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Restrictive Breathing Masks Hinder Results

Restrictive breathing devices, such as the Training Mask and the O2 Trainer, are widely marketed as tools to intensify workouts and produce greater results, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular endurance. According to the marketing campaigns, such devices limit the amount of oxygen that can be inhaled, simulating what training would be like if one was to train at elevation. Unfortunately, research does not back these promises.

The fitness industry is no stranger to gadgets and gizmos that promise amazing results, which can only be achieved when using these products. Restrictive breathing devices utilized a well-implemented marketing strategy by employing elite athletes to promote the products, and convincing prospective customers into believing that with the help of these products, those athletes were able to exponentially increase their cardiovascular endurance and similar results can be achieved by the public. In all likelihood, it was the years of discipline and commitment to training that propelled the elite athlete to excel.

Research has confirmed that resistance training while wearing a restrictive breathing mask negatively impacts performance. It was discovered that test subjects wearing a mask were getting to failure after performing fewer repetitions than when they were not wearing a mask. For hypertrophy to effectively occur, muscles must be under tension for ample time, therefore, when fewer repetitions are performed, this may mean that the amount of muscle size growth is reduced because fibers are not being activated to their full potential. Additionally, recovery time between sets is extended with these masks because of the limited oxygen intake.

As far as using a restrictive breathing mask for cardiovascular endurance, after proper familiarization with the product, no significant changes have been exhibited. Much like the lower number of repetitions to failure, fatigue may be encountered sooner while wearing a mask for longer duration cardiovascular exercise. Since oxygen is such an important component for aerobic exercise, limiting oxygen intake also limits available energy for maximal performance.

In order to acquire the desired results, gadgets and gizmos may produce short-term benefits, but this is often a rare thing. Whether it is increased cardiovascular endurance or muscle hypertrophy, results may be delayed when using a restrictive breathing mask, and I have never, in my life, heard a person complaining about their results coming too fast.

  1. Effect of Wearing the Elevation Training Mask on Aerobic Capacity, Lung Function, and Hematological Variables. Cress, Maria & Forrester, Karlei & Probst, Lauren & Foster, Carl & Doberstein, Scott & Porcari, John. (2016). : 3728 Board #167 June 4, 9: 30 AM - 11: 00 AM. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 48. 1040-1041. 10.1249/01.mss.0000488131.38685.16.

  2. Restrictive Breathing Mask Reduces Repetitions to Failure During a Session of Lower-Body Resistance Exercise. Andre, Thomas L.; Gann, Joshua J.; Hwang, Paul S.; Ziperman, Emily; Magnussen, Marshall J.; Willoughby, Darryn S. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: August 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 8 - p 2103–2108doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002648

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