Olympic Swim Coach On His Use Of KAATSU Aqua

Chris Morgan, a 2008 Olympic swimming coach, teaches and advises a number of athletes about KAATSU on dryland and KAATSU Aqua in the water from Olympic swimming medalists and Olympic Trials finalists to masters swimmers (24- 75 years), competitive age group swimmers and collegiate swimmers.

KAATSU Aqua is beneficial for those athletes aiming for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and non-athletes recovering from injuries,” says Morgan who explained how Roy-Allan Burch [see below] used KAATSU to recover from a double patella tendon rupture and qualified for the Olympics.

Morgan [see video below] explains, “We work on speed, strength and stamina every workout at the Gator’s Swim Club in Waltham, Massachusetts [the 2015 New England Senior Swimming Championship Team].

Like other competitive age-group swim teams, we augment those hard training sessions with a focus on proper technique, good balanced nutrition, and all kinds of ‘outside the box’ dry-land training.

This year, our athletes began an innovative addition to our entire training regime that has resulted in some unprecedented drops in time.”

Over a 3-month period, some of the representative swims include the following:

Henry Gaissert (17 years old)
• 100 freestyle: from 47.0 to 44.8 (44.1 relay split)
• 100 butterfly: from 52.4 to 49.8
Maddie Wallis (16 years old)
• 100 backstroke: from 57.1 to 54.9
• 200 backstroke: from 2:07.9 to 2:00.3
Johnny Prindle (17 years old)
• 100 freestyle: from 48.1 to a 45.9 relay split
• 200 freestyle: from 1:47.2 to 1:41.5
• 100 breaststroke: from 59.0 to 57.5

Their secret…?


KAATSU is the advantage that Olympic and professional athletes from Japan, and increasingly in teams from the United States and Switzerland to Tunisia and Hungary, have been using to gain specific strength in order to improve speed and increase stamina.

Morgan continues, “Years ago, Olympic champion Misty Hyman from Stanford University did something vaguely similar. The 200-meter butterfly Olympic champion in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games placed several thick postage rubber bands around her arms and legs. She would at times swim as much as 8,000 meters with the bands at AFOX in Arizona under the guidance of its coach Bob Gillette as a high school student. Her unusual training method started in Arizona as a top age-grouper and continued at Stanford University under Richard Quick – where I served as an assistant coach.

But we learned from Dr. Yoshiaki Sato and our KAATSU Global colleagues that very specific pressures with carefully engineered pneumatic bands used in short durations is the key to significant improvements in speed, strength and stamina. We use the KAATSU Master and KAATSU Nano devices to identify two types of specific pressures (called Base SKU and Optimal SKU where SKU stands for Standard KAATSU Unit). These pressures are specific for each athlete that can vary from day to day and workout to workout. Those specific pressures, that vary from athlete to athlete, are how our athletes have maximized the benefits of KAATSU or “blood flow moderation training.”

Invented in 1966 and perfected by 1973 by Dr. Sato of Tokyo, the KAATSU inventor was honored by the Japanese Olympic Committee in 1992. Word eventually leaked out from Japan about KAATSU beginning in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, but it was mostly adopted without knowledge of the Base SKU and Optimal SKU, the smart pneumatic bands, or the use of the KAATSU Cycle protocols by the bodybuilding community.

These bodybuilders, looking to achieve muscle hypertrophy, never understood the existence of pneumatic bands that maintain its structural integrity as they inflate, or the importance of identifying one’s Base SKU or Optimal SKU, or integrating the KAATSU Cycle protocols as a means of post-workout recovery. Eventually, the bodybuilding community resorted to using knee wraps and other sorts of restrictive, occasionally non-elastic, bands as occlusion training or tourniquet training tools. But acceptance of the thick postage rubber bands or knee wraps never took off in amateur or professional sports in the West, especially in the aquatic community.

But for years and even a cursory search on Amazon, a growing number of American and European bodybuilders and trainers simply tie knee wraps and other bands around their arms in order to build bulk based on information they learned from the Internet and two-dimensional photos they saw of KAATSU bands.

In contrast to the specific KAATSU protocols to identify optimal pressures, bodybuilders tie their limbs with occlusion bands using a pain scale from 1 to 10, with 7-8 being the recommended level of pain by various American researchers and strength coaches. This kind of simplified and frankly dangerous* means to occlude blood flow in the limbs was neither possible nor practical for age-group swimmers or older masters swimmers. “Or frankly, anyone,” reminds Morgan. “In contrast to those focused on muscle hypertrophy, we wanted a proven, safe and effective means to help our young athletes improve their speed, strength and stamina – not a means simply to get bulkier.

Since the Center for KAATSU Research at the Harvard Medical School was established in 2013, I first used KAATSU on myself** and learned the proper protocols and how to safely use the KAATSU equipment. With that knowledge and experience, the athletes of the Gator’s Swim Club have been experimenting with KAATSU and our age-group swimmers, several who are national-caliber swimmers.

I quickly learned how we could replicate ‘race pain’ without the need for a time-consuming test set by using the KAATSU equipment. By engorging the muscles in blood – instead of keeping blood out like the bodybuilders and their knee wraps, I studied how this revolutionary training technique could be utilized by competitive swimmers whether they are focused on their local high school championships and getting into college or others like Roy Burch and Mohamed Hussein who qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.”

Coach Morgan now uses KAATSU in three fundamental ways:

1. In rehabilitation
2. For recovery
3. During training


Swimmers use KAATSU to quickly resolve sore shoulders and the tweaks of overuse injuries from both our age-groupers and masters swimmers. “We use the KAATSU Cycle modality that starts off with lower pressures and gradually builds up to higher pressures. These protocols are the same protocols that are used by Olympic gold medalists and members of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics USA team and professional soccer players.”***


We use the KAATSU Cycle modality between races and between the preliminary and final events in a multi-day event (e.g., the 2015 Winter Junior National Championships in Atlanta, Georgia) and KAATSU Cycle has been used at the World University Games and United States Olympic Trials in both swimming and track & field.”


We do a variety of sets with KAATSU in order to improve technique, speed, strength and stamina. None of these sets last over 20 minutes, as per the standard KAATSU protocols. Some of the sets involve using arm bands and some of the sets involve using leg bands, including sets that exclusively focus on starts or turns.

These sets can range from 10 x 15m breakouts to 10 x 50 at a specific pressure.

Not only have our athletes and their parents accepted KAATSU and appreciate its benefits, but we also have some of our graduating seniors requesting the KAATSU machines accompany them to their new collegiate teams.”

* Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2010 May; 20(3): 218-9: Low-load ischemic exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis

** In 2013, Morgan competed in a Tough Mudder obstacle race near Boston. He used the KAATSU Master to improve his fitness level, but on the day of the event, at mile #10, he slipped on a log, smashed his side, and broke 2 ribs. For 7 days immediately after the injury, he used the KAATSU Master and KAATSU Air Bands as prescribed for broken bones. By day 7, the pain and sensitivity of the broken ribs had vanished. Ten days after the first x-rays revealed the broken ribs, he took a second set of x-rays at Harvard University that showed a complete recovery. “Ever since that time, I wanted the athletes who I work with to benefit from a clear and methodical use of KAATSU.”

*** Get Stronger, Go Longer. KAATSU is Blowing Researchers’ Minds (Military Times) and KAATSU Japanese Blood Flow Routine (Outside Magazine)