How The Inspiratory Muscles Contribute To The Breathing Process

The diaphragm and chest wall muscles act together like a bellows to pump air in and out of the chest.

To breathe in these muscles contract to expand the chest cavity, causing a pressure drop into which the air flows. To breathe out, you simply relax these ‘inspiratory’ muscles and the chest springs back forcing the air out of your lungs.

During exercise the exhalation is assisted by contraction of the abdominal muscles and the inspiratory muscles undertake most of the work of breathing.

In contrast to observations of inspiratory muscle fatigue, research has not yet identified exercise-induced expiratory muscle fatigue which is why, until there is sufficient evidence to prove otherwise, it would be unnecessary to train anything other than the inspiratory muscles.

Also, while at rest, you breathe around 12 litres of air per minute, but during heavy exercise this can rise to over 150 litres per minute, and in elite athletes, this can be as high as 220 litres.

Scientific studies show that by exercising your inspiratory muscles with POWERbreathe you will increase the strength and stamina of your breathing muscles, reducing inspiratory fatigue and improving your performance.

POWERbreathe Meet Physios At The London Clinic

POWERbreathe popped in to meet up with new members of the physiotherapy team at The London Clinic (23rd July). The London Clinic is one of the UK’s largest private hospitals, dedicated to providing the best, personalised healthcare with a breadth of surgical and medical expertise.

We presented POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training to 10 new members of the team and to their clinical specialist, respiratory physiotherapist, Anne Pitman.

The physiotherapy team already use the POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback Software to test and monitor breathing parameters in patients, and then patients use their own POWERbreathe Plus device for breathing training at home.

We provided training to the new physiotherapists on how to utilise the analysis from the POWERbreathe K5 Breathe-Link Software results for the initial set-up of each patient’s own POWERbreathe Plus device. The physios took a turn using the POWERbreathe K5 to help them understand how Inspiratory Muscle Training worked, what it felt like, how to perform the training properly, what breathing parameters it registered, and how this data can help in prescribing a breathing training program that’s bespoke for each patient.

We’d like to thank the team at The London Clinic for their time and kind hospitality.

Proper Breathing – POWERbreathe Can Help

Your primary breathing muscle is your diaphragm; a dome shaped thin sheet of muscle separating your rib cage from your abdomen.

When you inhale this dome shape flattens out as your diaphragm contracts, pushing down on the contents of your abdomen (your gut) and increasing the space in your chest cavity.

Because your gut has to go somewhere as your diaphragm descends, it forces it down and out and your tummy expands. Because of this, this natural, healthy and proper way of breathing is often referred to as abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.

If you do already have a good breathing technique it can often go awry when you start exercising as you demand more air and your breathing increases to compensate. This is when your breathing technique can change from good diaphragmatic breathing to reverse breathing i.e. pulling in your tummy as you breathe in and letting your tummy go as you breathe out.

Because your diaphragm is a muscle, you can train it like any other muscle to become stronger and helping you retain that good diaphragmatic breathing even when pushed to your limit. POWERbreathe targets your inspiratory muscles – not only your diaphragm but also your intercostal muscles, the tiny muscles in between your ribs, which are recruited during a slightly forced respiration.

You’ll notice when training with POWERbreathe that you have to work harder to breathe in. This is the effect of resistance training acting on your inspiratory muscles. When breathing out, POWERbreathe offers no resistance because when you exhale normally, your diaphragm and intercostals naturally relax and move back up, pushing the air from your lungs.

IMT facilitates weaning from mechanical ventilation in ICU


Inspiratory muscle training facilitates weaning from mechanical ventilation among patients in the intensive care unit: a systematic review

This study, published in the Journal of Physiotherapy, questioned whether Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) improves inspiratory muscle strength in adults receiving mechanical ventilation. It also asks if it improves the duration or success of weaning; if it affects the length of stay, reintubation, tracheostomy, survival, or the need for post-extubation non-invasive ventilation; if it’s tolerable; and whether it causes adverse events.

The intervention used was Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) versus sham or no IMT.


The study revealed that “Inspiratory muscle training improves weaning success, with potential reductions in length of stay and the duration of non-invasive ventilatory support after extubation. Patients who are having difficulty weaning may particularly benefit from the training, especially in weaning success and the duration of mechanical ventilation.”


