Rowing performance & breathing improves with POWERbreathe IMT

Patricia Carswell‏, a.k.a Girl on the River, recently won ‘Highly Commended 2017’ for Sports and Fitness at the UK Blog Awards. She’s a freelance journalist and specialises in health, fitness and lifestyle. Furthermore she enjoys rowing, and it is thanks to a fellow rower and POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) user that we got in touch with Patricia.

Rowing-induced lung burn

After completing her first erg sprint of the season Patricia Tweeted about the burning sensation she felt in her lungs. Her friend, rower Lewin Hynes, medalist from the British and English Indoor Rowing Championships and POWERbreathe IMT user suggested she use POWERbreathe IMT to help.

Thanks to Lewin we got in touch with Patricia and suggested she use the POWERbreathe Plus MR. And as a highly commended blogger, whose blog is rated in the Top 50 Rowing Blogs, we understood that she would provide an honest insight into her experience of using POWERbreathe IMT. Consequently we provided Patricia with a POWERbreathe Plus MR to review.

How POWERbreathe IMT helped rower Patricia

Patricia began her POWERbreathe IMT as she prepared for regatta season. And after 4 weeks of training (IMT takes effect between 4-6 weeks) she published her review in the form of a blog at Girl on the River:

How the POWERbreathe muscle trainer has helped my rowing

POWERbreathe IMT improves performance

In scientific tests and studies, activating the diaphragm with POWERbreathe IMT:

  • Improves rowing time trial performance by up to 2.2%, equivalent to slashing 60m in a 2km race
  • Significantly improves rowing performance and reduces breathlessness in competitive rowers following a POWERbreathe warm-up
  • Increases strength of inspiratory muscles by 30 – 50%

POWERbreathe drills for specific indoor rower training

Lewin Hynes is a medalist from the British and EIRC and POWERbreathe IMT user himself. And to benefit other rowers he demonstrated a few POWERbreathe drills he uses while training. You can watch them here on the POWERbreathe YouTube channel.

Athletes Do Not Condition Inspired Air More Effectively than Non-athletes

There is a study that aims to assess athletes’ ability to warm and humidify inspired air. This study is published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. It is called, Athletes do not condition inspired air more effectively than non-athletes during hyperpnea.

Endurance athletes’ inspired air

Airway disease is more prevalent in endurance athletes. This is possible because they need to adapt their breathing to cope with large volumes of inspired air. And they need to inspire large volumes of air because of the intense exercise they perform. But the environment they train in may also be relevant.

Study method

The study measures the difference between each athlete’s inhaled and exhaled air temperature. It did this during and after a Eucapnic Voluntary Hyperpnea test (EVH). This is the test that is used to diagnose exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm. It is a 6 minute test during which the athlete breathes a cold, dry gas at very high ventilation rates.

All 23 athletes in the study attend a laboratory on three occasions. Two of these occasions are for baseline measurements and information. The third is to perform a modified EVH test. This is to measure their inspired and expired air temperatures.

No evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air

The test results show no evidence of improved capacity to condition inspired air. And by ‘conditioned’ air the study means the athlete’s ability to warm and humidify inspired air. If the study did find evidence, this could suggest an increased bronchial blood flow or another adaptive mechanism. Bronchial blood flow supplies nutrients and oxygen to the cells that constitute the lungs, as well as carrying waste products away from them. Therefore the absence of an adaptive mechanism could contribute to airway damage observed in endurance athletes. This may be that colder but mainly dryer air is penetrating deeper in the lung.

Strategies to reduce impact on airway injury

A pre-exercise warm-up is well known to reduce the severity of exercise-induced bronchospasm and exercise-induced asthma. It is thought the reason for this is because of an increase in bronchial blood flow. A warm-up involves performing the athlete’s activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity. It gradually raises the body temperature. Furthermore it increases blood flow to the muscles.

