Elevation-simulating training masks have many benefits, although they might not do what you believe they will
True altitude training is not for the faint of heart, and using an altitude-simulating mask is extremely taxing as well. Altitude training is suitable for athletes who are already well conditioned since it will provide an incredible shock to your body
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. Recently, altitude-simulation masks have become a trend in the fitness community, attempting to replicate the potential benefits of high-elevation training.
With each new version created, the elevation masks are becoming more and more effective at how they simulate true high-altitude training.
Since the mid-1960s, the physical conditioning benefits of training at high-altitudes has been well-known, which has prompted the surge in a fitness device that can recreate these benefits at any time and any place.
Although living in a place with very high altitudes still provides the most overall benefits, the simulation training masks themselves still possess real and effective benefits for the human body.
Keep reading below to find out more about elevation training masks and their benefits!
What is the Benefit of Training at a High Altitude?
Altitude simulation training masks were produced due to research done on actual altitude training.
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.
Benefits of training at a high altitude 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.”
Okay yes, that was wordy.
However, in simple 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.
The masks are the result of the increasing desire from the athletic community to be able to create this effect without actually moving to a new place.
Along with this, 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.”
There are many benefits of elevation training masks, including the fact that many more people can take advantage of them.
Benefits of High Altitude Training Masks
Although a lot of fitness personalities who talk more than they learn like to claim otherwise, there are legitimate benefits to using an elevation-simulating training mask.
Elevation Training Masks Do Not Simulate Hypoxia In a Normal Way
However, it does not necessarily simulate altitude training at 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.
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 training masks do simulate hypoxia a little bit, but it is not their main benefit.
The main benefit of using an altitude-simulating training mask is the recurrent use will lead to increased oxygen and energy production- but not through the process of hypoxia.
Using a High-Altitude Training Mask Will Strengthen Your Respiratory Muscles
Instead, an altitude training mask trains the muscles of your respiratory system and diaphragm to work much more efficiently.
I suffer from asthma, and my training mask is a huge part of my basketball conditioning strategy since it gives 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 over my breathing when I use my altitude-simulating training mask often, which is why I strongly believe it is beneficial.
Training with an elevation training mask leads to:
- Increased Lung Capacity
- Increased Anaerobic Threshold
- Better Cardiovascular Endurance for Short-Intense Workouts
Learn More: How to Breathe Better While Exercising
Elevation-Simulating Training Mask Workouts Will Save You Time
One final benefit of using an elevation training mask is that it wills ave 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, a 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 which 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.
The Training Mask 2.0 was the first mask which 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.
I even used my Training Mask 2.0 in the morning before basketball games in the past because it helped open my lungs for the game later in the day.
The Training Mask 3.0 is a newer version produced only about a year ago, and it is a worthy step-up from the previous version. Although it is slightly more expensive (by about $25 usually), it is worth the extra fee.
The Training Mask 3.0 offers smoother airflow and easier resistance changes, both significant upgrades.
I believe that 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.
Concluding Thoughts on Altitude Training Mask Benefits
The benefits of using an altitude training mask are undeniable and proven by science. Regardless of what YouTube or fitness personalities on Instagram say, there are legitimate reasons you should try using a training mask.
Although it does not perfectly simulate high-altitude conditions, many of the training mask benefits 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!