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.

A Combined IMT & EMT Program Improves Respiratory Muscle Strength & Fatigue in MS

The Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation published an ‘Article in Press’ that looked at determining the effects of a short duration of combined inspiratory and expiratory progressive respiratory muscle training (RMT) on respiratory muscle strength, fatigue, health-related quality of life and functional performance in individuals with mild-to-moderate MS (Multiple Sclerosis).

Results showed an increase in maximal inspiratory pressure and expiratory pressure and that RMT improved fatigue.

The study concluded that a short duration of combined RMT improved inspiratory and expiratory muscle strength and reduced fatigue in patients with mild-to-moderate MS.

A Combined Inspiratory and Expiratory Muscle Training Program Improves Respiratory Muscle Strength and Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis

Andrew D. Ray, P.T., Ph.D. , Supriya Udhoji, OTR/L, M.S., Terry Mashtare, Ph.D., Nadine M. Fisher, Ed.D.


To determine the effects of short duration, combined (inspiratory and expiratory), progressive resistance respiratory muscle training (RMT) on respiratory muscle strength, fatigue, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and functional performance in individuals with mild-to-moderate Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Training was a 5-week combined progressive resistance RMT program, 3 days/week, 30 min/session.

A short duration combined RMT program improved inspiratory and expiratory muscle strength and reduced fatigue in patients with mild-to-moderate MS.

Read the full Abstract.

In another study it concluded that “Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) significantly increased inspiratory muscle strength and resulted in generalized improvements in expiratory pulmonary function in persons with Multiple Sclerosis who have minimal to moderate disability. Future studies are needed that focus on the long-term effects of IMT with increased resistance and the impact it has on increasing pulmonary function and functional performance.”

Read about how POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training is being used for people with Medical Conditions where inspiratory muscle weakness and fatigue are symptoms.

If you’re already using POWERbreathe to help with respiratory weakness and fatigue because of MS, then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d really like to hear from you. You can also read more on our blog from Madeline Simon, a Multiple Sclerosis patient who’s been using POWERbreathe to help strengthen her breathing muscles.

Training: Get some air

Our POWERbreathe friends and distributor in the Netherlands, Trainjelongen, contacted us as they were delighted to see an article about how training your breathing muscles can improve cycling performance. It appeared in the Cycling magazine, ‘Fiets’, which has the largest circulation for cycling magazines in the Benelux.

The reason for their delight? Well the article, originally written by Nick Morgan from Bike Radar/Cycling Plus and translated into Dutch by Fiets magazine for their readership, discusses ‘evidence that improving breathing ability may be more important than previously thought, and that endurance athletes can improve simply by paying attention to their breathing off the bike.’

The article, ‘Training: Get some air’, firstly sets out the two parts of the breathing process:

  1. The role played by the lungs which expand to take in oxygen and contract to expel carbon dioxide.
  2. The role played by the blood which transports oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and then transports carbon dioxide back to be expired.

Nick discusses how exercise physiologists in the past completely discounted the lungs and placed importance on oxygen transportation instead, because they saw that lung size or capacity couldn’t be altered after exercise training and therefore concluded that the lungs placed no limitation on exercise performance. What they did do instead, was to concentrate on oxygen transportation which did benefit from training.

That was then however and this is now, as these theories have been challenged. A group of scientists ‘agreed that lung ventilation had no beneficial effect on endurance performance but realised that expanding and contracting the lungs required muscles. These muscles use energy, just like any other, so they reasoned that if these muscles could be trained to become more efficient then performance might improve.’

Professor Alison McConnell of Brunel University established that “When we exercise we work the inspiratory muscles pretty hard and this triggers a reflex causing blood vessels in our limbs to constrict,” she says. “We showed this using the calf muscle. Yet after breathing training, the same exercise did not trigger the reflex, meaning more blood flowed to the calf and performance improved.”

Large studies which featured cyclists, rowers and runners agree with the above conclusion that a small but significant improvement is possible.