An inspiratory warm-up

It is also beneficial to warm-up the breathing muscles. A scientifically proven way of doing this is with Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). POWERbreathe is an IMT device that is quick and easy to use. POWERbreathe IMT is performed as part of an athlete’s daily training. But research and trials have also shown it to be beneficial for an inspiratory warm-up. This means simply reducing the breathing load on the POWERbreathe IMT device to a lower setting. Better still the POWERbreathe K3, K4 and K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback Software feature an automatic warm-up mode. This automatically sets the optimal resistance for an inspiratory muscle warm-up.

Non-Asthma Related Breathing Problems In Athletes

This BASES Expert Statement looks into exercise respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, tight chest, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and coughing which are commonly reported by athletes.

These non-specific symptoms need to be assessed in order to confirm or eliminate the presence of cardio-pulmonary causes.

There is a high prevalence – 70% – of asthma and exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) in sports with high breathing requirements, and it has been assumed that exercise-induced respiratory symptoms in these athletes is due to asthma or exercise-induced-asthma (EIA).

Symptoms however are misleading and this Expert Statement looks at these differential causes of exercise respiratory symptoms: Exercise-Induced Laryngeal Obstruction (EILO) and Dysfunctional Breathing.

Interventions are then discussed which include breathing pattern retraining and inspiratory muscle training and finally conclusions are made.

You can read the full Expert Statement here, Assessment and Management of Non-asthma Related Breathing Problems in Athletes.

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.

Effects of IMT on Resistance to Fatigue of Respiratory Muscles in Exercise

EliteVelo Kalas Sportswear Cycling Race Team by Richard Fox Photography

EliteVelo Kalas Sportswear Cycling Race Team using POWERbreathe Plus IMT (above)
PHOTO: Richard Fox Photography

STUDY:

Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training on Resistance to Fatigue of Respiratory Muscles During Exhaustive Exercise
M. O. Segizbaeva, N. N. Timofeev, Zh. A. Donina, E. N. Kur’yanovich, N. P. Aleksandrova

This study, published in Body Metabolism and Exercise – Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology (Volume 840, 2015, pp 35-43) concluded that IMT elicits resistance to the development of inspiratory muscles fatigue during high-intensity exercise.

PURPOSE:

To assess the effect of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) on resistance to fatigue of the diaphragm, parasternal, sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscles in healthy humans during exhaustive exercise.

The sternocleidomastoid muscle flexes the neck and helps with the oblique rotation of the head. Also, the muscle helps in forced inspiration while breathing, and it raises the sternum. As for forced inspiration, the muscle also works in concert with the scalene muscles in the neck. The scalene muscles are lateral vertebral muscles that begin at the first and second ribs and pass up into the sides of the neck. There are three of these muscles. (SOURCE: Healthline.com)

CONCLUSION:

“The study found that in healthy subjects, IMT results in significant increase in MIP (+18 %), a delay of inspiratory muscle fatigue during exhaustive exercise, and a significant improvement in maximal work performance. We conclude that the IMT elicits resistance to the development of inspiratory muscles fatigue during high-intensity exercise.”

Read Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training on Resistance to Fatigue of Respiratory Muscles During Exhaustive Exercise

Check out more Inspiratory Muscle Training Research here >

Discover POWERbreathe used in Research here >

What causes exercise-induced asthma?

The reason why asthma symptoms may be brought on during exercise has not been completely established but it is thought that because breathing becomes heavy and we breathe faster when we exercise, the linings of our airways narrow and dry out. Also weather conditions and allergies, such as an allergy to pollen, can also trigger asthma-like symptoms when exercising.

Recognising exericse-induced asthma (EIA)

Diagnosis is often made after symptoms, such as wheezing and a tight chest, are experienced during exercise, but this can result in either over-diagnosis, where athletes report symptoms but DO NOT have narrowing of the airways, or under-diagnosis where athletes who’re asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) DO have narrowing of the airways which affects their performance.

The scenarios above are supported in studies where elite athletes have been screened and shown to have EIA, such as reported by British Olympic Teams in the 2012 Olympics where it found that 25% of Team GB suffers from exercise-induced asthma. And at the 1996 Olympic games 20% of athletes reported asthma upon exercising.

