Home > FAQs
Research evidence supporting the answers to these FAQs can be found in the Publications section of the Author page of this website.
What is breathing / inspiratory muscle training?
Breathing muscles can be trained in the same way as any other muscle in the body. This can be achieved in a number of ways, but the method that has proved to be the most convenient and effective is one using a device that imposes a resistance to inhalation using a special training device. Inspiratory muscle training devices such as the POWERbreathe® are effectively a “dumbbell for your diaphragm”, allowing you to weight train your inspiratory muscles. This training increases inspiratory muscle strength, power and endurance, as well as athletic performance, in as little as four weeks.
What’s different about Breathe Strong training?
Breathe Strong training is a two phase programme that applies laboratory proven scientific principles to breathing training. The Foundation phase of Breathe Strong training consists of 30 repetitions, twice daily at a moderate loading intensity using an inspiratory muscle trainer such as the POWERbreathe®. Breathe Strong training also includes a second phase during which functional training principles are applied.
What is Foundation inspiratory muscle training?
This is the initial phase of Breathe Strong training (the first four to six weeks), during which the inspiratory muscles are trained in isolation using an inspiratory muscle trainer such as the POWERbreathe®. This phase lays down the foundation for functional breathing training, but also provides laboratory-proven benefits to performance. Foundation training is the quickest and easiest way to improve your performance and enhance your enjoyment of sport.
How long does Breathe Strong training take?
Foundation training (30 breaths, twice daily) takes less than 4 minutes per day. Contrast this with the hours of additional whole body training required to elicit meaningful improvements in performance.
What is functional breathing training?
In functional breathing training, movement specific exercises are used to challenge the inspiratory muscles in their roles as both breathing muscles and as the muscles responsible for postural control, core stabilisation and trunk rotation. This is the second phase of Breathe Strong training.
What are the benefits of Breathe Strong training?
After the Foundation phase, improvements in time trial performance in cycling, running, rowing and swimming of up to 4.6%, and improvements in repeated sprint performance of 16%. Breathing and whole body effort perceptions are also reduced, making exercise feel easier.
What's the best equipment to use for Breathe Strong training?
Equipment recommendations can be found in the Accessories section of this website
What's the best training regimen?
For the Foundation phase, a twice daily regimen of 30 breaths at the 30 breath max (30RM) load has been shown to increase strength, power and endurance of the inspiratory muscles, as well as laboratory time trail performance. The 30RM load is a moderate loading intensity and corresponds to 50-70% of inspiratory muscle strength. This is the ‘tried and trusted’ regimen that has been implemented in numerous scientific studies and found to be effective.
How do I ensure I get the best results?
By following the guidance provided on the About section of this website, and by reading ‘Breathe Strong, Perform Better’.
When will I experience results?
Laboratory studies have shown measureable and statistically significant improvements in as little as four weeks.
Can I reduce training frequency after I've been training for a while?
Laboratory studies have shown that you can maintain improvements by reducing training frequency by two thirds (to about twice per week) at the completion of the Foundation phase of training (after four to six weeks). If you stop completely at the end of the Foundation phase, research shows that after 18 weeks, you will have lost around one third of your inspiratory muscle strength gain, and around two thirds of your endurance gain.
How do I know I've improved?
Firstly, you’ll notice very quickly that your training intensity, which is adjusted continuously, has increased. You can also measure improvement of breathing muscle function using special equipment (see Breathing muscle assessment). Of course, the best confirmation will be that your workouts will feel easier and you’ll be able to exercise harder and longer. You will also notice some personal best performances emerging!
I breathe 24/7, why do I need a specific workout for my breathing muscles?
The problem for the breathing muscles is that the intensity of whole body exercise that’s required to drive breathing to levels that provide a training stimulus is too high. The required intensity of exercise cannot be sustained for long enough to provide the critical level of training benefit needed to ensure that the breathing muscles are not the weakest link in your performance chain – Catch 22. By using resistance training principles, Breathe Strong training makes it possible to provide the training overload that is required to achieve the critical level of function.
Does inspiratory muscle training work for everyone?
