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.

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 >



The Effect of Inspiratory muscle Warm-Up on Submaximal Rowing Performance

This abstract (Epub ahead of print) published July 15th 2014 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.


The Effect of Inspiratory muscle Warm-Up on Submaximal Rowing Performance

Arend M, Mäestu J, Kivastik J, Rämson R, Jürimäe J


“Performing inspiratory muscle warm-up might increase exercise performance. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of inspiratory muscle warm-up to submaximal rowing performance and to find if there is an effect on lactic acid accumulation and breathing parameters. Performing inspiratory muscle warm-up might increase exercise performance.

The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of inspiratory muscle warm-up to submaximal rowing performance and to find if there is an effect on lactic acid accumulation and breathing parameters.

Ten competitive male rowers between 19 and 27 years of age (age 23.1±3.8 yrs; height 188.1±6.3cm; body mass 85.6±6.6 kg) were tested three times. During the first visit maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP) assessment and the incremental rowing test were carried out to measure maximal oxygen consumption and maximal aerobic power (Pamax). A submaximal intensity (90% Pamax) rowing test was carried out twice with the standard rowing warm-up as Test 1 and with the standard rowing warm-up and specific inspiratory muscle warm-up as Test 2.

During the two experimental tests, distance, duration, heart rate, breathing frequency, ventilation, peak oxygen consumption and blood lactate concentration were measured.

The only value that showed a significant difference between the Test 1 and Test 2 was breathing frequency (52.2±6.8 vs 53.1±6.8, respectively). Heart rate and ventilation showed a tendency to decrease and increase respectively after the inspiratory muscle warm-up (p<0.1). Despite some changes in respiratory parameters the use of 40% MIP intensity warm-up is not suggested if the mean intensity of the competition is at submaximal level (at approximately 90% VO2max). In conclusion, the warm-up protocol of the respiratory muscles used in this study does not have a significant influence on submaximal endurance performance in highly trained male rowers.

View the abstract here. 


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.

POWERbreathe & Slovenian National Rowing Team – Update July 2014

This morning (9th July) the Slovenian National Rowing Team left for Rowing World Lucerne 2014 (11-13th July) and the start of the final round of the World Rowing Cup 2014 on the Rotsee where competition will be fierce and medal winning will no doubt be decided in the last few meters.

Friday 11th will see the Heats and the Quarter-Finals. Saturday 12th will be the Semi-Finals and B Finals of non-Olympic categories. Sunday 13th July will see the A Finals of non-Olympic categories and A Finals of Olympic categories.

Before the Slovenian National Rowing Team left for Rowing World Lucerne, POWERbreathe Slovenia & Croatia met up again with their Coach, Milos, because during the previous day (8th July) the whole team had their breathing tested using the POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Link software. After a long chat with Milos, it was decided that each rower would benefit from keeping a copy of their POWERbreathe test report, so that they can monitor their own improvements over the period in the run-up to the World Championships.

The 2014 Rowing World Championshipstake place in August, and as the team are now incorporating POWERbreathe into their regular preparations for this main event, it was agreed that POWERbreathe Slovenia & Croatia would meet up with the team again in early August to repeat the tests and monitor each rowers performance – and maybe develop individual training protocols. You can read more about this in our previous blog, POWERbreathe and the National Slovenian Rowing Team.

You can view photos taken of the some of the rowers testing their breathing on the K5 using the Breathe-Link software, and of the day POWERbreathe Slovenia & Croatia presented POWERbreathe, on our Facebook page.

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, Facebook or Twitter as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read more in our POWERbreathe rowing blog.

Thanks again POWERbreathe Slovenia & Croatia for this wonderful news and for sharing these photos.

POWERbreathe and the National Slovenian Rowing Team

On June 9th our friends and distributor POWERbreathe Slovenia, IntAct Ljubljana, organised a POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training Seminar for the National Slovenian Rowing Team, at the Olympic Sport Center at Bled Lake.

The science behind POWERbreathe and IMT was presented not only to the rowing team themselves, but also to the main coaches of the Slo Rowing Team and Slovenian Cross Country Combined.

Two of the top rowers in the national team (Zupan) who recently achieved their best results in the European Championships (elite men) in Belgrade, had their breathing strength tested using the POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Link software. Needless to say it created a lot of interest that prompted further discussion about inspiratory muscle strength, flow and volume, resulting in a better understanding of why training these breathing muscles is of benefit.

After discussing the results of the tests, national coach Milos Jansa also took the S-Index test on the K5 and was impressed to see his own results instantly on screen. He – and the team – agreed that using POWERbreathe IMT made real sense, and were impressed with the scientific trials that showed:

  • IMT improved rowing time trial performance by up to 2.2%, equivalent to slashing 60m in a 2km race
  • IMT increased strength of inspiratory muscles by 30 – 50%
  • A POWERbreathe warm-up significantly improved rowing performance and reduced breathlessness in a competitive rower

After the seminar, POWERbreathe Slovenia were invited to stay and discuss POWERbreathe further, with the day finishing on a very promising note for the team, as their coach decided that his team would incorporate POWERbreathe into their preparations for the World Championships taking place at the end of August 2014.

