The Elevation Training Mask – A Competitive Advantage

Elevation Training Mask

A Review by Alyssa Bialowas

Elite and well-trained athletes search for the competitive edge in their training to optimize their competition results. Altitude training and respiratory muscle training (RMT) have been reported to improve performance in aerobic capacity in competitive distance runners. For athletes who train in environments that lack diversity of altitudes, devices such as The Elevation Training Mask (ETM) have been used to stimulate altitude training. A team of researchers set out to determine whether the ETM improves performance variables such as VO2 max, endurance performance, and lung capacity during a high-intensity training cycle.

The Study

Twenty-four students from the University of Wisconsin participated in this 6-week high-intensity training cycle. These students were moderately trained athletes, but had not participated in a cycling training program in the past 6 months.

The subjects were randomized into the mask training group or the control group. Initially, participants completed a maximal cycle ergometer test to determine VO2 max, VT, respiratory compensation threshold (RCT), maximal heart rate (HRmax), and peak power output (PPO), and completed the same test post-study.

All subjects completed two workouts during the week prior to training to become familiar with the training protocol and equipment. Training sessions were held twice a week at 30 minutes in length for 6 weeks. Each session consisted of a 5-minute warm up and a 20-minute high-intensity interval. The 20-minute interval included 10 repetitions at 30 seconds at PPO, followed by 90-seconds active recovery. Participants wore a heart rate monitor during their sessions, and their heart rates were recorded post-training. The subjects in the mask group wore the ETM during all training sessions.

Related Article: The Effects Of Altitude Training On Competitive Swimmers

The Results

Participants in both the mask group and the control group had significant increases in VO2 max and endurance performance, but there was no difference in magnitude between groups. The mask group showed significant increases in VT and PO at VT. Changes in RCT and PO at RCT reached statistical significance between groups.

Max heart rate (HRmax) was studied at weeks 2, 4, and 6. There were no significant differences between the mask group and the control group over the course of the study. Blood lactate levels were taken on the same weeks, and there were no significant differences found between groups.   

Takeaway

Subjects in the ETM group did not show improvements in lung function, inspiratory muscle strength, or stimulate changes in hemoglobin levels. This indicates that the mask does not effectively stimulate altitude training, and athletes looking for a competitive edge to increase their aerobic capacity should not rely on the ETM for improved capacity. Since both groups showed significant increases in VO2 max and endurance performance, a 6-week high intensity training cycle will improve performance in aerobic capacity in athletes.

Related Article: Headaches & VO2 Max

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Reference

Cress, M., Dobersterin, S., Forrester, K., Foster, C., Porcari, J., Probst, L., & Schmidt, K.

(2016). “Effect of Wearing the Elevation Training Mask on Aerobic Capacity,

Lung Function, and Hematological Variables.” Journal of Sport Science and

Medicine, 379-386. 

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