POWERbreathe For Older People In Slovenia

POWERbreathe Slovenia, with the kind assistance from Tanja, a physiotherapist at Ljubljana hospital, held two POWERbreathe training sessions for over 100 physiotherapists who’ll be implementing POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) as one of the therapies they’ll be using with the older population within their communities.

Older adults experience a higher intensity of breathlessness than younger people, simply because of advancing years or as a result of illness, but by exercising and strengthening their breathing muscles (their inspiratory muscles) with POWERbreathe, they will learn how to breathe well again.

Research has in fact shown that IMT may be a useful technique for positively influencing exercise capacity and physical activity in elderly individuals.

Why POWERbreathe is ideal for the senior population

  • It’s scientifically proven to reduce breathlessness and restore breathing power
  • Does not involve drugs and has no interactions with other drugs
  • It’s quick and easy to use and effective within 4-weeks
  • It increases breathing muscle strength by 30 – 50%

Other therapies the physio’s will be including is Nordic walking and general exercise to get this more sedentary group moving, with the intention of making savings in the long-term for the health service.

You can view photos taken at the training sessions on POWERbreathe Facebook.

Breathe deeply with POWERbreathe for more energy

Deep breathing reaches the deepest depths of your lungs, and by practicing POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training you’ll be training your respiratory muscles to breathe deeply into your diaphragm, taking in as much air as possible, breathing more in per breath.

As you’re breathing in more air per breath, you’re receiving more oxygen into your body, giving you more energy.

Senior consultant at the National heart Institute, India, and Founder, SAANS Foundation in India, Partha Pratim Bose offers a good example of this,

“By deep breathing exercises you breathe more per breath. If you breathe more per breath you expand your lungs more, you receive more oxygen. You will feel more energetic and also save your breaths. For example, if you breathe 250 ml per breath and your requirement is 5 litres then you need 20 breaths per minute. If you breathe more breath say double i.e. 500ml then you will require only ten breaths. So by breathing deep you breathe less and you feel better and conserve energy.”

Thankfully you can train your breathing muscles to breathe deep, as your respiratory muscles respond in the same way as skeletal muscles do to a training stimuli as they undergo adaptations to their structure and function. POWERbreathe is one such training stimuli, using the principles of resistance training to strengthen the inspiratory muscles. Its pressure loaded inspiratory valve offers the resistance on the inhale, while an unloaded expiratory valve allows for normal, passive exhalation.

How POWERbreathe Works >

You can read about other benefits of deep conscious breathing in Bose’s article ‘Wellness: Breathe like a tortoise, live like a king’ and here in POWERbreathe Benefits.

POWERbreathe for Firefighters with Chronic Respiratory Conditions

A study recently published (February 2014) in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health assessed the prevalence of chronic respiratory conditions in (South Australian) metropolitan fire fighters. It also studied associations between occupational exposure, use of respiratory protection and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in firefighters with and without chronic respiratory conditions.

Study: Chronic respiratory conditions in a cohort of metropolitan fire-fighters: associations with occupational exposure and quality of life.


Respiratory symptoms, medical conditions, occupational tasks and exposures and consistency of using respiratory protection were inquired by questionnaire. The Health Survey was used to measure physical and mental health-related quality of life.

Fire-fighters were categorised in subgroups: asthma; COPD/emphysema/chronic bronchitis; no chronic respiratory conditions; and as being ‘not involved’ or ‘involved’ in fire-fighting tasks, the latter further categorised as ‘consistent’ or ‘inconsistent’ use of respiratory protection.


Ten percent of metropolitan fire-fighters reported underlying chronic respiratory conditions. Presence of such a condition in combination with suboptimal protection from inhaled exposures may lead to poorer physical health-related quality of life.

Read Abstract: Chronic respiratory conditions in a cohort of metropolitan fire-fighters: associations with occupational exposure and quality of life.

How could POWERbreathe help?

A project conducted at the University of Birmingham Sports Medicine and Human Performance Unit into the respiratory performance in firefighters unearthed some not-so-surprising findings:

  • Lung function is impaired whilst wearing SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus)
  • Respiratory muscle strength and lung function are impaired further after physical work in SCBA
  • Firefighters adopt a special breathing strategy to minimise the breathlessness induced by working in SCBA

Looking at data from scientific studies, if firefighters performed POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training for a minimum of 4-weeks, they could:

  • Increase their inspiratory muscle strength
  • Reduce breathlessness
  • Reduce heart rate (1)
  • Reduce the rate of air use from the cylinder (increasing wear time by around 1.5 min from a 15 min cylinder) (1)
  • Increase time to exhaustion (findings from a standard laboratory treadmill test)

(1) Donovan K, McConnell A. Fire-fighters’ Self-contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA): The Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) during Fire-Fighting Simulations in the Laboratory. In: Hanson, Lovesey, Robertson, editors. Annual Conference of the Ergonomics Society; 1999: Ergonomics Society; 1999. p. 348-52.

