Hypoxic Endurance Exercise Performance benefits from IMT

This new study (2019) looks into whether chronic IMT improves hypoxic endurance exercise performance.

Endurance exercise performance

The study, in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, is using a cycling time trial to measure endurance exercise performance. Endurance exercise is typically performed at submaximal intensity. The purpose of this is to estimate VO2max, or ‘aerobic fitness’. The measurement VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen a person will consume during intense exercise. In fact, cycling time trials offer the ideal exercise to increase both heart rate and breathing. Similarly, so do running and swimming.

What is IMT?

IMT is a form of resistance training for the breathing muscles. The term IMT stands for inspiratory muscle training. The inspiratory muscles, the breathing muscles, are the ones that draw air into the lungs. The main inspiratory muscle is the diaphragm. Like any other group of muscles, the inspiratory muscles benefit from training too. Inspiratory muscle training, such as with POWERbreathe, provides the stimulus for that training. Following IMT, the breathing muscles adapt and become stronger after only a few weeks. This results in exercise feeling easier and an improvement therefore in performance.

Why IMT?

Although breathing comes naturally, some of the time it can feel like an effort. This may be due to the demand endurance exercise places on breathing. It may be due to a respiratory issue. Either way, it’s not uncommon for the respiratory muscles to fatigue, just like any other muscle.

If the respiratory muscles are weak from disease or exercise is overloading them, breathing demand will not be met. As a result, breathing will start to feel shallow and rapid. Sustaining this type of breathing is impossible. Furthermore, the more rapid the breathing, the more oxygen they require and the more carbon dioxide they produce. Consequently, oxygen is re-directed from the skeletal muscles, such as arms or legs, to the breathing muscles, where it is most needed. This results in fatigue of the skeletal muscles.

Inspiratory muscle training helps the body meet the needs of both the respiratory muscles and the skeletal muscles by improving their strength and stamina. The way IMT achieves this is by providing a resistance to breathe in against. POWERbreathe IMT is just like a ‘dumbbell for your diaphragm’.

Study results

Data from this recent study suggest that,

“performing 6 weeks of inspiratory muscle training may benefit hypoxic endurance exercise performance lasting 30-40 minutes.”

Laird Hamilton, surfer, utilises the power of breath

Surfer Laird Hamilton recently wrote an article for Men’s Journal in which he shares his breathing practice.

Harnessing the breath

Laird finds it beneficial to boost his oxygen intake before, during and after a workout. He says his muscles are able then to push harder and longer. His breathing practice enables him to flood his blood with O2. As a result he says his training and swimming seem to take less effort.

Before a workout

Laird believes in “getting ahead of the demand curve” by taking quick breaths in beforehand. This, essentially, can be considered an inspiratory warm-up. And research has found that a standard pre-exercise warm-up fails to prepare the inspiratory muscles for the rigours of exercise. In fact a scientific trial (on competitive rowers) showed that an Inspiratory Muscle Training warm-up significantly improved (rowing) performance and reduced breathlessness.

During a workout

Laird also ‘feeds his muscles’ with O2 during a workout with deep inhales to fuel his muscles. Daily Inspiratory Muscle Training will help to do this because it exercises the inspiratory muscles to improve their strength and stamina and reduce fatigue.

For a faster recovery

Finally, by repeating his breathing practice after a workout Laird feels he speeds up his recovery. And this too is borne out in research which showed that Inspiratory Muscle Training reduced lactate concentrations at equivalent intensities of exercise.

So surfing legend Laird Hamilton is certainly on to something.

Efficacy of Inspiratory Muscle Training on Elite Swimmers (PEAK)

This study is a randomized controlled trial. Firstly it will look at the efficacy of inspiratory muscle training using POWERbreathe. Furthermore it will asses the swimming performance, airway dysfunction and perceived breathlessness in the elite swimmers recruited for the trial. Finally the trial will recruit participants from the elite competitive Futebol Clube do Porto swimming team.

Intervention used in swimming trial

    • POWERbreathe IMT

ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT03062735

Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluating the Efficacy of Inspiratory Muscle Training on Swimming Performance, Airway Dysfunction and Perceived Breathlessness in Elite Swimmers >

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.

