Have you ever thought about training your breathing? Does it sound strange? Well, let’s dive into the science behind inspiratory muscle training and see how it can benefit both athletes and people with respiratory conditions.
The Basics: What is Inspiratory Muscle Training?
Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT), sometimes called Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT) is a type of resistance training that targets the muscles involved in breathing, think of weight resistance training for your biceps, but for your lungs and breathing muscles including the diaphragm and the muscles found within the rib cage (intercostal muscles).1
This type of training has been used for years to help athletes improve their respiratory performance, but recent studies have highlighted its potential for those with chronic respiratory conditions. IMT has been studied in people with a variety of lung disorders and respiratory conditions especially since the recent respiratory pandemic.
The Role of the Diaphragm
The diaphragm is a large muscle located just below the lungs. When you breathe in (inspiration), your diaphragm contracts and flattens, allowing the chest cavity holding the lungs to expand. When you breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and returns to its original dome-like shape, pushing the air out of the lungs.2,3
The diaphragm plays a crucial role in efficient breathing. When it is functioning properly, you are able to take full, deep breaths that maximise the amount of oxygen taken in and carbon dioxide expelled from your body. A weak or poorly functioning diaphragm can lead to shallow, inefficient breaths, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and even respiratory problems.
Resistance Training and Its Purpose
Resistance training, as the name implies, involves exercising muscles against a force. It can range from lifting weights to stretching a resistance band. Or, if you’ve ever ridden an exercise bike, you apply resistance to the wheel so your muscles have to work harder. The goal is simply to build strength, and size of muscles, increasing endurance.4
Resistance training is beneficial for athletes, as it allows them to build strength and muscle size quickly, giving them an edge on the field. It is also often used by those with respiratory conditions, who are looking to build their lung capacity and improve their breathing ability.
The Goals of Inspiratory Muscle Training
The goal with IMT is to increase the strength and endurance of the muscles involved in breathing. It is often used for people who suffer respiratory conditions, but it has also gained some popularity in athletics and sports training.1
IMT in Respiratory Conditions
For people with respiratory conditions, IMT can significantly improve their quality of life by improving muscle strength and exercise capacity and reducing breathlessness.5,6
IMT in Athletics and Sports
Athletes are always searching for the tiny, extra edge, and IMT might just provide that. Scientific research suggests that respiratory muscle fatigue can limit sports performance. Thus, IMT can help increase inspiratory muscle strength, potentially improving athletic performance.
IMT can help athletes in a variety of ways. It can increase their tolerance for high-intensity exercise, allowing them to work harder and longer. It may also improve their breathing efficiency and reduce the amount of lactic acid build-up during intense activity, helping prevent fatigue.
In addition to improving physical performance, in recent years, researchers have been exploring the potential of inspiratory muscle training to improve mental performance in athletes also. IMT is a form of resistance training for the muscles involved in breathing, which helps to increase breathing capacity and improve respiratory endurance. IMT has also been linked with improved mental performance and focus, since it can help an athlete better utilise their pulmonary reserves.
Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) is a type of exercise designed to improve the strength and endurance of your respiratory muscles, allowing you to take in more oxygen and expel more carbon dioxide during physical activities. This type of training has been used for decades by athletes, as well as individuals with chronic respiratory conditions, to increase their lung capacity and improve their performance.
The Impact of Inspiratory Muscle Training
The benefits of IMT are backed by numerous studies, particularly for those with respiratory conditions and athletes.
Scientists suggest that respiratory muscle fatigue can be an important limited factor in sports performance.7 Apparently, respiratory muscle fatigue can decrease blood flow to the extremities, including the legs, impacting performance. This makes complete sense because the role of blood is to deliver oxygen (fuel) to the muscles, and of course, the role of the lungs is to maximise the transfer of oxygen to the blood. A four week IMT training program improved the inspiratory muscle strength in athletes as well as their 800 metre running performance.7
Meanwhile, a study that looked at the benefits of IMT warm up exercises before a race delivered an enhanced performance across 3,200 metres and a reduction in breathlessness.8
How do I train my breathing muscles?
So, how can you give your respiratory muscles a workout? Fortunately, there are some affordable, well designed, resistance training devices available. They are hand held devices that can be adjusted for various resistance levels to suit your situation. You simply breathe in and out through the device, always starting with a low level resistance and build up to a higher resistance – just like any exercise program.
Resistance Training Devices
These devices often called Breathing Trainers, work by providing a resistance when you breathe in and out through them, starting with a low level of resistance and gradually building up to a higher level, much like any other exercise program.
Welcare’s Range of Devices
One company that offers such devices is Welcare. We provide a range of products, from the low-resistance model for individuals with certain lung concerns to the advanced model designed for athletes looking to improve lung performance and endurance.
The Welcare Breatheasy Breathing Trainer, a 100% drug-free lung expansion device that with regular use of around 30 breaths morning and evening can help you breathe stronger and easier. This non-invasive device comes in three variations to suit your needs: Low resistance WBT-01, Moderate Resistance WBT-02 and Advanced Resistance WBT-03.
Suitable for beginners, the Welcare Breatheasy Breathing Trainer Low Resistance is suitable for people aged 6+, and those with certain lung conditions who have discussed the use with their doctor. It can help in the rehabilitation of lung function for people with certain mild to moderate respiratory illness, post operative rehabilitation, or or people (including children age 6+) wanting to strengthen and improve overall lung function and respiratory health.
This easy-to-use device offers 10 resistance settings with a resistance from 33 up to 87 cmH2O.
The Welcare Breatheasy Breathing Trainer Moderate Resistance is suitable for healthy adults and people recovering from respiratory illness aiming to improve their overall health and wellbeing, wanting to strengthen and improve overall lung function, increase lung capacity, respiratory health, and the ability to breathe more deeply and fully.
This compact device offers 10 resistance settings with a resistance of 41 up to 177 cmH2O.
The Advanced Resistance WBT-03 is suitable for athletes and sportspeople who want to increase their lung function and endurance. This device has an advanced resistance of up to 200cmH2O, which can enhance lung function and endurance, help to improve sport recovery time and respiratory fitness.
The Welcare Breatheasy Breathing Trainer Advanced Resistance is suitable for athletes and sporting people who want to improve their overall respiratory health, increase lung capacity, and help to improve sport recovery time and respiratory fitness.
This lightweight device offers 10 resistance settings with a resistance of 34 up to 200 cmH2O.
With regular use, a Welcare Breatheasy Breathing Trainer may help you breathe easier, improve your lung function, and increase your endurance. They are lightweight, compact and easy to use, and come with everything you need to get started including a mouthpiece, nose clip, lanyard, and 5 filters, all packed in a soft carry bag. It’s also latex, BPA, and phthalate-free.
So whether you’re looking for rehabilitation, overall respiratory health, or improved athletic performance, Welcare’s Breatheasy Breathing Trainer range has got you covered. And with our 12-month warranty, you can breathe easy knowing you’ve made a great investment in your health.
You can check out the full range here.
In conclusion, Inspiratory Muscle Training is a powerful and effective tool, not only for those dealing with certain respiratory conditions but also for athletes seeking to maximise their performance. By understanding and utilising the science behind IMT, we can take active steps to improve our respiratory health and overall wellbeing. So, why not give your lungs a workout?
Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Refer to safety information here.