POWERbreathe user John breaks Concept2UK British Record

John Steventon from Glasgow, aka @johntherower shared news of his success at breaking the British 1K indoor rowing record (40-49 lightweight) on May 14th. He’s spent the last 6 months training, including POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training (IMT), and he’s managed to drop 5.1 seconds which he couldn’t be happier about… “Hey guys, I broke a British Record for indoor rowing yesterday (1k lightweight 40-49) and I know a huge part of that was because of my breathing training with a POWERbreathe. So I just wanted to say thanks!!! World Record now in my sights!!!!” exclaimed John. John has clearly been putting in the training for this event, but it’s no surprise to hear POWERbreathe IMT has benefited him too because there have been many scientific trials on the benefits of IMT for indoor rowers. Rowing has a high respiratory demand and so John’s breathing muscles would fatigue early. Science suggests that this high respiratory demand ‘steals’ blood from the legs during rowing which in turn reduces overall rowing performance. In scientific tests POWERbreathe IMT:

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

John’s next challenge is to beat the World Record for the 1k and for this he needs to shave another 5.7 seconds off his record. “Roll on November, when I’ll try to break the World Record. In the meantime, I’ll keep scaring the cat with my breathing exercises!” You can read John’s account of his fantastic success here >

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The Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing – Ventilation and Breathing Pattern

We know we have many POWERbreathe friends and users who’re also indoor rowers, and with that in mind we thought we’d bring to your attention this Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing – one of the ‘Complete Guide’ series from Bloomsbury Publishing Plc that blends expert information and accessibility.

Title: The Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing
Authors: Jim Flood and Charles Simpson
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1-4081-3332-3

This comprehensive training manual has been written by two authorities on the subject: Jim Flood, tutor and assessor for indoor and outdoor rowing coaches who also works internationally helping countries raise their coaching levels to Olympic standards; and Charles Simpson PhD, Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sports Science at Oxford Brookes University and rowing coach in the UK, USA and Australia.

Written and illustrated for the serious athlete, home indoor rower, outdoor rower and regular gym user alike, it features detailed training plans, tips and techniques, including the importance of the ventilation system and breathing.

Because there is a focused section on ‘Ventilation and Breathing Pattern’, it’s no surprise that POWERbreathe is referred to:

“POWERbreathe devices (see figure 5.1) are now popular with indoor rowers and the results described above provide some support for their use.”

In this section of the book the authors explain how the ventilation system of indoor rowers must be capable of providing high volumes of air in order to deliver oxygen to the blood. They also looked at breathing patterns, comparing the synchronised breathing pattern of experienced rowers that matched the different phases of the rowing stroke, with non-rowers who weren’t able to connect their breathing to these separate phases of the stroke and simply ended up breathing at random.

The authors also revealed that German research found important differences between the size of the two breaths used in the two breaths per stroke pattern used by experienced rowers during high intensity rowing. This suggested that there could be physical limits to breathing during high intensity indoor rowing due to the compressed position of the upper body at the catch, and…

“Additionally, the muscles that normally assist deep inspiration are also important for stabilising the upper body. Upper body stability is essential to the production of high power output during the drive phase of maximal intensity rowing, making it more difficult for a rower to inhale during this phase of the stroke.”

“There are also suggestions that respiratory muscles may develop fatigue during intense indoor rowing. Given these different possible restrictions on breathing during rowing, it may be possible to improve rowing performance by targeting specific ways to improve breathing during rowing.”

In support of all this, and available on the POWERbreathe website, are several research papers and review articles that look at Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) and exercise-induced inspiratory muscle fatigue, including one that also supports the suggestion that a high respiratory demand ‘steals’ blood from the legs during rowing which reduces overall rowing performance. 

So by training the breathing muscles with POWERbreathe to become stronger, blood flow demand by the respiratory muscles will be reduced and cardiac output to your leg muscles increased, improving your performance.

Read more about how POWERbreathe could help improve your rowing performance, or if you’re already using POWERbreathe then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read more about POWERbreathe for indoor rowing on our blog.

How POWERbreathe has affected my training

Jen HowseSince my last blog I have been continuing with the Powerbreathe 30 breaths. Having started with the resistance at the lowest level and struggling initially to complete the full 30, I have seen progress in that I now can manage 30 with the resistance up to level 2.

So how has this affected training? I have been repeating breathing training sessions I did in the build up to the Crash-Bs last year and have found that I wasn’t feeling as wheezy if I didn’t use my inhaler. But the real test would be rowing at the Agganis Arena in Boston on race day.

