re a worthy addition to your workout.

The wildest pump you've ever felt
The Adult Man Image/Icon Image source: SAGA Fitness

SAGA Fitness

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Bottom line: SAGA is the only wireless product on the market that allows for precise blood flow restriction (as in, you can dial in the mmHg). Sure, there are cheaper alternatives like rubber bands (imprecise and inconsistent), and wired pressure cuffs (comes with an attached box like a blood pressure machine). But if you want precision and data to maximize your workout with BFR, SAGA is the best way to go.

Ratings:

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The Adult Man Image/Icon  Quality of Materials The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon The Adult Man Image/Icon
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Pros:

  • Pairing the cuffs to your phone via the app is super easy and takes under 10 seconds
  • You can adjust the cuff pressure on the fly to ensure you’re getting the best possible pump
  • The app times how long you’ve been wearing the cuffs so you can track the maximum allowable time
  • Because the cuffs are wireless, they’re easy to throw in your gym bag and slip on when you’re ready for your BFR sets

Cons:

  • Because SAGA is a new company, they don’t have a ton of easily accessible workout content---they have a 4-hour course for personal trainers, but that’s too big a commitment for me. However there are promises from the brand to bring out a 30 minute intro course in the near future.
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Do you know that feeling when you’re ready to hit the weights hard, and two weeks in your knees start screaming?

Pro athletes have been harnessing the science of blood flow restriction (BFR) training for years to help with injury recovery and quick muscle gain. And for a long time, that same tech wasn’t available to the common guy. 

But SAGA Fitness, an Australian-based company, is aiming to change that. With their Bluetooth enabled BFR training cuffs, their app supposedly works like a sports-medicine therapist, inflating and deflating the cuffs to the perfect level for maximum hypertrophy.

After listening to the aching in my knees after some heavy squats, I decided to work SAGA’s cuffs into my routine. I’ve been using their BFR cuffs now for a few weeks, and I have to say—this wasn’t what I expected.

What Is SAGA Fitness?

model doing bicep curls with saga fitness bands on arm

SAGA Fitness is an Australian brand making blood flow restriction (BFR) cuffs for occlusion training.

This sort of training has been a staple in sports medicine for recuperating athletes as studies show it’s an excellent training intensity technique to allow for continued muscle growth at much lighter weights than you’d normally use. 

In plain English? Basically, if you’ve torn a chest muscle, you’d normally be out of commission. You run the risk of reinjuring the muscle if you hit the gym and start doing bicep curls with your normal 30-pound weights. 

But you can add BFR cuffs above your bi’s, pick up the 10-pounders, and get a similar pump with a third of the weight. 

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You don’t have to be injured either—while there’s no replacing the heavier lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, BFR training can add another element of intensity to your machine-weight work. 

So if it’s leg day, maybe you start with squats for the foundation. When you head over to the quad-extension machine, add on your BFR cuffs, lighten-up the weight, and aim for 15-30 reps. 

How do your legs feel now? They’re burning, right? 

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I love how easy it is to throw the cuffs on either my legs or arms, inflate them within the minute, and get in 10 minutes of intense BFR training. For me, it offers a different way to hit the target muscle groups that’s not heavy, but still just as intense.

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Things to Consider Before Buying Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training Cuffs from SAGA

SAGA Fitness crossfit with bfr cuffs on leg

SAGA is a technically advanced option for occlusion training, and it requires a bit of an investment (at least when you compare it to a folded up resistance band). So it’s important to consider how often you’ll be using BFR training in your routine. 

If you’ve recently had a sports-related injury, BFR cuffs are a fantastic way to stay in shape without overloading the injured part of your body. And if you’re a personal trainer, having a set of these is like adding a tool to your business you can use across several clients. 

But if you’re a regular joe like me, I think these work best when you’re halfway through an 8-week heavy lifting program and your joints start to ache a bit. 

Once I hit week six of my squat program, my knees were starting to feel quite tender. So I didn’t want to add more stress by doing heavy quad extensions. By adding BFR cuffs, I can still get an excellent pump with a third of the weight. That’s where the magic of BFR cuffs comes in handy in my opinion.

SAGA Fitness Review

The Cuffs

SAGA Fitness bfr cuffs near weights and rope

SAGA offers two sizes of cuffs: the medium, which will fit on your arms, and the large, which is designed for legs. 

