Altitude Training & The Training Mask
I'm sure you've seen them before. The Bane-esque mask seen in training labs, at the park, in the gym... with professional athletes, bros and gym rats alike donning these elevation masks... are they actually getting any benefit out of them? Does the high price tag of these gas looking masks actually justify itself into strength, size, endurance or performance gains of any kind?
Does the Training Mask's promise of the replication of altitude training live up to its claims?
Read this post and let's find out...
Why Altitude Training?
The live low train high (LLTH) philosophy of training for world class athletes is nothing new, living as normal however travelling or replicating high altitude prior to their race or competition...
It's commonly known that at higher altitudes air becomes thinner, as the atmospheric pressure is reduced. The partial pressure of oxygen, or the total units of oxygen per given area, is consequently reduced.
Your myoglobin & hemoglobin content and capillary density increases, resulting in increased oxygen transport to your muscles.
These adaptions your body makes while training at altitude are where the increase in performance comes from.
But the key to successful altitude training, and reaping the benefits of altitude training is TIME.
It takes at minimum, weeks for your body to adapt to the LLTH style of altitude training, this is why the training mask and its claims are at least questionable.
Does The Training Mask Work?
Anyone that puts on a training mask with notice that breathing becomes harder as airflow is restricted... but does that equate to better cardio? Do you become fitter, stronger or leaner as a result of this?
Alex Viada, the founder of Complete Human Performance and a professional hybrid trainer stated that any mask or facial apparatus that claims and attempts to replicate altitude trainign will "simulate altitude in the same way sticking your head in a toilet simulates swimming."
So why do the users of the training mask love and swear by it?
There's an increase in perceived effort.
Just like running a mile with one of your hands covering your nose and mouth, when your air supply is limited everything becomes that much harder.
The key point, that users of the training mask don't understand however is a filter attached to a mask regulating the amount of oxygen you're able to breathe does not replicate altitude training.
It does just that, makes it harder to breathe.
Want the benefits of training at altitude that we discussed earlier? Perhaps an increased red blood cell count?
Real research, utilizing real methods of high altitude training suggests you'll probably have to live a basic life at high altitude, but train at a lower altitude to see maximum phyiological adaptions by your body. And remember, this takes time. Olympians and world class athletes don't just pop up into the mountains a few days before they're in the arena - there's weeks if not months of planning and preparation when it comes to successfully reaping the benefits and adaptions of altitude training.
Because the air is thinner at high altitudes, your body responds by creating more red blood cells to boost oxygen-carrying capabilities levels, even if you're just sitting or sleeping. This increase in oxygen in your blood can help power you through your aerobic workouts, but training at a high altitude will lead to poorer performance and slower times. That's not a problem when training at sea level, which has led to the popular phrase, "Live high, train low."
Why You May Wish To Wear A Training Mask
We've debunked the physiological side of the training mask - if you're donning a bane mask in the gym, at the park, or anywhere for that matter don't expect an increase in red blood cells, capillary density or anything of the benefits a professional athlete will reap from the 'Live High, Train Low' style of altitude training, when done correctly for an adequate amount of time.
However, physiology isn't everything.
Be it a race, a fight or a powerlifting competition. It's not always the strongest or fittest guy that wins.
You can be strong as hell but if your mind is weak you're going to throw in the towel when things get tough.
The training mask can be used as useful tool for increasing mental toughness and replicating the conditions of certain events.
Learning to control your breathing in tough situations.
MMA fighters in particular often use the training mask to replicate the feeling of oxygen restriction (replicating their opponent attempting to sink in a choke).
If increasing mental toughness while training or replicating oxygen starvation are beneficial to your discipline then yes, the training mask could be used as a helpful tool.
But if you're after the physiological transformation that only legitimate altitude training can provide when followed over a period of time, then you're wasting your money and time with the training mask.
Want to check out the training mask? You can pick one up here.