Yes, improvements in exercise tolerance and breathing effort have been shown in people who differ as widely as Olympic athletes and frail elderly people. If you consider these to be the two extremes of human physical performance, then everyone lies somewhere on the continuum between them – accordingly, everyone can benefit.
What sports does Breathe Strong training help?
Research evidence has been published for cycling, running, rowing, swimming and repeated sprint athletes. However, based upon the current understanding of how the training enhances performance (see below and About section of this website), all sports people should derive some benefit. Of course, the size of this benefit will differ from sport to sport, and person to person.
Does Breathe Strong training improve performance at altitude?
Yes, altitude presents a huge challenge to the breathing muscles and Breathe Strong training has been shown to reduce the perception of breathing effort in athletes and mountaineers at altitude. Indeed, one of the benefits of altitude training is that it ‘overloads’ the breathing muscles and provides a training stimulus that improves their endurance.
Are there any benefits to warming-up my inspiratory muscles?
Yes, research shows that warming-up using a regimen of 30 repetitions at a load that’s around 40% of your 30RM training load, boosts performance by about half the amount you can achieve with training alone. In fact, the benefits of training and warm-up are additive, so by combining training and warm-up, you can boost your performance even more.
Will my lungs get bigger after inspiratory muscle training?
No. Unscrupulous manufacturers of some training products may claim that it does, but the research evidence does not support this (unless you have VERY weak inspiratory muscles). The size of your lungs is determined by your anatomy (much like the length of your legs). The lungs themselves do not respond to any form of training.
Does maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) increase after Breathe Strong training?
No. Unscrupulous manufacturers of some training products may claim that it does, but the research evidence does not support this. Breathe Strong training improves performance via an entirely different mechanism (see below and About section of this website).
How does Breathe Strong training work?
There are two main mechanisms: 1) exercise feels easier, so you can exercise harder for the same effort; 2) training the inspiratory muscles delays or prevents the activation of a cardiovascular reflex that restricts blood flow to the exercising limbs (see About section of this website). Modification of this reflex means that blood flow and oxygen delivery to the limbs is preserved and performance is improved.
Are there any risks associated with Breathe Strong training?
There are no known risks, but there are some theoretical risks that require precautions. People who have experienced a spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung for no apparent reason), or a perforated ear drum, should not undertake breathing muscle training using a resistance device.
Can I use a breathing muscle trainer whilst I’m exercising aerobically?
This might seem like a logical thing to do, but current understanding of the mechanisms that enhance performance suggest that Breathe Strong training is best utilised as a resistance training adjunct.
Can I do Breathe Strong training whilst I’m injured?
Yes, in fact, this is an ideal way to maintain breathing muscle function, which deteriorates very quickly when the breathing muscles are not subjected to regular bouts of exercise. It’s pertinent that the sensation that troubles athletes most when returning from injury is being out of breath.
Can children undertake Breathe Strong training?
Yes, provided that the structured breathing routine that the training requires can be comprehended, there is no reason for children not to Breathe Strong. However, it’s recommended that training be supervised by an adult in the under 16s.
Is Breathe Strong training helpful for people with asthma?
Yes, there is ample evidence that people with asthma experience improvements in their symptoms, as well as reductions in breathing effort and increases in breathing efficiency during exercise.
I’ve heard that expiratory muscle training works as well as inspiratory muscle training is that true?
No, to date, no study has shown that expiratory muscle training improves performance in healthy young people.
Does adding expiratory training improve the benefits of inspiratory training?
No, because breathing against a load during exhalation makes it impossible to also work hard during inhalation, so your inspiratory muscles don’t get trained as effectively. My research has shown that adding expiratory training to inspiratory training impairs the benefits of the inspiratory training. Don’t do it!
Why do I get out of breath when I exercise?
In the same way that running and cycling create sensations of leg effort, the work of breathing during exercise also creates a sense of breathing effort. This sensation is intensified in the breathing muscles are weak and/or fatigued, but can be reduced by making the breathing muscles stronger.
Do I need to consult my doctor before undertaking Breathe Strong training?
If you have any existing medical conditions that might be affected by breathing training, please consult your doctor before attempting the Breathe Strong training techniques described in this website.
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