Last year I had real problems with the dry atmosphere of the arena and couldn’t perform as well as I hoped. On race day I weighed in 2 hours before my race at 128lb, well under the 135lb limit. Warming up I felt the air was dry like it was last year. Into the arena which is always a bit nerve racking but concentrated on getting myself settled and in the zone.

A bit slow off the start but not worried about that as I’m not always quick, but I know a lot of others fly and die so I wasn’t overly concerned about being 7th after a few strokes. Hit the 1:52s and stuck there. 500m gone and moving up through the positions, starting to get the 1:51s in as to race plan, breathing fine, no problems like last year.

750m and looking to hit 1:51-1:50.

Half way and 20 m behind the first place. Settling in to the second half of the race and gaining steadily on first – down to 10m at 1500m. At that point for the first time I knew that the hammer was mine if I wanted it and boy did I want it! Ready to take it up. My cox called to go, I was lifting it.

1650m gone and the screen went blank. I kept rowing in the hope that it would come back. I could hear Kimberly shouting for someone to come. I think I screamed that my screen had gone. The volunteers round us had no idea what to do. We realized the machine had dropped off the race and my race was over. Gutted does not even start to describe how I feel.

After a lot of discussion I was given a choice – either take the DNF or have the chance to re-row. I had come to Boston to do a 2k and I was not going to be stopped from doing one by some monitor blowing up on me. Agreed to race with the junior lwt girls at 12:30 and so I had 2 hours to recover, refuel and recompose myself.

By the time I had warmed up for a second time I was feeling much calmer. After my race last year my chest felt so tight that there was no way I would have been able to row again after completing nearly a whole race flat out. This time my breathing had been much better and much more controlled so I know that wasn’t going to let me down. It was just a question of whether I had recovered from the last race. Again another slow start. Again not too worried by that one. On to the 1:52s with a few 1:51s in there.

750m – still on race plan hitting the same splits as before.

Started getting the 1:50s in there. Half way and felt exactly like the last race. Could hear my cox behind me and all the rest of the group in the stand willing me on.

Towards 1500m hitting 1:50s.

Could hear all the supporter in the stands getting louder and I went for it, rate up, hit 1:49, 1:48. My cox asked for 1:47, I got down to 1:46, Think I saw 1:45 for the last stroke.

7:22.6  Gold by 3 seconds!

I am now a proud owner of a Crash-B winners hammer.

Thanks to POWERbreathe for the Heavy Resistance model. Using it has definitely made a difference and I have been less reliant on my inhaler for training sessions, but the big improvement has been when rowing in the race venues which are notorious for having dry atmospheres which make breathing hard.

Also thanks to all of Team GB for their support too!




Phil Bradbury – POWERbreathe has helped my breathing

I have just completed a 12 week trial with a medium resistance Powerbreathe.

I cycle or row just about every day but do not compete formally so I cannot quote figures of percentage improvement in particular events. Having said that I do push myself very hard whilst riding at the Velodrome and on some club rides which are inevitably very hilly and quite fast.

I only started using the Concept rower for some cross training about 7 months ago so I would expect my performance to improve anyway, that said each week I do a timed one hour row and each week the metres completed increases with what feels like the same effort.

My criteria of success is how I feel under high exercise effort.

As far back as I can remember I felt I ran out of breath long before I ran out of legs, it felt that my breathing had become the limiting factor. I have in the past consulted my doctor about this and had spirometer and exercise ECG tests, both showing for my age of 63 that I am very fit.  This breathing limit has been more obvious in the winter months.

I do perceive a change over the 12 week trial in that I no longer reach the point where I begin to worry that, “this time I have gone too far”, with my breathing. By accident not design the trial has been during the Autumn / Winter months.

Bottom line, I think the Powerbreathe has helped with my breathing and I will continue to use it as part of my daily routine.

Breathing definately is the key to improving rowing performance

Jen-Howse-RowingWell I’ve had my POWERbreathe for a little while now. My first attempt to use it showed how much improvement I had to make! I tried the thirty breaths at level one and failed!

Very soon after the arrival of my POWERbreathe came my first test in the lead up to the World Indoor Rowing Championships (Crash-bs), the British Online Rowing Championship. The inaugural event this year saw people round the world connect their Concepts 2 rowing machines to their computers and row against each other from the comfort of their own shed/garage/living room! I normally train in the garage but I decided to move the erg inside for the occasion.  Regretted this move about half way through as the air felt drier than usual and I started to struggle a little with my breathing.

