Turner Twins prepare for Mt Elbrus in Russia with POWERbreathe

Actually there’s a bit more to it than that. Ross and Hugo Turner are twin brothers who both share an interest in combining pioneering medical research and unique studies of historic expeditions. You’ve probably seen them on TV as they’ve filmed for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

But Ross and Hugo will be climbing with a difference, and not with just the objective of reaching the summit! Hugo will be wearing and taking traditional clothing and equipment used by mountaineers 100 years ago, while Ross will be wearing and taking the contemporary equivalent.

Because they’re twins, researchers have the unique opportunity to directly compare themselves against each other and see how each reacts given their different clothing and equipment, with research carried out (pre and post expedition) by King’s College London’s, Department of Twin Research and GlaxoSmithKline’s, Human Performance Lab.

As their next challenge is to climb Mt Elbrus in Russia 5,642m (18,510ft) – a challenge taken on to help them prepare for high altitude and their ultimate goal of climbing Mt Cho Oyu (8,201m, 26,906 ft) – they realized that part of their preparation should really include some breathing training, specifically inspiratory muscle training (IMT) with POWERbreathe.

Preparing for high altitude with POWERbreathe IMT

Because the air contains less oxygen and becomes ‘thinner’ the higher they’ll climb, the more Ross and Hugo will notice the enormous demands placed on their breathing, and their breathing muscles in particular. Their lungs will have to work much harder to compensate for the thinner air, so the stronger their breathing muscles are before the climb, the better off they’ll be.

By training their inspiratory muscles before hand with POWERbreathe, they’ll lessen the increase in effort associated with ascending to a higher altitude, and they’ll also reduce the impairment of their breathing strength which is induced by an ascent to high altitude. In fact,

Inspiratory Muscle Training1:

  • Reduces oxygen requirement of exercise in simulated altitude by 8-12%
  • Reduces cardiac output requirement of exercise in simulated altitude by 14%
  • Reduces breathing requirement of exercise in simulated altitude by 25%
  • Increases arterial oxygen saturation by 4%
  • Increases lung diffusing capacity by 4%
  • Reduces perceived exertion
  • Reduces breathlessness

1 Effects of inspiratory muscle training on exercise responses in normoxia and hypoxia

Ross and Hugo’s expeditions raise money for charity, in particular for Spinal Research, which is close to the twins’ heart following Hugo’s broken neck in which he narrowly missed being paralysed.

You can find out more about the Turner Twins on their website, Facebook and Twitter, and we will of course keep you updated with news. Finally we’d like to wish good luck to both Ross and Hugo who have arrived at Mineralyne Vody in Russia, their base camp.

Ross’ feedback on the Turner Twins’ POWERbreathe training (September 2015):

‘The POWERbreathe allowed us to train in a way that was in-expensive, appropriate and the best in the market for mountaineering adventure (without actually training at altitude). It was easy enough to take travelling and use every day while allowing any level of cardiac fitness you wanted. This POWERbreathe was perfect for Mt Elbrus as the mountain had glacial rubble and ice – two very different terrains that affected the cardiac system in different ways. With more adventures coming that are not at altitude, we will carry on using the POWERbreathe as it is a great way to train the body in a very advantageous way so you can perform comfortably while working hard on expeditions.’

Train your diaphragm with POWERbreathe to perform your best at altitude

We’ve just come across this article online in Outside Magazine (February 2015), written by Alex Hutchinson in which it’s suggested that ‘by training your respiratory muscles, you can teach yourself to perform better with less oxygen.’

The article, ‘The Secret to Performing Your Best at Altitude? Train your Diaphragm’ begins by looking at a study conducted by exercise physiologist at the University of Portsmouth, Dr. Mitch Lomax. The study involved 14 members of a British military expedition who were trekking up the Barun Valley in Nepal toward 27,766-foot Makalu, the world’s fifth highest peak. Half of these 14 volunteers were randomly prescribed POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training for 4-weeks prior to the expedition. After the expedition, results showed that when the IMT group arrived at Base Camp (18,000 feet), their arterial oxygen saturation was 14% lower than it had been at sea level, compared to the rest of group who’d desaturated by 20% – a not insignificant 6% advantage.

The article reveals even more interesting insights, facts and figures and is well worth a read, and here you can find out more about POWERbreathe for high-altitude training.

If you’ve used POWERbreathe prior to a high-altitude challenge of your own, then please leave a comment as we’d love to hear your experience.


POWERbreathe training for tri-forces expedition to Makalu

In September of this year, a tri-service team – Makalu 2014 – will attempt to place at least two of its eight members on the summit of Makalu via the most challenging route, the South East Ridge. If they are successful then this expedition will become the first British ascent via this notoriously difficult route.

Makalu is the fifth highest mountain in the world standing at 8,463 metres and is located in the Mahalangur Himalayas on the border between Nepal and China, southeast of Mount Everest.

Not only does scaling the mountain via this particular route present a challenge, but also the height of the mountain means that breathing at altitude will also be difficult.

With breathing an issue at high altitude, the expedition plan on introducing POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training to the team for their pre-expedition training “as a way of developing their respiratory function”, which is something they have done successfully for previous expeditions.

The Makalu 2014 team, led by Expedition Leader Wing Commander Colin Scott MBE (RAF), comprises members of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and they have already spent a day undergoing a series of physiological tests, including VO2 max, at the Carnegie Research Institute at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Arranged by Dr. John O’Hara, Reader in Sports and Exercise Physiology, the team was subjected to a range of tests designed to enable Expedition Performance Coach, Paul (Chip) Rafferty, to finely tune individual training plans for each member as part of their final preparation.

Included in their training plans for breathing at high altitude will be POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) which targets the breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, helping to eliminate breathing fatigue.

As the team ascends Makalu, above 3000m the amount of oxygen in the air decreases by 30%. At around 1km they’ll begin to experience breathlessness and at 4km they’ll even feel breathless at rest. This is because at high altitude the body becomes limited by the ability to pump air in and out of the lungs. Just to put this into perspective whilst resting at sea level, you breathe about 12 litres of air in and out of your lungs every minute. At the summit of Mt. Everest (8848m) it requires almost maximal levels of breathing (in excess of 150 litres per minute) just to put one foot in front of the other. This level of breathing can be sustained for only a couple of minutes at a time. And if the respiratory muscles are working very hard at breathing, they can then also ‘steal’ blood from the legs to meet their own requirement for oxygen, thus impairing leg performance during climbing. Basically, all this respiratory work can lead to chronic fatigue of the breathing muscles, increasing breathlessness and impairing climbing performance.

Inspiratory Muscle Training:

  • Reduces oxygen requirement of exercise in simulated altitude by 8-12%*
  • Reduces cardiac output requirement of exercise in simulated altitude by 14%*
  • Reduces breathing requirement of exercise in simulated altitude by 25%*
  • Increases arterial oxygen saturation by 4%*
  • Increases lung diffusing capacity by 4%*
  • Reduces perceived exertion*
  • Reduces breathlessness*

*Effects of inspiratory muscle training on exercise responses in normoxia and hypoxia

So as part of their pre-expedition training, each team member will be given a POWERbreathe Plus to use as part of their daily training (POWERbreathe Plus Level 2 MR and POWERbreathe Plus Level 3 HR). They will also have the use of a POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Link Software for lab quality measurement of four main training indices: training load; inspiratory power; inspiratory flow; energy expenditure.

You can check on the team’s progress by visiting their website www.makalu2014.com but we’ll also be offering updates here on the POWERbreathe website, where you can also find research papers and review articles that look at Inspiratory Muscle Training for High Altitude Training.