Why screen for EIA?

The main reason is because exercise-induced asthma may be detrimental to an athlete’s performance, as it’s already been shown to reduce exercise capacity and running speed in colder environments which will not only affect an athlete during training but also during competition.

Treatment of EIA

Both pharmacological and non pharmacological therapies are currently successfully used to treat EIA, and studies have also highlighted the benefits of adjunctive intervention. POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training can be used as an adjunctive intervention, not only for daily training, but also as a respiratory warm-up prior to exercise.

Read more about Respiratory Disorders in endurance athletes in our blog.

And here’s an interesting article that looks at Pollen and Exercise Induced Asthma >

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.

Breathing – your magic bullet to improved sports performance

Breathing properly could just be your magic bullet to improved sports performance and sporting achievements.

In an article about The Dangers of Dysfunctional Breathing, international performance consultant Brandon Marcello, Ph.D., MS, CSCS says, “Having improper breathing form is no different from having improper squat form.”

The article goes on to say that ‘when it comes to physical activity, breathing ineffectively can alter your performance’. Therefore breathing effectively will also alter your performance, but for the better!

POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training (IMT) exercises your breathing muscles, improving their strength and stamina, reducing fatigue which in turn enables you to train harder, for longer and with less effort which ultimately translates into improved performance.

POWERbreathe IMT has been scientifically proven to:

 

Romanian Olympic Rowing team training with POWERbreathe

Here’s a great photo of the Romanian Olympic Rowing senior team training with POWERbreathe IMT devices at the end of their V02 testing, respiratory muscle training and psychology program.

Coach Dorin Alupei encourages sport-specific training, tailoring workouts for the effort needed within each type of sport, and in this instance, for rowing, where breathing can reach maximal levels.

The synchronisation between breathing and locomotion while rowing pushes breathing to its limits.

As a rower in a 2000m race you will be breathing twice per stroke; breathing out during the initial part of the drive (when the blade is in the water), taking a breath as you reach the end of the drive, breathing out again as you come forward and taking a small breath just before ‘the catch’. This small breath at the catch is vitally important in terms of allowing the optimal transmission of force from your body through the blade and into the water; the muscles of your torso brace against a partially inflated lung.

Your torso muscles include your breathing muscles, and it’s pretty difficult to brace your upper body and breathe at the same time, so you have to work your breathing in around the stroke rate.

POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training (IMT) specifically targets the breathing muscles, and has been shown to:

  • Improve rowing time trial performance by up to 2.2% – equivalent to slashing 60m in a 2km race
  • Increase strength of inspiratory muscles by 30 – 50%
  • Improve rowing performance and reduce breathlessness in competitive rowers after a POWERbreathe warm-up
Click for larger view
Improvements in time trial performance after POWERbreathe training

The Romanian Olympic Rowing team shown above are all using POWERbreathe Plus Level 2 models.

Visit the POWERbreathe YouTube channel to watch our series of 3 videos in the playlist POWERbreathe for Indoor Rowing >

 

 

Metabolic reflection of respiratory muscles limiting athletic performance

 

We’re grateful to our friends Fit & Breathe Concept for bringing this article to our attention. It’s written by Germain Fernandez Monterrubio, Bachelor of Science in Physical Activity and Sport and can be found in its original language here: ‘El reflejo metabólico de la musculatura respiratoria como factor limitante del rendimiento deportivo’.

We’ve translated the original text as best we can (as follows), but if it is not entirely clear then you may also be interested in reading this research, published in The Journal (2007) of The Physiological Society, ‘Insights into the role of the respiratory muscle metaboreflex’.

Metabolic reflection of the respiratory muscles as a limiting factor in athletic performance

Numerous studies show ventilatory fatigue (the inability of the respiratory muscles to achieve preural given pressure) (Chicharro, 2010) is considered as a limiting factor in performance, especially in disciplines that require endurance (such as marathon, rowing, swimming , triathlon etc).

One of the limiting factors that future studies will focus on is that of determining the specific influence of Metabolic Reflection of Respiratory Musculature (RMMR) in different cases.