Managed to come home first in my race and win the 30-39 lwtwomens category in a time a little slower than I had managed in training a few days before, but it is always different in a race situation.

From that race I realised that breathing training is definitely one of the keys to improving performance in races, as they are often not the best atmosphere for me.

So I have been using the Powerbreathe for a while now and can do 30 breaths without taking a break, which is quite an improvement from the first attempt.

Now into the last 6-week build up to the Crash-Bs and I will be doing another 2k test in the next few weeks to see how I have progressed over the last month.

Phil Bradbury – my breathing seems significantly easier (week 9)

I have just completed week 9 with the Powerbreathe.
This week I have moved up to level 5.5 and still doing my 10 breaths at half load, 30 at full load and finishing with 10 at half load.
In December I generally start to feel very tight in my chest when under exercise stress and this does affect my cycling as I struggle to get enough breath in.
I hope I am not tempting fate here, for the first time I can remember this year my breathing is significantly easier and this makes exercise much more productive.
If this continues I will consider using the Powerbreathe has been a success for me.
Phil Bradbury

Mike Wrenn – In rowing, any improvement in breathing efficiency would be beneficial

I’ve used the Powerbreathe regularly over the past month or so but only in the evenings.  I found it quite convenient to use late at night but somehow life has been too hectic once I get out of bed.  Following a chat with Eddie Fletcher last Saturday at Cardiff (he emphasised the importance of using it twice a day for the first 30 days), I’ve improved matters a little.  I now take the Powerbreathe to work with me when I do my part-time teaching and fit in using it during a morning coffee break.

It’s difficult to determine whether or not it is proving any benefit, as I was already very fit (10 British age group records set this year) before I started to use it. 

It does make sense to me that in the sport of rowing where the chest is compressed for much of the time any improvement to breathing intake efficiency would be very beneficial.  Being forced to breathe deeply and powerfully for thirty breaths does seem to be a useful exercise.  I’ll continue using the Powerbreathe, and twice a day whenever possible.


Mike Wrenn

Phil Bradbury – I’m concentrating on getting fuller breaths (week 8)

I have just completed week 8 with the Powerbreathe.
This week still working at level 5 with my 10 breaths at half load, 30 at full load and 10 at half load routine.
I could probably move the level up a little but I think for me it is more beneficial to concentrate on getting fuller breaths at the current level than shallow breaths at a higher level.

Phil Bradbury – my perception is that my breathing has changed (week 7)

I have just completed week 7 with the Powerbreathe.
At the end of the week I moved up to a setting of 5, still with my 10 breaths at half load, 30 at full load and 10 at half load routine.
I felt able to move the setting up because I was achieving much fuller breaths after a couple of weeks on a setting of 4.5.
My perception is that my breathing has changed since starting using the Powerbreathe,  it feels when I am under high exercise stress that I do breath more with my diaphragm than previously. 
This has made it less stressful.
I have no measure of how this translates into my performance on the rowing machine or bicycle, but it feels better.

Phil Bradbury

Pete Marston – My lungs feel like they’ve had a workout like they do after very hard rowing

Having never used a POWERbreathe before yesterday I really didn’t know what to expect when I took it out of the box and read the instructions. 30 breaths twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening. That sounds easy. I figure I am best starting on the lowest resistance, and just increase it by the quarter turn each session if I find it too easy.
After using it for the first time yesterday I am surprised how similar it is to using STASS. The Short Term Air Supply System (STASS) is a small emergency air supply bottle carried by military aircrew, mainly in helicopters, so that in the event of a crash landing in water they have time to escape from the aircraft. I have been through the STASS training with the Royal Navy a couple of years ago so that I could fly on military helicopters as a Flight Test Observer. Breathing with the STASS when you’re upside down, underwater and in the dark in a helicopter training rig is difficult when you’re not used to having to breathe under resistance. Sorry for this aside if it is not an interesting comparison, but my first thought was – this could be a good training device for military personnel going through that training if they have any issues or concerns over using the STASS system.
That similarity aside, I was then surprised how hard work it actually is to do 30 breaths with the POWERbreathe. I did not expect to be just about breaking into a sweat after it! My lungs feel like they have had a workout like they do after a very hard piece on the rowing machine, but without the associated sore throat and cough. It will be interesting what the next few weeks will bring.
I keep a careful track of all of my training, and blog about it at http://www.thepeteplan.com/ – so I will make comment there periodically on the POWERbreathe training too. Most indoor rowers keep detailed training records, and as such it should be fairly easy to track any improvements in performance over the next 3 months, and have a good idea whether part of these are due to this new training stimulus.