Use POWERbreathe To Help Alleviate Side Stitch

A recent article in Triathlete Europe offered advice on how to avoid side stitch, citing diaphragm spasm as one of the most common causes, with spasm of the accessory muscles of breathing, the obliques, another cause.

Canadian Running also featured an article about side stitch explaining that as you take in air (while running) your diaphragm contracts, allowing your lungs to expand, and this, like any other muscle, can become overloaded during a run, straining it and causing it to spasm.

While there appears to be no definitive consensus on the causes of side stitch, many medical and sports professionals do believe it to be associated with the diaphragm, your main breathing muscle, and surrounding muscles.

An easy way to help prevent your diaphragm from feeling fatigued is to train your inspiratory muscles (mainly your diaphragm and intercostals) with POWERbreathe to become stronger. This will help improve your breathing stamina and enable you to run or swim for longer with less effort.

A pain in the side – why a stitch can turn a sporting demigod into a ‘DNF’ is a really informative article written by Sports Performance Bulletin which looks at strategies for coping with stitch and training techniques for its prevention, including POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training.

POWERbreathe User Qualifies For Rio 2016

Allan do Carmo, a Brazilian swimmer who specialises in open water marathons, has secured his spot at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and is one of the first 20 swimmers to qualify for Rio.

Since January Allan has been training his inspiratory muscles to become stronger and more resistant to fatigue with POWERbreathe, improving his stamina for swimming.

Physiotherapist Mateus Esquivel initially assessed Allan’s breathing parameters using the POWERbreathe K5 with Breathe-Link Live Feedback Software before establishing a specific training regimen and will be monitoring Allan’s performance throughout his training.

As an open water marathon swimmer Allan’s breathing faces the ultimate challenge of inhaling as much as possible, as quickly as possible so that his body can return to its optimal position for propelling himself forwards in the water. POWERbreathe teaches Allan to do this as the breathing technique needed to use POWERbreathe in order to elicit the benefits, is to breathe in as deeply as possible, and quickly/sharply.

In addition to training himself to breathe in this way, Allan will be breathing in against a resistance, exercising his breathing muscles (mainly his diaphragm and intercostals) so that they become progressively stronger and less prone to fatigue. This is very beneficial as research has shown that fatigue of the breathing muscles reduces blood flow to other working muscles, and in the case of swimmer Allan, his arms and legs, which will slow him down by reducing the flow of oxygen to those muscles.

Allan has been taking full advantage of his POWERbreathe and been using it to warm-up his inspiratory muscles too before training, but on a reduced load setting. Warming up the inspiratory muscles is just as beneficial as warming up other muscles at the start of exercise, and research has shown that a standard pre-workout exercise warm-up fails to prepare the inspiratory muscles for the exercise ahead.

Equally a POWERbreathe cool-down will help Allan to speed lactate clearance more effectively than a standard active recovery.

You can see a few photos of Allan do Carmo using his POWERbreathe in this Facebook post.

POWERbreathe offered in sports science support

The Spring 2015 edition of the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences’ newsletter contains an interesting article by Dr John Dickinson who’s research found that 70% of top swimmers from the British Swimming squad suffer from some form of respiratory condition, especially exercise-induced asthma #EIA (page 9), and also a Research Spotlight (page 8) into a 12-week support programme aimed at assessing and improving a student’s sporting performance.

Discussions with the student revealed that he needed to improve his breathing efficiency during swimming. The article reveals that “To achieve this we implemented a twice-daily breathing training regime” – this was using POWERbreathe!

The student returned to the lab after 3-months to perform fitness tests which found that he had markedly improved his swimming performance, demonstrating a 4-second improvement over 100m and a 5-second improvement over both 200m and 400m distances.

Read Inside Sport and Exercise Sciences Spring Newsletter >

Read more about how to improve swimming performance with POWERbreathe >

How POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training can help swimmers

World renowned expert in sports training and rehabilitation Dr. John Mullen at TrainingCor has recently published an article in Swimming World Magazine in which he discusses whether inspiratory muscle training can help swimmers.