I picked up both as I’m constantly battling a sore left shoulder and achy knees. 

You must download the SAGA app to inflate and use your BFR cuffs, and you should plan on having your phone on you during your workout so you can inflate and deflate as necessary. 

model checking saga fitness app on phone

I’ll discuss more about the app later on, but it’s a quick and easy download. Pairing your cuffs to your phone is virtually automatic, as all you need to do is make sure your phone’s Bluetooth is on, and tap the center button for both cuffs. 

My cuffs all paired within ten seconds. The first time I tried them on, I needed to do a calibration, which took a little while. I got mixed up because I tried to pair my leg cuffs and my arm cuffs at the same time.

You’re only able to pair two cuffs at a time, which makes sense because you shouldn’t be occluding four body parts at once for safety reasons. 

model doing bicep curls with saga fitness bands on arm 1

My recommended pressure is 140mmHg on my arms, and that’s plenty to get a wild pump at very light weight. 

When I’m working with the cuffs, I typically aim my first set at 30 reps, and then shoot for three more sets at 15 reps each. But each set gets harder and harder as the BFR cuffs restrict the outflow of lactic acid, too. That burning feeling you get at the end of a set just stays with you.

Some early studies suggest that this enduring lactic acid build up kicks your body’s growth, regeneration, and protein synthesis into gear more quickly and efficiently than standard exercise. 

SAGA Fitness bfr cuffs closeup on legs

From what I’ve read, it’s not like your body does more, but it’s able to produce the same effect with lighter weight. I hesitate to say with less effort, because 30 curls with the cuffs will make you want to scream. And then you have to go back in for 15 more while your arms are still burning like crazy. And then do 15 more after that. 

So the weight is lighter, but the burn is much more intense. 

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These BFR cuffs inflate automatically with calibration from the app. They're wireless so you don't need bulky equipment, and they sort of make you look like Iron Man.

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The App

SAGA Fitness app on phone

The SAGA App is super simple and straightforward. Just punch in some basic info about yourself to get started.

In order to inflate the cuffs, you need a Bluetooth connection. 

Click the start button in the center of your phone (and enable the cuffs by pressing the large center buttons there). The app should connect to both of your cuffs in under 10 seconds. 

SAGA Fitness app on phone near weights

You have the option to rename your cuffs, though I didn’t find that necessary as it’s pretty clear which cuffs are fit for your legs and which are a fit for your arms.

While the app will suggest a pressure for your training, you can adjust the amount or restriction with a simple tap of a button. 

SAGA Fitness app pressure checking

It’s pretty incredible when your cuffs inflate. I just click “Start Workout,” and both cuffs start making funny noises and puff up like a blood pressure reader. 

Now that your cuffs are inflated to a pressure that’s calibrated to either your arms or legs, it’s time to get your pump on. 

Like I said, I’ll aim for 30 reps on the first set, which usually gets my arms (or legs) burning. After your set is finished, you can hit “Pause Workout,” which will momentarily deflate the cuffs. 

doing pushups with saga bfr cuffs

This is more helpful if you’re running a superset (one movement followed by a different movement as a single set). I’ve been using the cuffs for one movement only, and just aiming for single sets.

In other words, in the time I’ve been training with the BFR cuffs, I’ve used them for bicep curls, tricep extensions, and leg extensions, which all focus on one particular muscle. Because I don’t superset bicep curls with pushups, bench, or any other exercise, there’s no need for me to deflate my cuffs in between sets. 

In fact, it’s better if I leave them inflated because that lactic burn sticks around and leaves my arms feeling dead while moving significantly less volume.

SAGA Fitness model catching breath

The SAGA app is super simple and intuitive, which I’m grateful for—there’s enough to focus on in your workout without the need to fiddle around with your phone. 

The app features a timer, too, so you can make sure you’re not leaving your muscles occluded for too long. According to the research, the upper limit of how long you should leave your muscles occluded is around 20 minutes.

That said, five minutes is the general recommendation, and you can absolutely get your sets in around that time-frame. 

