man indoor rowing using POWERbreathe IMT device and lady on spin bike

A POWERbreathe IMT warm-up before any form of physical training is shown to make exercise feel easier. Furthermore, a POWERbreathe IMT ‘cool-down’ can help you to recover faster as it speeds up lactate clearance even more effectively than traditional active recovery strategies.

What Does Lactic Acid Do To The Body?

Lactic acid, also known as lactate, is a fuel source for your working muscles during exercise. It occurs when your body is put under stress, such as during high-intensity exercise and lifting heavy weights when your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose for energy. When this develops, known as your lactate threshold, depends on your level of fitness. Lactate will build up when you physically exert yourself faster than your body can pull in oxygen, causing anaerobic respiration.

Exerting yourself more and more will use up the oxygen stored in your cells and you will begin to feel an oxygen deficit. This is when anaerobic respiration begins and you have less energy. Even your breathing muscles become tired because your body, first and foremost, ensures you have enough oxygen to stay alive. This is the process of metaboreflex.


Research shows:

“improved inspiratory muscle function increases the work threshold required to elicit the inspiratory muscle metaboreflex … ” and “might delay initiation of the inspiratory muscle metaboreflex. As a result, the blood flow and thus the O2 availability in the locomotor muscles were improved.”

The effect of inspiratory muscle training on high-intensity, intermittent running performance to exhaustion

Why It’s Important To Clear Lactate

No longer do we believe that lactic acid will cause muscle soreness, or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after exercise. This myth was debunked in the 1983 study, Is Lactic Acid Related to Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness? However, it is not natural to have high levels of lactic acid in your body, so it does need clearing after extreme exercise.

If you push yourself during your physical activity beyond your usual limits, your body is unable to process the resulting spike in lactic acid fast enough. As a result, this extra lactate in the blood reduces the body’s pH level causing a feeling of nausea. This is known as lactic acidosis and can result in vomiting which is your body’s natural way of trying to expel something.

Top athletes often have lower blood lactate levels as they can clear lactate more quickly, enabling them to put in a competitive performance. This is because high levels of lactate in the blood cause fatigue, slowing down the capacity of your muscles to continue to work hard. It is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and recover.

How Breathing Training Reduces Lactate Levels

Research shows that POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training reduces lactate concentrations at equivalent intensities of exercise1,2. It suggests that the influence of POWERbreathe IMT upon lactate comes from POWERbreathe training, which: 

  1. Ensures that fatigue of the inspiratory muscles doesn’t cause blood flow to the working muscles to be redirected to the inspiratory muscles3. This preserves limb blood flow and reduces reliance upon anaerobic metabolism.
  2. Increases the aerobic capacity of the inspiratory muscles, making them more efficient lactate consumers during and after exercise.
What Is POWERbreathe IMT?

Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil have found that breathing against a small inspiratory load immediately after exercise reduces lactate by 16%.4 What’s more, unlike a normal active recovery, which takes around five minutes to speed-up lactate clearance, inspiratory loading reduces lactate as soon as exercise stops. Furthermore, when using the inspiratory load, lactate concentration after just 5 minutes was equivalent to that achieved in 15 minutes during passive recovery.

“The implications of these new findings are very exciting, because one can see how an active inspiratory cool-down might bring benefits to a wide range of training and competition scenarios, from speeding recovery during repeated sprinting, to enhancing total body recovery following any form of high intensity training where lactate has been elevated.”

Alison McConnell, Professor of Applied Physiology, Brunel University.

A subsequent paper from these authors (Chiappa et al)5 takes the next step by showing that this improves subsequent high-intensity exercise performance.

Using POWERbreathe IMT Makes Exercise Feel Easier

When you place your body under stress through extreme exercise, your heart and lungs work really hard at trying to move oxygenated blood to your working muscles. But as you exert yourself, you begin to breathe faster and more deeply in order to absorb more oxygen. In fact, the reason you start panting is because your body is trying to get more and more oxygen into your body to replenish the oxygen in the cells that was used during the extreme exercise.

Breathlessness can be a factor in limiting exercise tolerance, so if you improve the strength and endurance of your breathing muscles, you improve your tolerance to exercise. Increased breathing strength and stamina reduce breathing fatigue, so you feel that you can exercise for longer, with a lower sense of effort.

Cool Down And Recover With POWERbreathe IMT

Your POWERbreathe K3, K4 and K5 feature a ‘Cool-down’ Mode within the ‘Options ‘setting and will automatically begin an inspiratory muscle cool-down session of 60 breaths against a low-level load.

If you have a POWERbreathe K1, within ‘Options’ you need to select ‘Manual’ in order to set the Level to 15cm H2O for a cool-down session. 

If you’re using a mechanical POWERbreathe Classic or Plus model, adjust the load/level on your POWERbreathe IMT device to 2 levels below your normal daily training load/level. Then breathe deeply and slowly against the load continuously for 5 – 10 minutes, or for as long as you have available.

Find out more about how breathing training works.

  1. Pressure threshold inspiratory muscle training improves submaximal cycling performance. – Caine MP, McConnell AK. In: Sargeant AJ, Siddons H, editors. Third Annual Conference of the European College of Sport Science; 1998; Manchester, UK: The Centre for Health Care Development; 1998. p. 101.
  2. The effect of inspiratory muscle training upon maximum lactate steady-state and blood lactate concentration.
  3.  The influence of inspiratory muscle work history and specific inspiratory muscle training upon human limb muscle fatigue.
  4. Blood lactate during recovery from intense exercise: impact of inspiratory loading.
  5. Inspiratory resistive loading after all-out exercise improves subsequent performance.
  6. Inspiratory muscle training reduces blood lactate concentration during volitional hyperpnoea.