Read more about how POWERbreathe could benefit those in the Fire Service.

David Beckham gets short of breath – how POWERbreathe could help

An article published on the Mail Online (11th December 2013) revealed how David Beckham gets short of breath when he’s out running early in the morning with his 11-year-old son.

Although retired, 38-year-old David Beckham still maintains a level of fitness yet he admits how he struggles to keep up with his son, Romeo. This revelation came out during a chat at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Beckham said, “He’s one of those annoying runners who always wants to be one step in front of you. We ran three and a half miles and the third mile was the quickest of all of them. I was breathing hard.’

There is however something that Beckham could do to help alleviate that feeling. He could warm-up his breathing muscles before he heads out for a run in the early morning cold by specifically exercising his inspiratory muscles with POWERbreathe.

POWERbreathe was developed as a training tool to exercise the breathing muscles. It does this by utilizing the principles of resistance training. As you inhale against the resistance, your breathing muscles are effectively ‘lifting a weight’ which trains them to work harder, and like all weight training, improves their strength and stamina.

Over time, usually around 4-weeks, the breathing muscles have become much stronger and less prone to fatigue, and the resistance can be increased, just as you would increase your weights. Each mechanical POWERbreathe (the Classic and Plus series) has a vast training range, but the K-Series is limitless and will be the only inspiratory muscle training device you’ll need.

So for David we’d suggest the POWERbreathe K5, with additional valve heads for each member of his family. They can all then monitor and compare their breathing training using the K5’s Breathe-Link software, and watch their improvements on screen in real-time.

Even though there’ll be no doubt that the Beckhams will perform a warm-up before their runs, it’s unlikely that they’ll target their breathing muscles, and yet research has shown that a standard pre-exercise warm-up routine fails to prepare the inspiratory muscles for the rigors of exercise.

Not only would David benefit from a POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle warm-up, but also from spending about 5-minutes per day using his POWERbreathe to train his inspiratory muscles, making them stronger and more resistant to fatigue, which will benefit him (and his children if they choose to train with it too) long-term.

Read more about why POWERbreathe should be an essential component of everyone’s fitness training, or if you’re already using POWERbreathe to help alleviate breathlessness when you exercise, then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum, Facebook page or Twitter as we’d love to hear from you.

And if you’re David Beckham reading this (well, we can all dream), then please get in touch and we’ll arrange a demonstration.

Coping with respiratory problems in the colder weather

Well here in the UK summer seems to have come to an abrupt end, with cooler weather and colder, damp air.

If you have a respiratory problem, such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) or asthma, then the cold air that accompanies the change in season might affect you when you venture outdoors.

Respiratory consultant Dr Mat Jones at Nevill Hall hospital says, “Patients with airway diseases, particularly asthma often have hyper-responsive airways which are susceptible to the cold. In response to cold weather they can bronchoconstrict excessively (excessive bronchial narrowing) which can then trigger an exacerbation of their condition.”

“Patients with chronic lung disease have an increased susceptibility to infections of the lung given the structural changes in their lungs. This, accompanied by the frequency of infective organisms in the community in winter months would explain this trend of cold weather having an adverse effect on the lungs.”

The colder and drier air at this time of year, and even more so in the winter, will have sufferers of asthma and COPD feeling breathless, tight-chested and wheezing and coughing.

Although you may feel like staying in the warm and not venturing out, there are a few things you can do to make you feel more comfortable when you do have to venture outdoors.

Here are five handy tips that the British Lung Foundation suggest to help prevent your respiratory problems from worsening in the cold weather:

  1. Wash your hands regularly to avoid picking up winter bugs.
  2. Wrap up warm when heading outdoors, covering your nose and mouth with a scarf as this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
  3. Keep your home well ventilated – air quality inside the home becomes more important in winter as most of us spend more time indoors. If you have a bronchodilator, use it half an hour before going outside.
  4. Make sure you carry your medication with you at all times as cold air can tighten the airways in lung disease patients making it harder to breathe.
  5. Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth as this will help warm the air.