You don’t need to take just Professor McConnell’s word for it… The State University of New York took 15 competitive athletes and tested the theory. They got the athletes to undertake 30 minutes of daily breathing exercises for 4-weeks to see if it boosted their endurance during time-trials. “It did, by an average of 4% compared to controls. This is reinforced by two earlier studies showing that breathing exercises improved 25km and 40km time-trial performance by 2.5 and 2 per cent respectively.”

The article refers to POWERbreathe as a method of training these important breathing muscles, but sadly is incorrect in its description which states POWERbreathe trains both inspiratory and expiratory muscles, which it doesn’t. There is currently no definitive, comprehensive study that shows any benefit to training the expiratory muscles.

For those cyclists wishing to utilise this breathing training to their advantage, McConnell recommends 30 breaths twice a day using the POWERbreathe for four to six weeks in a relaxed position, and then when this feels easy to do, continue the training in the aerobar position so that the breathing muscles get used to working in the same state they would be in when cycling.

The article continues on to discuss altitude training, yoga and Pilates, and you can read the full article online, ‘Training: Get some air’.

Read more about why you should include POWERbreathe IMT as part of your cycling training, or if you’re a cyclist and are already using POWERbreathe, then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d love to hear about how you’ve benefited from this breathing training. You can also read more about POWERbreathe and cycling training in the Blog’s Cycling category.

Why train your breathing?

Why train your breathing?

By Duncan Kerr

If it weren’t for the fact that breathing is automatic and taken for granted then we would not be asking this question.

Sports people train all their other muscle groups yet ignore the most fundamental system necessary to improve sports performance – the muscles used for breathing.

If ever there was a weak link in the chain, this is it!

The faster you move the greater demand there is for oxygen delivery to your working muscles, and carbon dioxide removal. This in turn increases your heart rate and subsequently your inspiratory breathing muscles have to work very hard to keep up. Eventually, as we’ve all experienced, they fail, but the point at which they fail can be extended by training the breathing muscles separately with POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training.

Most people assume that if you train hard, perhaps with interval training or running up hill, you will develop strong breathing muscles. This is not necessarily the case because there is a limiting factor called the metaboreflex- the body’s built in brake.

This interaction was examined in the 2001, Nov 15th issue of The Journal of Physiology (Dempsey and colleagues), article “Robin Hood for the lungs? A respiratory metaboreflex that ‘steals’ blood flow from locomotor muscles.”

They demonstrated that manipulation of breathing work during maximal performance results in a marked change in the blood flow of the working muscles, as well as a change in cardiac output and the uptake of oxygen in the whole body, as well as in the active muscles. In addition, they established the remarkable metabolic cost of supporting the respiratory system (muscles) during high performance, which may be as high as 14 – 18 % of the cardiac output (Harms et al 1998).

To break through this barrier you must train your breathing system separately.

So what is the metaboreflex?

When you hit that point on the hill where you struggle to breathe your brain puts the brakes on i.e. reducing blood flow to your legs and redirecting it to support a poorly conditioned breathing system. Hence every time you reach your limit, the brakes come on and you can’t train past it. BUT if you train your breathing muscles independently to a higher level, when you hit the point where you previously “blew up” you can carry on, as your brain now continues to allow the blood flow to the working muscles. Stronger muscles equal more power, less fatigue and greater endurance.

There is also a big psychological benefit. When breathing feels easy you are able to push yourself harder. Go further – faster.

Your breathing muscles are also used for stability and propulsion in many sports, swimming and rowing in particular, but in almost all sports: footballers jumping for a header; boxers and rugby players taking an impact on the chest; walking at altitude- the list is endless.

How do you train your breathing muscles?

POWERbreathe works in exactly the same way as any other form of resistance/weight training, such as dumbbell curls for your arms – for instance, doing 30 reps a day over a period of a month will result in you gradually increasing the size of the dumbbell. At the end of the month you’ll have stronger arms which will be able to lift more with less effort. Using POWERbreathe you’re doing exactly the same thing for your breathing muscles – training against a resistance that you increase with the more training you do, and as your breathing muscles become stronger. The difficult bit was developing a device that could train your internal breathing muscles (which are primarily the intercostals between the ribs and the diaphragm).