The RMMR initiates fatigue of the respiratory muscles, which through III and IV afferents reach the supraspinal level, triggering a sympathetic response by vasoconstriction of peripheral muscle locomotive, which intensifies the fatigue of active muscles and increases also perception of effort, contributing to the limitation of return linked to intense aerobic exercise. (Romer and Polkey, 2008).

In aerobic performance, the TOTAL energy demand is not a limiting factor (Santalla, 2009), the production of energy in the time given is the determinant of fatigue… the “metaboreflex”. Respiratory muscles induce a number of mechanisms by which respiratory muscle fatigue can affect exercise tolerance (Jack mackerel, 2010, Santalla 2010, Romer and Polkey, 2008), incurring a series of cardiorespiratory interactions:

Pulmonary level:

  • Fatigue contraction of the diaphragm and accessory muscles of respiration.
  • Increased reflexes activated metabolites.
  • Increased afferent discharge (track III and IV).

Muscular level:

  • Increased efferent sympathetic discharge.
  • Increased vasoconstriction members.
  • Decreased oxygen transport.
  • Increased locomotor muscle fatigue.
  • Increased perception of effort.

In an experiment carried out with cyclists (Fischer, 2013) participants were induced to metaboreflex with post-exercise muscle ischemia, indicating that the increase in heart rate and the partial withdrawal of cardiac parasympathetic tone, is mainly attributed to increased cardiac sympathetic activity, and only after exercise with large muscle masses.

We speak of respiratory muscles (and mechanical); of autonomic nervous, central nervous system and cardiovascular system regulation in humans. A review by Douglas R. Seals raised the premise that if the RMMR represented the “Robin Hood” of the body to the locomotor muscles (Seals, 2001), determining that this reflex can have as its main objective the delivery of oxygen to the respiratory muscles, guarantees the ability to maintain pulmonary ventilation, adequate regulation of the gases in the blood flow and the pH and general organ homeostasis. The reflection is considered the “vital organ” responsible for supporting lung function and perfusion of the respiratory muscles, especially during physiological states in which there is competition for cardiac output, as in the exercise to maximum and submaximal intensities. This overrides the locomotor muscles.

Usually this phenomenon is found in those training for a sport or competition in which there will normally be a struggle between the respiratory muscles and the locomotor muscles for blood flow. Determining this is not so simple, as it also depends on the intervention of the central nervous system, which impinge on some physiological and psychological responses, such as the perception of effort. Generalizing, we can say that to focus on metabolic compromise reflects both muscles (respiratory and locomotor) at maximal or submaximal, rather than related to aerobic capacity.

Author: Germain Fernandez Monterrubio, Bachelor of Science in Physical Activity and Sport.

www.fermentourbano.com

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REFERENCES

  • SEALS, DR. (2001). Robin Hood for the Lungs? A respiratory metaboreflex that “steals” blood flow from locomotor muscles. J Physiol. 537(Pt 1):2
  • FISHER, JP y otros (2013). Muscle metaboreflex and autonomic regulation of heart rate in humans. J Physiol. 591.15 pp 3777–3788 3777
  • ROMER, LM y POLKEY, MI (2008). Excercise-induced respiratory muscle fatigue: implications for performance. J App Physiol. 104 pp 3879 3888
  • SANTALLA, A (2010). Presentation High Performance Program. Physiological Basis of Sports Performance. SE
  • CHICHARRO LOPEZ, JL (2010). Presentation Respiratory muscle fatigue induced by exercise: implications for clinical and performance.
  • HAJ GHANBARI, B. et alt. (2012) Effects of respiratory muscle training on performance in athletes: a systematic review with meta-analyses. J. of Strength & Conditioning Research.

View list of published research that used POWERbreathe as the IMT intervention of choice in POWERbreathe in Research.

Find more published research on our Inspiratory Muscle Training Research blog.

If you found this interesting (and if you found the translation not entirely easy to follow), you’ll probably find ‘Insights into the role of the respiratory muscle metaboreflex’ useful too.