Many BFR workouts recommend four sets of the prescribed exercise, with rep volumes of 30x15x15x15. If you were to put a minute of rest in between each set, the entire exercise should still take well under 10 minutes, so there’s no need to push to that 20 minute mark.

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I love how easy it is to throw the cuffs on either my legs or arms, inflate them within the minute, and get in 10 minutes of intense BFR training. For me, it offers a different way to hit the target muscle groups that’s not heavy, but still just as intense.

Shop SAGA Fitness
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

What do Other Reviewers Say About SAGA?

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A post shared by Bobby Holland Hanton (@bobbydazzler84)

As a new product, there aren’t many crowdsourced reviews for the SAGA cuffs. But there have been a handful of professional reviews, and they all speak to a positive experience. 

The most high-profile user of SAGA cuffs is the Hollywood stuntman, Bobby Holland Hanton. And he was the stunt-double who played Batman in the major fight scenes of The Dark Knight Rises.

So if Batman likes SAGA, I don’t know what else to say. 

My Thoughts Overall On SAGA Fitness

What I Like

  • It takes fewer than 10 seconds to pair the cuffs to your phone via the app.

  • If you run through a set and feel that the restriction wasn’t enough, you can easily increase (or decrease) the pressure with just a few taps.

  • The built-in timer is useful to ensure I’m not wearing the cuffs for too long.

  • I love the wireless aspect—it’s easy to toss these in my gym bag so I can quickly bust them out for my BFR training sets, which make up a small percentage of my total workout. 

What I Don’t Like

  • SAGA offers a four-hour training course for personal trainers, which is cool, but that’s too much of a commitment for an average-joe like me. I’d like to see more accessible workout content in the future. (The brand tells me a 30-minute intro course is coming mid-summer 2021).

Who is SAGA for?

If you’ve read through the benefits of BFR training and you’re willing to invest in the most precise and easiest solution, SAGA is the best choice for you.

The Verdict

I’ve really been enjoying implementing the SAGA BFR cuffs into my regular training. 

They’ve been particularly helpful as I’ve gotten further along in the strength and hypertrophy program I’m currently working on. 

After several weeks of pushing my limit on the squat rack, my knees started to get pretty tender. And that put a damper on how much I could lift on the quad extension machine. With the SAGA cuffs, I’ve been able to lighten that quad extension load by over 50% (putting way less strain on my knee joints), but I’ve still gotten a crazy pump. 

Over the last eight weeks, I’ve added an inch and a half of muscle to each of my thighs. Now, that’s not necessarily from occlusion training with SAGA, but I do feel that the lightened load on my accessory work has allowed me to push myself harder on the main compound lifts. 

I love how easy it is to throw the cuffs on either my legs or arms, inflate them within the minute, and get in 10 minutes of intense BFR training. For me, it offers a different way to hit the target muscle groups that’s not heavy, but still just as intense. 

Considering the cost of the cuffs, I think it’s important that you have a plan for how you’ll include BFR training into your routine prior to picking them up. For me, that’s using them for one exercise every session, which is absolutely worthwhile when stretched over the course of an eight-week program.

Exclusive Discount Available
SAGA Fitness
(Get 10% OFF with code TAM10)

I love how easy it is to throw the cuffs on either my legs or arms, inflate them within the minute, and get in 10 minutes of intense BFR training. For me, it offers a different way to hit the target muscle groups that’s not heavy, but still just as intense.

Shop SAGA Fitness
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

FAQs

Do BFR bands really work?

Yes, BFR bands work. When comparing workouts of the same volume (weight times reps), BFR is significantly more effective. However, most people train with a much higher volume when not using BFR bands. In short, there’s no replacement for high-load standard training. That said, adding in a few sets of low-load BFR training to augment your standard high-load training can offer a different stimulus to your muscles and is possibly more effective than high-load training alone.

Is BFR training safe?

Yes, BFR training is safe so long as you don’t restrict your arterial blood flow 100%. When using a device like the SAGA fitness cuffs, you’ll never run the risk of occluding your muscles too much, as they’re calibrated to your blood pressure and body.

How often should you do BFR training?

It’s safe to add BFR training to your routine two to four times a week. You shouldn’t wear your BFR cuffs inflated for more than 20 minutes at a time, though a balanced high-load-focused routine will never have you working with BFR cuffs for longer than that anyway.

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