You can view photos taken at the seminar on our Facebook page.

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, Facebook or Twitter as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read more in our POWERbreathe rowing blog.    

Manual for Rowing Training (Outdoor) – including breathing training and technique

This book was brought to our attention recently while attending the Henley Royal Regatta this year, and because it discusses the importance of respiration in the standards of sport medicine care, we thought we’d share a taste of the findings in the book with you, as it supports the belief that “Breath-training should have a positive effect for rowers”.

Title: Manual for Rowing Training – Technique, High Performance and Planning
Authors: D Altenburg, K Mattes, J Steinacker
Publisher: Limpert Verlag
ISBN: 978-3-7853-1828-7

This manual has been compiled by these three authors following decades of experience, together with the results of scientific research and corresponding success at international rowing championships. It is the result of their work and has been published as an overlapping, methodical guide for the performance sport training of oars men and women.

About the authors:

  • Dr Altenburg was head-coach of the German Rowing Federation from 1990 to 2007.
  • Professor Dr. Mattes is scientist for coaching and physical exercises at the University of Hamburg, Germany.
  • Professor Dr. Steinacker is internist and specialist for cardiology and sports medicine at the University of Ulm, Germany. He is also doctor of the German Rowing Federation.

The ‘Performance Physiology, Performance Analysis, Training Management’ chapter includes a section that looks at the importance of ‘Respiration and Gas-Exchange.’ It goes on to describe how the respiration and auxiliary respiratory muscles are utilised in rowing at the same time, for both breathing and for stabilising the shoulder girdle and therefore for the connection of the pulling force to the legs (and the boat),

“Hence a very close interconnection between the rowing movement and the respiration cycle can be demonstrated.”

The authors go on to explain how the inspiration on the first rowing stroke becomes impeded, due to the increased force on the oar, and why therefore the rower is forced to inhale particularly strongly between rowing strokes.

In another chapter, ‘Standards of Sport Medicine Care’, the authors address rowing and ‘Respiration’, looking at the connection between breathing and the employment of the auxiliary respiratory musculature to stabilise the pectoral girdle and the transmission of the drawing force to the legs (and boat). They explain how this is why respiratory tidal volume cannot be raised much above 70% of vital capacity during the rowing stroke, due to the limitation imposed by the effort involved in stabilising. They identify the fact that,

“With increased breathlessness, respiration has to be speeded up, thus an increased volumetric respiratory flow and with it a higher respiratory frequency.”

In summary of their findings on respiration, among other findings, the authors believe it follows therefore that:

1. “Maintaining a specific connection between breathing and movement is useful, but not always imperative.”
2. “It seems reasonable to breathe in as deeply as possible when sliding forward, and to breathe out at the finish.
3. “Breath-training should have a positive effect for rowers.”

Inspiratory Muscle Training with the POWERbreathe specifically targets your breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, significantly improving rowing performance and helping to eliminate breathing fatigue.

Read more about how POWERbreathe could help improve your rowing performance and canoeing 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 outdoor rowing on our blog.

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.

Silver for GB at EU Dragon Boat Championships – by POWERbreathe user

Robin Oakley is a POWERbreathe user and one of the paddling squad in the GB Grand Dragons (over 50’s) team who won two silver medals at the EU Dragon Boat Championships in Nottingham last year.

Robin, head coach at Hemel Hempstead Canoe Club said, “We did fantastically well, especially as we are all over 50 and still all really fit and active, no gently sinking into middle age and inactivity for us! Sadly it was all rather eclipsed by the Olympics.”

Robin is world record holder and in October 2010 was part of the team who broke the 24-hour distance dragon boat Guinness World Record on Derwent Water by paddling 175.6km. POWERbreathe breathing training was part of his preparation, and you can see him in the picture, training with his POWERbreathe Plus Level 3 (HR).

Dragon boats are 40 feet long and have 20 paddlers plus a helm and a drummer. The races are 200, 2000, and 500 metres. “We went flat out for gold in the final of the 500 metres, the last race. We pushed really hard and made the lead but went a tad too soon and got beaten across the line and ended up in 4th place in a hotly contested duel. It was incredibly hard.” Robin commented.

Robin Oakley is a freelance personal trainer and paddling coach and hopes to be part of the squad for the world championships this year in Hungary. Robin has a GB selection time trial for the grand dragons on 16th March and soon after he’ll know if he’s been selected for his country at the Dragon Boat World Championships in Hungary in July.

“I am reasonably confident I will be selected. I have free weights and a paddle machine and train every day at the moment as well as using my POWERbreathe morning and night.” Robin informed us.

We’d like wish Robin good luck for the World Championships from all at POWERbreathe Towers.

Read more about how POWERbreathe breathing training can improve your breathing strength and stamina for paddling, rowing and canoeing. If however you’re already using POWERbreathe for this then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d love to hear from you.