Out of Breath | Elevation Training by Carmen Grange
The use of elevation training masks (ETM) has become more and more popular over the years since its birth to make various physiological adaptations to exercise. It is widely recognized that hypoxic training (training with limited air flow) will make certain improvements to the physiological functioning of the heart and lungs, thereby, improving overall athletic performance. Because of this recognition, many athletes choose to train at various portions of their in-season and off-season training protocols in areas of the nation where hypoxic conditions are greatest. Before diving into the specifics of this article, let’s first define some terms. Hypoxic environments are those in which oxygen is scarce. This includes both above and below sea level conditions. Training in such conditions is thought to increase one’s VO2max or the amount of ventilatory oxygen that can be used. Now, it is important to note that having a greater VO2max does not necessarily mean that an athlete will use his total oxygen capacity. They are, in fact, a good thing. The less oxygen used, the less work the athlete is doing, the more efficient they are, and the longer they can continue to perform. But, with a greater VO2max, there is certainly more oxygen present, meaning that the athlete can train for longer periods of time and at a higher intensity, compared to that of someone with a lower VO2max. This is where ETMs come into play.
Since ETMs are thought to increase one’s VO2max, by decreasing oxygen uptake and simulating a hypoxic environment, they are attractive to many athletes who are attempting to improve their maximal performance. The question remains, however: how beneficial are the elevation training masks in improving one’s VO2max and the other variables that they are thought to improve?
Here’s the data: research suggests the ETMs do have positive implications on certain physiological adaptations to exercise, and no significant changes in others. Through training with or without an elevation training mask, the body will make adaptations to exercise, particularly with aerobic training. Increases in VO2max and decreases in both resting and working heart rates are noted as improvements in athletes who train with or without the mask; however, training with the mask versus training without it shows no significant changes between the two groups. This is important to note because while it is widely thought that elevation training masks are reported to improve these two variables, the pioneer in ETM devices (Training Masks LLC) does not report improvements in either of those areas; however, they do suggest growing adaptations in other regions.
Per Training Mask LLC various improvements in cardiorespiratory functionality will be had through the use of their elevation training mask, including improvements in ventilatory threshold (the point at which breathing volume increases more rapidly than the amount of oxygen), power output at ventilatory threshold (the amount of energy being used to perform at the point at which breathing volume surpasses the oxygen demands of the body), respiratory compensation threshold (the point at which intensity levels exceed high intensity and transfer to severe), and power output at respiratory compensation threshold (how much power may be produced during which time minute ventilation exceeds high-intensity levels). Through the research conducted by the industry leader in the development of performance breathing technologies for fitness and sport, Training Mask LLC, and numerous outside investigations in the way of exercise training masks effectiveness, significant changes in VO2max and heart rate are unproven; however, power output, respiratory compensation threshold, and ventilation threshold all show major changes through the use of ETMs during aerobic training.
“ABOUT TRAINING MASK.” Training Mask. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2017.
Nguyen T, Suleiman F, Tran S, Tran V. Physiological change through aerobic exercise under hypoxic conditions with an elevation mask. The University at Arlington Texas: Department of Kinesiology.
Porcari JP, Probst L, Forrester K, Doberstein S, Foster C, Cress ML, Schmidt K. Effect of wearing the elevation mask on aerobic capacity, lung function, and hematological variable. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine15: 379-386, 2016.
Warren BG, Spaniol FJ, Donnette RA. The effects of an elevation training mask on VO2max of male reserve officers training corps cadets. International Journal of Exercise Science 10(1): 37-43, 2017.