Breathing in Wheelchair Sports

As a wheelchair user you may experience difficulties with your respiratory system because if your abdominal and chest muscles, including your diaphragm, are affected by injury you’ll find it more difficult to breathe. 

Your neurological level of injury will determine to what extent your breathing poses to be a problem. If you have cervical and thoracic spinal cord injury, you may have an increased risk of pneumonia or other lung problems. 

In active user wheelchair sport, self-propelling your wheelchair can mean your chest and shoulder muscles become tight and prone to injury. Also, the high respiratory demand experienced in wheelchair sports can ‘steal’ blood from your arms, reducing overall performance. This is your metaboreflex where your body chooses the essential need to breathe over the need to ‘perform’. But, if your breathing muscles are strong and well trained, greater blood flow to your arms can be maintained.

IMT Benefits Para-Athletes

This pilot study demonstrated how an exercise programme with Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) may have a positive impact on functional measures for people with spinal cord injuries who are vulnerable to respiratory compromise. And this study discovered that both IMT and EMT (Expiratory Muscle Training) improved exercise capacity.

Furthermore, this study examined the influence of POWERbreathe IMT upon respiratory function and repetitive propulsive sprint performance in wheelchair basketball players. Their reported experiences of using the POWERbreathe IMT breathing training device suggested ‘less breathlessness’ and ‘less tightness in the chest during the training. 

Liz McTernan, Para-Triathlete has been using her POWERbreathe K5 to increase her inspiratory muscle strength, power and stamina for an improved performance.

IMT Improves Core Trunk Strength and Posture

The GB Olympic Boccia Team Physios have also incorporated POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training into the team’s daily training. In fact, the Boccia England team are using POWERbreathe IMT to help inflate their lungs fully. It is also assisting in putting their breathing muscles and chest wall through a beneficial range of movements to enable the rib cage to expand to its greatest. Team members are also using POWERbreathe IMT to improve their core trunk strength and posture; all of which will improve their performance and help reduce respiratory infections.

POWERbreathe IMT specifically targets your breathing muscles using a form of resistance training, likened to ‘dumbbells for your diaphragm’. Developed by sports scientists, it exercises your breathing muscles, improving strength and stamina and reducing breathing fatigue. 

Scientific studies also show POWERbreathe IMT will help you warm-up more effectively, as well as, cool-down and recover more quickly, reducing lactate by 16%.

woman using powerbreathe EMST light device

Improve Wheelchair Propulsion

Research shows that individuals with cervical spinal cord injuries will often recruit their specific back and chest muscles for active expiration. It’s these muscles that are also actively recruited for wheelchair movement.

Thankfully, these same muscles can be strengthened through POWERbreathe expiratory muscle training (EMT).

This is beneficial as EMT could lead to improved respiratory function, as well as improvements in wheelchair propulsion because it is these muscles that are actively recruited for wheelchair movement.

Suitable Products to Strengthen Your Respiratory System