Inspiratory Muscle Training

Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) is like ‘dumbbells for your diaphragm’. It is likened to this because, just as you might use dumbbells to improve the strength of your biceps, IMT uses resistance training to improve the strength of your inspiratory muscles. Your main breathing muscles are your diaphragm and intercostals. And, by training them with inspiratory muscle training, you are able to improve their strength, stamina and reduce breathing fatigue. This is beneficial not only for athletes to improve sports performance but also for people with breathing problems and healthy people who wish to feel less breathless with exertion. POWERbreathe IMT is a scientifically proven, drug-free breathing device. In fact, POWERbreathe IMT is the breathing trainer that researchers often select for studies and trials.

What Is POWERbreathe IMT?

Inspiratory Muscle Training Benefits Everyone

People who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and COPD will benefit from POWERbreathe IMT. However, many others will adopt IMT as part of their sports training. This is because IMT strengthens the breathing muscles, improving breathing stamina and strength. In fact, studies show that regular IMT increases your endurance during exercise or sports activities, such as running and cycling.

When you breathe normally, you typically use between 10 to 15 per cent of your total lung capacity. However, with Inspiratory Muscle Training, you can typically increase the amount of lung capacity you’re able to use. Deeper breathing with IMT uses a bit more energy, just like any other type of strength training. But with each deep breath, it also allows more oxygen to enter your bloodstream. And, at the same time, you’re strengthening your breathing muscles. Performing 30 breaths twice a day with POWERbreathe IMT for at least six weeks significantly reduces the amount of oxygen you’ll require while exercising. This results in more oxygen being available for your other working muscles, such as your legs while running or cycling.

Why Train Your Inspiratory Muscles

During exercise, your body’s demand for oxygen increases. As a result, your breathing volume or ventilation must also rise to cope with the oxygen demand. For this to work, numerous muscles surrounding your lungs need to contract in an exceedingly coordinated manner. As the intensity of the exercise increases, your inspiratory muscles must contract more forcefully and rapidly to keep pace with the body’s substantial increase in metabolism. This important role of inspiratory muscle strength training has huge benefits for respiratory fitness in health, fitness and sports training, and improving sports performance.

How To Train Your Inspiratory Muscles

Improving your breathing muscle strength will require regular training. Just as regular exercise will improve your fitness. In fact, science shows that just 30 breaths twice a day will make a difference. POWERbreathe IMT, used in the study, is scientifically proven to do this after just 4-weeks. Simply take 30 inspiratory breaths through your POWERbreathe breathing trainer in the morning and again at night. By doing this, you are allowing your breathing muscles time to recover in between inspiratory muscle training sessions. Furthermore, inspiratory muscle training is beneficial in warming up your breathing muscles prior to exercise too. Finally, it is also worth using your IMT breathing trainer to help speed lactate clearance as part of an active recovery strategy following exercise.

POWERbreathe IMT – How To Perform The Correct Breathing Technique

Training Your Breathing Muscles

You can train your breathing muscles to become stronger in the same way as you train your other muscles. But, targeting your breathing muscles is harder than targeting a limb muscle for example. You really need a breathing device that will encourage your biggest breathing muscle, the diaphragm, to work harder than it does during normal breathing. And, as proven muscle-strengthening activities include weight-lifting, it’s logical that weight lifting for your breathing muscles will have the same effect. A breathing training device such as POWERbreathe IMT is the solution. But all inspiratory muscle training devices are not created equal. There are two main methods for generating resistance to breathing:

  1. Flow resistive loading
  2. Pressure threshold loading

Types Of Inspiratory Resistance Training

Inspiratory resistance training uses a method similar to weight-lifting for exercising the inspiratory muscles. But whereas weighted dumbbells are used to exercise your arm muscles, a resistance ‘load’ is applied to your inspired breath.

1. Passive Flow Resistive Loading

Drinking Straws Provide Passive Flow Resistance

This is the most basic and simplest of inspiratory training techniques, similar to breathing in through different-sized straws. There is no calibration of load, as there is with Pressure Threshold Resistance.

Basic breathing trainers that use this flow resistive loading usually consist of holes of varying sizes. Because there is no calibrated loading on the breathing, day-to-day training can vary as the training relies on the user breathing in through the device with the same speed and depth for consistency, each time they train. Imagine breathing in through various sizes of straw. Essentially, the bigger the hole, the higher the flow and the easier it is to breathe in. Conversely, the smaller the hole, the lower the flow and the more difficult it is to breathe in. There is no calibration of load in centimetres of water (cmH2O), which is the unit of pressure most commonly used to measure breathing on respirators and ventilators. In fact, cmH20 is the unit of measurement for monitoring athletic performance and controlling respiratory conditions in medical and physiological applications.

2. Pressure Threshold Loading

POWERbreathe Plus Pressure Threshold Breathing Device showing Calibrated Spring-Loaded Valve

This uses a calibrated, spring-loaded valve that will only open once you are able to generate enough inspiratory pressure. Pressure is measured in centimetres of water (cmH2O). It is a more scientific type of training than flow resistance because you have an accurate measurement of training load. When you generate enough power with your breathing muscles, the spring-loaded valve will open at the “pressure threshold” you set, hence the name.

The POWERbreathe Classic and POWERbreathe Plus series of breathing trainers use this type of resistance. By contrast, with flow-resistance inspiratory muscle training, you are always able to breathe through the device because the holes are always open. In fact, most of the research into the benefits of Inspiratory Muscle Training traditionally use Threshold Resistance breathing devices, including POWERbreathe. However, more recent studies into IMT are beginning to use the POWERbreathe K-Series Electronic Tapered Resistance.

3. Electronic Tapered Loading

A graph to show how using a POWERbreathe device can lead to superior performance.

All POWERbreathe K-Series breathing devices use this method of resistance. This type of training uses a computer-controlled valve to automatically match the resistance to your declining muscle strength, as you progress through the breath. For example, if you set the load at 40cmH2O, your training will start at this load. However, this load will begin to reduce gradually over the length of the breath to match your declining strength.

The benefit of this electronic tapered resistance is that it trains all your breathing muscles and you will maximise your breathing volume and flow. Also, thanks to the computer-controlled valve, you are able to measure breathing volume, load, power and energy. Finally, the POWERbreathe K-Series inspiratory muscle training devices feature a Strength-Index test which is unique to POWERbreathe. This is an isotonic test, meaning that the breathing muscles are moving during the test, just as they do in real life.

Inspiratory vs Expiratory Muscle Training

Expiratory muscle training (EMT) in contrast to IMT exercises your expiratory muscles. It too is an element of respiratory muscle training (RMT). EMT will use an expiratory muscle strength training (EMST) device to improve the strength and endurance of your expiratory muscles. EMST vs IMST is a breathing therapy that is particularly beneficial for patients with medical conditions where the patient will feel the need to expel more air from their lungs than normal. This may result in a need to cough more. As a result, your expiratory muscle will contract to force air out. You can find out more about expiratory muscle training, in What is Expiratory Muscle Strength Training? and shop our expiratory muscle training devices.

What Is POWERbreathe EMT?