POWERbreathe training benefits are twofold

  1. It delays the onset of the metaboreflex.
  2. It trains you to breathe more efficiently and deeply using your diaphragm and intercostals to expand your ribcage and maximise the full potential of your lung capacity, which you’re probably not fully utilising. The lungs can then inflate quickly to their maximum potential allowing more efficient use of alveoli for greater gas exchange.

Many athletes report being able to inhale over one litre of air more after inspiratory muscle training with POWERbreathe, than before POWERbreathe training, and due to the increased strength of the diaphragm, they can inhale at a much higher speed, for example improving from inhaling 4 litres to 5 litres of air and inhaling at 9 litres per second from 6 litres per second.

Luca Piancastelli, one of Italy’s top fitness instructors, said of POWERbreathe,

“I’ve often wondered how to structure the ideal workout for those who practice sport with a high aerobic effort. I looked for empirical systems that help me promote improved aerobic capacity of athletes. I recently tested – first on myself and then on other people that I coach – POWERbreathe, and without a doubt I can say that it is an essential complement to improve anyone’s performance. With the K5 I can monitor breathing qualities and follow step by step improvements. When you believe in a product, it’s easy to recommend!”

You can read more about the benefits of breathing training for sports and exercise, performing arts, health and medical, and the uniformed services in POWERbreathe Benefits.

How does POWERbreathe Work?

POWERbreathe uses a variable, calibrated, spring loaded valve to adjust the “weight” your breathing muscles will be “lifting”. You start off with a ‘light resistance’ and gradually increase the resistance over time, just as you would when training any other muscle group. This breathing training can be done anywhere in around 5 minutes, even if you are injured or it’s too cold to train outside. Training is just 30 breaths twice a day for the first month, then once a day to maintain your improved strength and endurance.

POWERbreathe breathing training is “The easiest gain you will ever get” said Eddie Fletcher, top rowing and cycling coach.

Types of POWERbreathe

There are currently two types of POWERbreathe: mechanical and electronic. The mechanical models (Classic and Plus) have hand adjustable valves for changing the resistance load, and the electronic (K-Series), as you would expect, feature a unique electronically controlled valve. The electronic units use a very sophisticated computer controlled valve that adjusts the loading automatically based on the current muscle strength of the user. The top end K5 unit connects to a laptop and gives instant visual feedback on load, volume, speed and energy used, via the Breathe-Link software. All sessions are saved for progress monitoring.


POWERbreathe has been available for over 15 years following its early development at Loughborough and Birmingham Universities. There have been numerous studies proving the effectiveness of inspiratory muscle training in many sports disciplines, as well as in medical applications, such as helping people with COPD and Asthma.

POWERbreathe is used around the world by top athletes in all sports, including World record holders and Olympic champions in numerous disciplines, but it can be used by everybody who breathes, even if only to get to the top of the stairs without getting out of breath.

A brief selection of current POWERbreathe users from different sports disciplines

Highlanders – New Zealand Rugby Champions

Anthony Ogogo – Olympic Bronze Medal Winning Boxer

Lucy Garner – Current Road Cycling World Champion

Martin Strel – Guinness World Record Holder (swam the Amazon)

Vitorrio Brumotti – World Record Holder (for riding his bike up stairs to the top of the world’s tallest building) 

Martin Binna – Czech Cyclocross Champion

Gi Ka Man Gi – Winner of the Hong Kong Half Marathon

If you’re a POWERbreathe user then please leave a comment here as we’d love to hear your experience of breathing training using your POWERbreathe.

Czech triathlete “breathes a litre more” after training with POWERbreathe

More great news from our POWERbreathe friends in the Czech Republic, TruconneXion.

Last week, on the biggest Czech triathlon website, young amateur triathlete, Lukáš Netík’s wrote about his positive experience of POWERbreathe training.

Lukáš started POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training in 2011 on his Level 2 Medium Resistance (MR) model. With regular training he gradually increased the resistance load as his breathing muscles became stronger, but he soon got used to this increase in strength.

