Rugby & the Beneficial Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training

The nature of the game of rugby involves high and low-intensity action. Also, the physical demands of the game are specific to each player’s positional role. However, despite the player’s position, all need to be aerobically fit. Each must also have a high lactate tolerance and be strong and powerful.

Challenges facing rugby players

Most of the game of rugby is sub-maximal. This means that the intensity at which the player performs increases at a steady rate. Furthermore, this sub-maximal exercise will only work the player up to 85% of their maximum heart rate.

However, integral to the game are intermittent sprints, tackling, scrums, rucks and mauls. These are supra-maximal. And it’s this part of the game that pushes players beyond their maximum limit. Consequently, breathing effort will be a challenge.

The pattern of exertion rugby has on players places extreme demands upon their breathing. This is because these activities are anaerobic and generate high levels of lactic acid. Furthermore, the lactic acid stimulates their breathing to increase. In addition, a unique feature of rugby is the involvement of high-intensity upper body activity. This can induce conflicting demands upon the breathing muscles, which as well as bringing about breathing, are also essential in activities that involve the upper body.

This 2018 study from Brazil reiterates the fact that the respiratory muscles need adequate work to maintain sustained effective breathing in the sport of rugby.

The scientific study

This scientific study set about analysing the effects of high-intensity inspiratory muscle training (IMT) in 20 amateur rugby players. These players are from the city of Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

For the trial, the amateur players undergo a pulmonary function test, respiratory muscle strength and physical capacity assessment. Researchers then split them into two groups: the IMT group and the control group, each consisting of 10 players. The study has approval from the Research Ethics Committee of the Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro under protocol no. 2398.

Rugby training & conditioning for the trial

During the trial, players begin training with a warm-up by jogging for 5-minutes. They then perform dynamic stretching of the major muscle groups. Following this, the researchers have the players simulate specific moves applied to the game of rugby to improve its fundamentals. These include such moves as passing, blocking, feinting and collective strategic moves. Ultimately, the training session ends with stretching.

Players in the Inspiratory Muscle Training group perform three weekly sessions of an inspiratory muscle training programme, using the POWERbreathe Plus, for 12 consecutive weeks. These sessions are supervised by a physiotherapist and a physical education professional.

The IMT group protocol

This group protocol consists of:

  • 10 minutes’ stretching of the trunk muscles, upper and lower limbs
  • 10-minute inspiratory warm-up by performing a full and vigorous inspiration through the POWERbreathe Plus IMT device
  • A series of 30 repetitions using 80% of maximal inspiratory pressure using the POWERbreathe Plus IMT device. After the fourth training session, the level is increased.

The control group protocol

This group of 10 players perform the same protocol as above, except they do not perform the 30 repetitions of inspiratory muscle training using the POWERbreathe Plus.

Effects of high-intensity IMT in Rugby Players

Results show that the 12-week course of high-intensity POWERbreathe IMT provides significant increases in maximal voluntary ventilation (22%), maximum inspiratory pressure (38%), PEmax (32%), and distance travelled (13%) in the YoYo Test.

Also worthy of note is how physical capacity will be compromised if the respiratory system does not provide sufficient oxygen supply to satisfy the demands. Researchers explain that when the arrival of blood to the respiratory muscles decrease, it experiences fatigue and leads to lactic acid buildup. Consequently, this situation causes a decrease in the strength and resistance of the respiratory muscles.

Results of this trial suggest therefore that the POWERbreathe IMT training protocol provides beneficial, positive effects for rugby players.

The study

Effects of high-intensity Inspiratory Muscle Training in Rugby Players >

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:

 

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.

Highlanders Super Rugby Team Train with POWERbreathe


In December 2012 the Highlanders signed a Global Sponsorship Agreement with POWERbreathe. Since then they’ve been using their POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training devices religiously as part of their training.

The Highlanders are a professional New Zealand rugby union team based in Dunedin that competes in Super Rugby, the largest professional rugby union competition in the Southern Hemishere.

POWERbreathe got together with the Highlanders to help the team specifically target their breathing muscles, using POWERbreathe breathing training devices to exercise the breathing muscles to improve their strength and endurance. This respiratory training would prove extremely beneficial to each team member because in rugby extreme demands are placed on the breathing muscles. All rugby players require a high level of aerobic fitness, lactate tolerance, strength and power; all reasons why POWERbreathe should be an integral part of rugby fitness training.

The Highlanders coaching staff realised the benefits of Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) and have developed a special training programme for the team.  Duncan, from POWERbreathe, visited the Highlanders in March this year (2013) to see how they’d incorporated POWERbreathe training into their routine, and to offer training advice and guidance if needed.

Duncan was welcomed by the coaching staff and team members, all of whom seemed comfortable with their POWERbreathe training, which can be seen in Duncan’s photos on the official POWERbreatheUK Facbeook page, and video.

The ‘fly-on-the-wall’ video shows how all the team use their POWERbreathe in between gym training and during match practice. Michael Lawrence who oversees the compliance said he was “very pleased with the enthusiasm and dedication the players have put into this aspect of their training. They have all stuck with it as they can feel the benefits when running on the field.”

Duncan is back in the UK now but the Highlanders POWERbreathe training continues, and we hope to bring you more news as and when we receive it. We’d like to thank the coaches for their work in developing a POWERbreathe training program for the team, and for implementing it so quickly and thoroughly. Duncan would also like to thank the Highlanders team players and all coaching staff for their hospitality – he’s looking forward to keeping in touch and assisting with training developments.

Highlanders Super Rugby Team (New Zealand) Sign-Up POWERbreathe


POWERbreathe has signed a Global Sponsorship Agreement with the ‘Highlanders Super Rugby Team’ from New Zealand.

This cooperation will see the Highlanders implementing POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training into their performance and fitness training programmes to improve endurance and accelerate recovery.

Although the physical demands of rugby are specific to each position on the pitch, all players require a high level of aerobic fitness, lactate tolerance, strength and power. The exertion that rugby demands of players places extreme demands on their breathing because the activity is anaerobic and generates high levels of lactic acid. And because rugby involves a high intensity upper body activity, it can induce conflicting demands on the breathing muscles which not only bring about breathing, but are also essential in activities that involve the upper body.

POWERbreathe specifically targets the breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, significantly improving performance, reducing breathing fatigue and accelerating recovery.

POWERbreathe International Ltd has provided the Highlanders 1st team squad and coaches with a POWERbreathe Plus each, as well as, a POWERbreathe K5 including Breathe-Link software to allow regular performance testing, monitoring and assessment of each player. Professor McConnell’s evidence-based book ‘Breathe Strong, Perform Better’ will help players and coaches to better understand the science of POWERbreathe.

POWERbreathe looks forward to working closely with the Highlanders and providing POWERbreathe training protocols, technical support, coaching and training recommendations, as well as, POWERbreathe and ActiBreathe training workshops.

POWERbreathe is committed to helping the Highlanders become champions of Super Rugby 2013.