Breathing Devices for Health and Sports Performance
By Dr. Artour Rakhimov (www.NormalBreathing.com)
There are many breathing devices and respiratory trainers used by hundreds of elite athletes for sports performance and by other users for health and fitness. Some of these devices are invented to increase strength of the respiratory muscles. Numerous clinical trials have found that these devices can increase endurance and VO2max (maximum oxygen absorption during most intensive exercise), improve lung function tests (VEF, PEF, FVC, and VEmax), lower heart rate for the same load, reduce medication (drugs) and symptoms, improve quality of life scores and lead to other beneficial health effects.
Furthermore, with correct applications, breathing devices can increase body oxygen levels and produce profound effects on long term endurance, VO2max, duration of recovery from injuries and intensive training, together with life quality effects related to sleep, energy level and digestion. This review is focused on these oxygen-related effects of various breathing techniques.
PowerLung vs. Powerbreathe, UltraBreathe, and Expand-A-Lung
PowerLung breathing trainer is a breathing device which is used to train respiratory muscles by creating additional resistance. It has some similarities with Powerbreathe, UltraBreathe, and Expand-A-Lung breath trainers. Several small trials tested the effects of the PowerLung on several groups of people (elite international swimmers, competitive marathoners and triathletes, cross country runners, young soccer players, intermittent sprint athletes, SCUBA divers, older females, and the elderly). The device became popular in many sports for improving fitness in swimming, rowing, triathlon, and some other sports, as well as for asthma/COPD treatment.
The main advantage of PowerLung is a larger dead volume that increases inhaled CO2 levels and prevents hyperventilation (overbreathing) during breathing exercises. Hyperventilation leads to arterial hypocapnia (CO2 deficiency) and causes low body oxygen levels (see below). This worsens symptoms of diseases and sports performance.
PowerBreathe vs. PowerLung, Expand-A-Lung, Ultrabreathe
Powerbreathe is probably the most popular breathing device used by Western athletes to train inspiratory muscles (also by creating resistance that can be regulated). There are several versions of this device: Powerbreathe Plus, Powerbreathe Medic, Powerbreathe Ironman, Powerbreathe K series or Kinetic. They are used mostly to enhance sports performance, but there are medical applications as well (mostly for asthma and COPD).
Powerbreathe has a similar effect (as PowerLung, Expand-A-Lung, Ultrabreathe), but most benefits for this and other devices depend on long-term effects of breathing exercises. These effects are possible due to correct breathing techniques applied during training. For example, if exhalations are too fast, losses in alveolar CO2 will cause reduced oxygen transport with dis-regulation of the breathing center leading to post-hyperventilation and low body oxygen levels. Hence, such sessions with overbreathing should worsen symptoms of asthma or COPD and reduce endurance and health.
Expand-A-Lung vs Powerbreathe and PowerLung
Expand-A-Lung breathing resistance trainer is a more recent breathing device. This breathing technique is popular among athletes. This is the simplest, cheapest and most durable Western breathing muscle trainer. Medical studies found its efficiency health, fitness and sports performance, with some studies done on COPD and cystic fibrosis patients.
Expand-A-Lung also can improve body oxygen levels provided that breathing exercises and instructions emphasize long and relaxed exhalations to accumulate CO2 in the alveoli and arterial blood. This will improve oxygen delivery to cells since CO2 is the most powerful known vasodilator. Furthermore, higher CO2 levels enhance oxygen release in tissues due to the Bohr effect and this is another factor that proves that slower breathing patterns at rest increase body oxygen levels.
Ultrabreathe vs. Powerlung, Powerbreathe, UltraBreathe
Ultrabreathe breathing resistance trainer is a most recent invention, a version of Expand-A-Lung with 2 adjustable valves. Ultrabreathe ASI7492 compact breathing exerciser is used mostly by athletes.
Ultrabreathe can dramatically improve your health only if you acquire a slower and lighter basal breathing pattern at rest as a result of your breathing exercises and lifestyle changes. Best effects are possible with very slow inhalations to boost arterial CO2 content. Hence, it is wrong to compare UltraBreathe vs. Powerbreathe or UltraBreathe vs. Powerlung since it is how you use it, rather than what you use, that matters most.
Frolov Breathing Device
Among all these devices, the most detailed clinical investigations were conducted with the Frolov breathing device (or Frolov's respiration training device). It is probably the most efficient known device for breathing exercises and general health. The device creates resistance due to water. The Frolov device is based on Buteyko's discoveries that chronic hyperventilation is very common these days and it leads to alveolar hypocapnia as foundations of many chronic diseases. Hence, the Frolov device combines best features of the Buteyko reduced breathing exercises, pranayama (from Hatha Yoga), PowerLung, Powerbreathe and pursed-lip (resistive) breathing and even goes beyond them if we think about body oxygen levels and improved general health. However, Western sport devices (Ultrabreathe, Expand-A-Lung, Powerbreathe, PowerLung) could produce a better effect on respiratory muscles.
Frolov device has been approved and endorsed by more than 300 GPs or family doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and other medical professionals in Russia since year 2000.There are over 2,500,000 people in Russia who could confirm that they have improved their health with the help of the Frolov breathing device (extensive Frolov device reviews with many details and effects from NormalBreathing.com). There is a related Hubpage about this device - New Breathing Therapy Rocks Russia.
The Frolov device has a goal to eliminate hyperventilation. It is one of the best breathing techniques. The device was tested in Russia, in several clinical trials, for bronchial asthma with weakness of respiratory muscles, bronchial asthma, children with bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, acute stages of bronchitis, emphysema, hypertension, angina pectoris, and diabetes. Apart from these investigations, medical reports have indicated positive effects on gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, cystic fibrosis, psoriasis, psychological disorders, obesity, and many other conditions
Training Mask: best choice for health and fitness
All above-mentioned breathing devices could not be used during physical exercise. However, the Training Mask can be applied while running, cycling, weightlifting and doing many other activities.
The Training Mask was promoted due to its use by Sean Sherk. "Sean Keith Sherk is a retired American mixed martial artist and former UFC Lightweight Champion. Sherk competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he is the first of only two who fought for both the UFC Lightweight Championship and UFC Welterweight Championship" (see more from Wikipedia).
Ironman 2013 World Champion Pete Jacobs was so excited about the physiological benefits, which he experienced with the Elevation Training Mask, that he met with its developers and now has a financial interest in the company.
I tested the Training Mask on my students and found its profound effect on body O2.The mask makes physical exercise nearly 2 times more effective. You can get your Training Mask here (directly from US producers of this gadget).
Training Mask Video (by a coach of 2 World Champions)
Brain Oxygenation is Reduced 2 Times After 1 Minute of Forceful Hyperventilation (Deep Breathing)
Overbreathing or deep breathing reduces body oxygen levels, as hundreds of studies have confirmed. This image shows effects of deep breathing on the brain, but other vital organs experience the same effect: reduced perfusion and tissue hypoxia.
This Hubpage has result of 24 medical studies related to breathing rates in normal subjects: Hyperventilation is Discovered in Over 90% of Modern People.
You do not need that and, hence, your goal during any breath work you do is to slow down your breathing so that to improve oxygen transport. Hundreds of medical studies have confirmed negative effects of chronic overbreathing and these papers and their analysis can be found on my website.
Success in your breathing retraining, sports performance and general health!
Dr. Artour Rakhimov is a health educator. He is the author of books and the largest educational website devoted to breathing and breathing retraining with hundreds of medical quotes, charts, tables, graphs, references, and results of clinical trials.
How to Choose Best Breathing Techniques
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