You can also warm-up your breathing muscles with your POWERbreathe. In fact a POWERbreathe inspiratory warm-up is used by athletes to warm-up their breathing muscles prior to competition.

You warm up other muscles prior to exercise, so why not your breathing muscles? Physical activity at a moderate intensity is widely accepted as an acceptable and effective means of warming-up your locomotor muscles so that they’re ready to work at an intense level. But this moderate intensity activity is not enough to warm-up your breathing muscles. This was demonstrated in a study reporting that a rowing warm-up:

“that was similar to the routine adopted in preparing for a rowing race had no effect on inspiratory muscle (IM) strength despite the significant improvement in leg muscle peak torque the rowing warm-up elicited. On the other hand, they found that ventilatory activity applied to inspiratory muscle at moderate intensity could increase the force generation capacity of the muscle (Volianitis et al.2001a). Such specific inspiratory muscle activity (‘‘warm-up’’) in addition to a rowing-specific warm-up protocol was further shown to improve subsequent performance in a 6-min all-out rowing test and the improvement was partly attributed to the reduction in intensity of breathlessness sensation (Volianitis et al. 2001b).”

Your POWERbreathe warm-up is simply performed on a reduced load setting.

POWERbreathe uses the principles of resistance training to exercise your breathing muscles, making them work harder. This exercise in turn makes your breathing muscles stronger and less prone to fatigue. And because POWERbreathe is drug-free, it can be used by those with respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD. Because it has no side effects or drug interactions it can be used alongside your regular respiratory medication.

Chris Mulholland, head of British Lung Foundation Wales, said: “As respiratory conditions are often exacerbated by the cold weather, those with mild, early stage respiratory problems – that would otherwise go unnoticed at any other time of year – may notice an increase in symptoms. If you notice you’re getting more chest problems in the winter, perhaps becoming breathless, wheezy or have a persistent cough, then it could be an early warning sign. It is really worth going to see your doctor at this point because the earlier problems are diagnosed, the earlier they can be treated and managed which will have short and long-term benefits.”

Read more about how POWERbreathe could help relieve your symptoms of asthma and reduce dyspnoea in COPD, or if you’re already using POWERbreathe to help with your respiratory problem then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum, Facebook or Twitter as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read about how POWERbreathe has helped others with breathing problems, including asthma and COPD, in our “I have a breathing problem” blog category.

Why I came to use POWERbreathe, by Martin Helm, ‘man in the street’

“I am no Olympic athlete or even competitive sportsman – just a 64-year-old man who enjoys walking and a regular cycle ride but has worried for years about his shallow breathing.  I had simply assumed my lungs were clapped out when I struggled to swim the length of a small swimming pool without taking a breath.

The fact that I can now fill my lungs with good fresh air – freely, naturally and easily is entirely due to just one month of using my Powerbreathe plus. To me that is a greater achievement than any performance enhancement an Olympian could make.  You can almost feel that extra oxygen surging round your body.

My rejuvenation has come as a complete surprise to me. I had been searching for several years for a way to train and improve my breathing. I never imagined there was a machine that could train me to suck air deep into my lungs again – let alone that it should be so simple, quick, pain free and cheap.

A month after first starting my training, my wife is now totally bored with hearing my daily updates on the impact Powerbreathe plus has had on me.

I am just sorry that it took me so long to find this great product. I am sure there must be many thousands of men and women who could feel just as rejuvenated as me if they only knew where to look. It is a shame that it is mainly already fit sportsmen who are getting the most benefit and I hope that Powerbreathe can spread the word to GPs and journalists so that everyone has a chance to use it.

I bought the blue Powerbreathe Plus and for the first day or two struggled even with level zero. I have now worked my way up to level six. If my own deep breathing was not telling me how much more I am using my lungs now, clicking back to level zero and finding how easy it is can be is a good morale booster.

I first saw your machine online and then, almost immediately afterwards, for real in John Bell and Croydon, in London’s Wigmore St. They had the complete range on display and
an assistant able to guide me. I bought it immediately and it is probably the best £50 I have ever spent.

I would unreservedly recommend this solution to anyone who feels short of breath or wants to give their breathing a boost.”

All the best

Thank you so much to Martin for getting in touch and sharing his experience. If you too are using a POWERbreathe to improve your quality of life, as opposed to using it for sports performance gains, then please leave a comment here on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d love to hear from you.