Monday, February 15, 2016

Fact or Myth: Do hypoxic Training Masks Work?



"Bane" (The supervillian)

What you look like wearing a hypoxic training mask in the gym.

If you haven’t seen these advertised or showing up in your gym chances are you will.

The theory is that wearing the mask, which restricts your ability to breathe normally, mimics the benefits of training at high altitude.

Training at high altitude, where the air is thinner and therefore contains less oxygen, has been shown to force the body to become more efficient at oxygenation thereby increasing stamina and strengthening the lungs.

The U.S. Olympic Training Center is located near Denver, Colorado for this reason. The altitude in Denver is roughly 5000 feet above sea level. Many of the Olympic athletes live and train in this facility.

The cost of the mask runs from about $30us to more than $100us.

There have been quite a few studies on the benefits of the hypoxic masks but, frankly, most of it seems rather thin. Many of the studies were little more than advertising for the product. Others have used very small samples or very short test periods. Of the studies that do seem to have merit, the results have been mostly negative.

If high altitude training works for Olympic athletes (and apparently the Denver Broncos), why don’t the hypoxic masks work?

1.     The Olympic athletes and the Denver Broncos live at high altitude for the most part. There is a big difference between living at high altitude and training with the mask for an hour or so.
2.     The masks simply make it more difficult to breathe by restricting the air flow. They do not reduce the percentage of oxygen in the air. You’re breathing the same low altitude air you just have to work harder for it.
3.     Similar to reason number 2, the air is not thinner, just harder to get to-like breathing through a snorkel or straw.

There is some evidence to support the fact that the masks may help strengthen your lungs and diaphragm. The masks make your lungs (partly made up of muscle) and your diaphragm (a muscle) work harder. Just like any other muscle adding resistance forces the muscle to adapt by getting stronger.

Are the masks totally useless? No

Will they do everything they are advertised to do? I wouldn’t hold my breath. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)


If you've tried a hypoxic training math let me know your thoughts at

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