“I admit that although I trained according to the instructions, it was usually only once a day. Sometimes I missed completely and if I had a cold I put it aside for a few days. Yet regardless of this, results came relatively quickly and after a few weeks I got to the fifth level on the ten scale. Even breathing during exercise was suddenly easier. During swimming I no longer have to breathe so often, but to me the biggest PLUS I can see is when I’m in the cycling position and my diaphragm is compressed, with hands on the handlebars. And I also use if before a race as it’s great for warming-up,” Lukáš reported.

Every year Lukáš tests his VO2MAX on an ergometer, and he compared results from 2011 and 2012, to see if there were any changes to his breathing capacity and strength. Both results showed that Lukáš’s performance went up. In a 2012 test he reached the same power output with a lower heart rate (179 vs. 184 bpm), lower breathing frequency (34 vs. 40 breaths/minute) and a higher breathing volume (5,7 vs. 4,8 litres). Also his sports doctor commented on the positive change in his breathing.

Lukáš was pleasantly surprised with his improvements and said,

“I think that investing in POWERbreathe really paid off and I can only recommend it. I think Season 2012 went very well.” He qualified at the World Championships, took 2nd place in the European Cup Xterra and 11th place at the World Championships in the category up to 24 years.

Praising Lukáš , MD. Vladimir Vondruška , sports doctor from the University Hospital in Hradec Králové, commented on the annual increase of Lukáš’ ventilation parameters,

“We discussed using POWERbreathe with Lukáš in the autumn of 2011. After a year I was pleasantly surprised by the positive effects I saw in Lukáš – the obvious strengthening of his respiratory muscles (diaphragm), including intercostals. His breathing volume increased by about 1 litre, capitalizing on the part of his residual lung volume. After using POWERbreathe we could see a noticeable change in the efficiency of his lungs, which helps to improve his overall performance. ”

This has been translated from the original, which can be found on the website.

Read more about why it’s beneficial to use POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training to improve swimming performance, improve cycling performance, and improve running performance for triathlon. And if you’re already using POWERbreathe as part of your triathlon training, then please leave a comment here as we’d love to hear of your experience.

Breathing Big in 2013

So, 2013 is the year for Breathing Big! Well, all you POWERbreathe users are one-step ahead in setting the trend for improving your breathing strength and breathing pattern. You’ll already be familiar with the benefits that inspiratory muscle training has on your breathing and ultimately your sports performance, or if you have breathing difficulties, on your quality of life.

We’ve heard from the US that Breathing Big is going to be making its mark in 2013, with “fitness professionals taking more credence in assessing breathing patterns in their clients”.

“While we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg in this regard, it’s profound how much of an effect faulty breathing patterns – in this case people relying too much on their accessory breathing muscles like the upper traps, scalanes, levator etc and NOT their diaphragm – has on everything from posture and many common dysfunctions we see in the general population (neck pain, shoulder pain, evel lower back pain) to performance, in and outside the gym,” says Tony Gentilcore, co-owner of Cressey Performance.

He goes on to add, “Taking as little as five minutes to show clients how to “use” their diaphragm can go a long ways in helping them not only feel better but set themselves up for success, whether their goal is to lift a Mack truck or just look better naked.”

POWERbreathe users will know that training with POWERbreathe for only 5-minutes twice a day will make a big difference to their breathing strength and endurance, and can be done just as easily at the gym, at home – or when out and about.

Jordan Syatt, Author, Trainer and Greatist Expert, also predicts that one of the top 3 trends for 2013 will be diaphragmatic breathing.

“It’s progressively become more of a mainstream term among health and fitness professionals, but it hasn’t received much attention in the media or lay public. Granted, it’s not sexy of very appealing, but the benefits are astounding and it’s bound to pick up big time” he says.

Your diaphragm is you most efficient breathing muscle, and is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of your lungs. It’s your abdominal muscles that help to move your diaphragm and give you the power to empty your lungs. People with breathing problems, such as those with COPD, have difficulty with their diaphragm working effectively.

