There are many benefits of elevation mask training and buying an altitude mask is certainly a good investment for people who are looking to improve their cardio-respiratory fitness.
However, altitude masks don’t necessarily simulate high-altitude training.
In this article, I will describe all the benefits of altitude mask training, as well as provide you help with determining which is the best altitude mask to buy!
What is an Elevation Training Mask (Altitude Mask)?
An elevation mask (or altitude mask), is a training mask that is produced with the intended effects of making it more difficult to breathe while you are exercising as if you are training at a high-altitude.
Various training masks have been around for years, but they have become more popular and a mainstream fitness item over the last decade.
Altitude-simulating masks have many benefits, but they don’t necessarily simulate high-altitude training.
Altitude simulation training masks were produced due to research done on actual high-altitude training because the benefits of training at high-altitudes has been well-documented since the mid-1960s.
Altitude training generally implies training at altitudes of at least 8,000 feet above sea level, which limits the number of people who can truly train in high-elevation conditions.
The reason for high altitude training is that the body will become used to the condition known as hypoxia.
Hypoxia is an environment with reduced oxygen supply for your body, where the body begins to struggle when producing a necessary amount of energy for training with a limited supply of oxygen. Hypoxia forces the body to acclimate to a lowered supply of oxygen, triggering a range of physiological adaptations aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the respiratory, cardiovascular, and oxygen utilization systems.
Specific benefits of high altitude training include:
- An increase in the body’s ability to effectively manage the build-up of waste acid.
- Increased number of small blood vessels that transport oxygen.
- Substantial positive changes in the microscopic structure of your body and the function of muscles
As stated in Aspects of Haematological Adaptation,
“the common finding upon exposure to hypoxia is an increase in hemoglobin concentration and hematocrit. Training periods of 3 weeks at moderate altitudes result in an individual increase of hemoglobin concentration of about 1 to 4%. A more accentuated increase in hemoglobin can be obtained with longer sojourns at moderate altitude.”
In simpler terms, training at high-altitudes with less oxygen helps your body produce more red blood cells and hemoglobin, improving your overall endurance and training capacity.
However, there are issues with high-altitude training.
Training at a high-altitude is legitimately dangerous for many people. As stated in a study conducted on the benefits of high altitude training in Nordisk Medicin,
“only top athletes should be selected for training at high altitudes.”
Since high-altitude training is extremely difficult and even dangerous, and not everyone lives in a location where they can take advantage of high-altitude workouts, altitude training masks were developed as a convenient option that more people can take advantage of.
Keep reading below to find out more about the benefits of elevation training masks
Benefits of Elevation Mask Training
As I mentioned previously, altitude-simulation masks have become a trend in the fitness community as the manufacturers of these training masks attempt to replicate the potential benefits of high-elevation training.
With each new version created, elevation masks become more and more effective for providing a safe and intense workout, yet they still do not truly replicate the effects of high-altitude training.
Here are a couple of the primary benefits of altitude mask training:
Elevation Training Masks Simulate Hypoxia, But in a Unique Way
First of all, it is nearly impossible to simulate hypoxia, or other effects of high-altitude training with a mask or other device since the oxygen content of the air does not actually change.
Although elevation masks do not cause many of the physiological adaptations that high-altitude training does, that does not necessarily mean that they do not simulate altitude training at all.
As proven by a study conducted at the Human Performance Research Laboratory; Department of Sports & Exercise Sciences at West Texas A&M University, the
“inspiratory/expiratory muscle training device induces hypoxemia but utilizes a signaling mechanism that has not been previously described… Hypoxemia is caused by the rebreathing of expired CO2 that has accumulated in the mask’s large dead space area.”
Elevation masks do simulate hypoxia a little bit, but it is not their main benefit.
Using a High-Altitude Training Mask Will Strengthen Your Respiratory Muscles
An altitude training mask trains the muscles of your respiratory system and diaphragm and enables them to work much more efficiently.
I suffer from asthma, and my training mask is a huge part of my basketball conditioning strategy since it provides me the diaphragm training I desperately need.
The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine conducted a test comparing an elevation training mask and common respiratory training methods.
After a 6-week high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cycle of ergometer (ERG rowing machine) training, the study proved that the masks do not act as a simulator of high-altitudes but as a respiratory muscle training device.
When you use an elevation training mask, you will quickly feel that it is more difficult to breathe. Although this does not change the amount of oxygen you are intaking, it does change how easily you can complete a breath. Over time, and after you increase the resistance of your training mask and the intensity of your training mask workouts, the muscles of your respiratory system will become stronger than ever before!
Not only does training with the altitude training mask build physical and mental stamina, but it also increases control of your breathing pattern too.
I can feel the difference in the strength and control that I have over my breathing when I use my altitude training mask often.
Training with an elevation training mask leads to:
- Increased Lung Capacity
- Increased Anaerobic Threshold
- Better Cardiovascular Endurance for Short-Intense Workouts
Elevation Mask Workouts Save You Time
One final benefit of using an elevation training mask is that it will save you time, especially for cardiovascular training.
Many athletes spend hours each week doing different conditioning drills, as it is necessary to be at the top of your game. However, an elevation training mask can cut down on some of this training.
Using a training mask can help you do a more intense workout in a shorter amount of time, and can even help simulate the difficulty of a game or competition better.
It is not a perfect tool, but it is very helpful for many people including me!
What is the Best Elevation Training Mask to Purchase?
In my opinion, there is only one company that makes a legit elevation training mask you should invest in.
The company Training Mask produces a few varieties of high-altitude simulating masks, and I own two myself.
Training Mask 2.0 Review
The Training Mask 2.0 was the first mask that I bought, and I used it for nearly two years. This training mask has a few interchangeable parts to increase or decrease the difficulty level, and it is easily one of my favorite products ever.
The Training Mask 2.0 is actually more suited for HIIT workouts and provides a more intense experience than the Training Mask 3.0, which I will discuss below!
In the past, I even used my Training Mask 2.0 in the morning before basketball games in the past because it helps open my lungs for the game later in the day!
- Conditions the lungs by creating pulmonary resistance
- Strengthens the diaphragm
- Increases surface area and elasticity in alveoli
- Increases lung capacity
- Increase anaerobic thresholds
Training Mask 3.0 Review
The Training Mask 3.0 is a newer version, and it is a slightly different product than the previous version. Although it is slightly more expensive (by about $25 usually), it is worth the extra money.
When I conducted my own Training Mask product review, I noticed that the Training Mask 3.0 offers smoother airflow and easier resistance changes, which are both significant upgrades.
As I said before, the Training Mask 2.0 offers a more intense difficulty level at its highest point, but the Training Mask 3.0 is a smoother experience overall.
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Concluding Thoughts – Altitude Training Mask Benefits
The benefits of using an altitude training mask are undeniable and proven by science.
Although it does not perfectly simulate high-altitude conditions, many of the benefits of training masks are unachievable unless you travel to a climate with a significantly high-altitude climate.
The use of the altitude training mask positively affects your Vo2 max, heart rate, and power output, all of which are indicators of overall physical performance capabilities.
Regardless of your training goals or athletic level, an altitude training mask is a worthwhile investment to achieve many fitness goals faster!