Dr. Mullen refers to the study, Respiratory muscle specific warm-up and elite swimming performance, in which 17 British International competitive swimmers were randomly allocated one of four different warm-up protocols each. The effectiveness of each protocol was to be judged by the outcome of a 100-metre freestyle sprint time-trial.

Protocol 2 consisted of a POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training warm-up and it was found that a combined swimming plus POWERbreathe IMT warm-up improved 100m swimming performance by 0.62 seconds when compared to a standard swimming warm-up alone and resulted in the fastest swimming time over 100 meters (57.05 seconds).

In summary Dr. Mullen suggests “trying inspiratory muscle training or using swimming as a recovery from your high-intensity resistance training.”

Read the article, Inspiratory Muscle Training: How Can It Help Swimmers?

Read more about POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training for swimmers.

POWERbreathe in Research >


Efficient respiratory system is key for endurance

Dr. Anthony Alessi, Associate Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of Connecticut, recently wrote in an article in The Norwich Bulletin about how an efficient respiratory system is crucial for the success of endurance athletes.

He explains how endurance athletes are most vulnerable to any alterations in the respiratory system “due to their reliance in efficient air exchange over prolonged periods of time.” The high-intensity training these athletes have to endure pushes their respiratory system to its limits which can result in respiratory conditions such as exercise-induced asthma.

“A series of breathing tests are necessary to differentiate these conditions and plan a course of treatment,” says Dr. Matt Hall, a sports medicine specialist who works with athletes at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Alessi summarises his article by saying, “Asthma and other respiratory conditions can be the result of intense exercise but should not be an obstacle to competing, even at the highest levels.”

One type of training that would benefit these endurance athletes and help strengthen their respiratory system for the rigours of their training, is POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) which uses the principles of resistance training to improve the strength of the breathing muscles and increase their stamina. And because POWERbreathe is drug-free, if an athlete does find they need to take medication for say, asthma, then they can safely continue to train their breathing muscles using POWERbreathe as it will have no interactions. Stronger breathing muscles mean more resistance to fatigue and therefore more endurance – a win-win for endurance athletes.

So with POWERbreathe, endurance athletes can help make their respiratory system more resilient by improving the strength and endurance of their breathing muscles, also making their respiratory system more efficient and resilient.

See How POWERbreathe Works >

POWERbreathe benefits for sports and exercise >


Breathing Muscle Fatigue in Swimming – POWERbreathe Could Help

Dr Mitch Lomax, Sport and Exercise Scientist and Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology at the University of Portsmouth, gave an interview to Swimming Science in which she discussed her investigation into the breathing demands of swimming and the discovery that the occurrence and consequences of breathing muscle fatigue in swimming had been overlooked.

In the interview Dr Lomax goes on to explain how in her study they found that Inspiratory Muscle Fatigue (IMF) occurs in all swimming strokes. Surprisingly being very fit does not prevent it, and as the amount of inspiratory muscle fatigue in trained swimmers can exceed 19%, a faster rate of limb muscle fatigue is also a real possibility.

Dr Lomax’s take home message from her study is that “IMF occurs during swimming, even in very well trained swimmers. It can negatively affect stroke characteristics, and has the potential to speed up the occurrence of limb muscle fatigue. The good news is that we can do something about it.”

So what can be done about it? Well Dr Lomax goes on to say that clearly swim training alone is not sufficient to protect against IMF, so “Targeted training of these muscles is my advice i.e. inspiratory muscle training (IMT).”

POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training specifically targets the breathing muscles, strengthening them by around 30-50%, significantly improving performance and helping to eliminate breathing fatigue.

Read the full Friday Interview on Swimming Science.

Dr Lomax’s main research centres upon the pulmonary limitations to exercise and the impact of respiratory muscle training on performance with a particular focus on swimmers, and you can view her Research Articles here.

Read more about why you should consider incorporating POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training as part of your swimming training, and if you’re already using POWERbreathe as part of your training, 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 about using POWERbreathe in swimming training in our Swimming Blog.