This is because air becomes trapped in the lungs, pushing down on the diaphragm.  Because of this, the neck and chest muscles take on an increased share of the work of breathing which can leave the diaphragm weak and flattened, causing it to work less efficiently.

POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training is intended to help you use your breathing muscles correctly to strengthen your breathing muscles, including your diaphragm and use less effort and energy to breathe.  At first you’ll notice an increased effort will be needed to use your diaphragm correctly while using POWERbreathe, and you’re breathing muscles will get tired. But stick at it because with regular use (following the scientific proven regimen of 30 breaths twice a day) your breathing strength and stamina will increase, allowing you to increase the resistance on your POWERbreathe and continue to improve.

Read more about the benefits of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) with POWERbreathe, and if you are already a POWERbreathe user, we’d love to hear how it’s helping you. Please leave a comment here.

Foods for keeping your lungs healthy

To keep our bodies ticking over nicely, lung health is critical. It is a cog in the wheel that makes our bodies work effectively. If you suffer oxygen deprivation then it can be serious to your health leading to serious respiratory illnesses and conditions including pneumonia, COPD and asthma. These illnesses attack the lungs causing breathing difficulty. A good way to keep your lungs healthy is by eating a healthy diet. A healthy diet is long term investment to a better lifestyle.

Your lungs don’t just need food, they need exercise too. Get £2.50 off any POWERbreathe training device with our voucher code.

Note: Keep reading to see how you can double your discount amount to £5.


Get £2.50 off using the above code.

The voucher code entitles you to £2.50 off any order of one or more POWERbreathe Breathing Training Devices, including the Classic Series, Plus Series & K-Series. Vouchers are one use only per customer. To apply your voucher code, add your chosen products to the basket on and add the voucher code on the basket, before heading to the checkout.

POWERbreathe Plus

POWERbreathe Plus



Water is essential for healthy lungs. Dry lungs are prone to irritation.  Each day you should try to drink between six and eight glasses.

Fatty Fish

Fish high in fat is an excellent choice of food for healthy lungs as they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which are linked with lung health.


Apples are the food for adults who want healthy lungs. Apples are effective for adults who want to focus on lung health. A team from St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, studied the diets and lung function of more than 2,500 men aged 45-49. They found that good lung function was associated with high intakes of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, citrus fruits, apples, and fruit juices.


Apricots are associated with healthy lungs due to their vitamin A content. The Office of Dietary Supplements notes that vitamin A supports respiratory tract linings, and may lower the risk of lung infections.


Broccoli is a highly antioxidant green vegetable with NRF2-dependent characteristics. As a result, EduBook notes that it is one of the best greens for lung health, especially in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.


Chicken, turkey, and other small poultry birds can benefit your lungs. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, these foods are high in lung health boosting vitamin A, and your body may absorb animal-based versions of vitamin A better than plant-based versions.


Walnuts are a vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating regular servings of walnuts — about one handful daily — may help fight asthma and other respiratory ailments according to the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.”


According to the American Cancer Society, beans can support lung health. Kidney, pinto, black and other beans are good sources of antioxidants, which fight off free radicals that may damage lungs.


Berries are rich in antioxidants, which the American Cancer Society notes protects lungs. Acai and blueberry are two of the top sources, but cranberries, grapes, and strawberries are also good for the lungs.

What can you do outside of diet?

You can also help keep your lungs healthy by making them stronger and more resistant to fatigue, which in turn could potentially help them fight off infection.

If you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or COPD, then you could benefit from using a breathing training device such as POWERbreathe to exercise your breathing muscles, improving their strength and stamina. Breathing training has seen improvements in asthma symptoms by up to 75%, improvement in laboured breathing by 36% & quality of life by 21%.

Everyone can benefit from stronger breathing muscles, not just people with breathing problems. Breathing training is being used in fitness workouts and sports to enable people to reach their peak levels. By improving breathing, you increase your endurance, which means you can exercise harder with the same effort.

Subscribe to our newsletter and we will send you a voucher code which gets you £5 off any POWERbreathe Breathing Training Device!

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