altitude training mask review

MMA Altitude Training Device Review: Conclusion

OK so we got 100+ Comments on Part I of the MMA Altitude Training Device Review, which tells me you guys have seen the ads and heard the hype and really want to know…

Are Altitude Training Devices Worth It?

To recap, this is where we left off last time:

“There are no studies on MMA specifically, so I had to search LONG and HARD to find something that would at least come close.

This took me FOREVER, because most of these altitude studies are done on endurance sport athlete such as runners, cyclists and cross-country skiers.

But lo and behold, I stumbled upon one, a moment before my eyes were about to explode from reading these cryptic journal articles all day. Scientists reading this – why can’t you write in normal English!”


Let’s go:

The title of this next study is, “Effects of intermittent hypoxic training on aerobic and anaerobic performance.

The subjects included 16 moderately trained team sports players, born and living at sea level, with an average age of 20 years old and weight of 175 lbs.

The average VO2 max (marker of aerobic fitness) was 52.35 ml/kg/min, making the subjects a pretty good comparison to a typical MMA population with above average aerobic fitness, which should include YOU since you’re a regular on my blog.

If not, what the heck are you doing with all the info I’ve made available, both free and premium?

Moving on…

The subjects were divided into 2 groups: control (normal exercise at sea level) and hypoxic training (HT).

Just think of HT as the altitude training group (aka Live Low Train High).

Here’s the cool part, the exercise program they put these 2 groups through is an interval training program, specifically aerobic power intervals, for those who are familiar with the term from my MMA Ripped 8-Week Training Camp or my Optimal Interval Training report.

Here’s the program the subjects followed, 3 times a week for 4 weeks on a stationary bike:

  • 10 reps of 1 minute above the Anaerobic Threshold (80% Wmax) alternated with 2 minutes below AnT (50% Wmax*)
  • Training intensity was increased by 5% after 6 workouts, then another 5% after 9 workouts

This is a decent interval training protocol as it includes a sane amount of repetitions, proper intensity recommendations and progression.

And, drum roll please, here are the results that I’ve put together for you in simple to read chart format:

Measurement Hypoxic Training
(HT)
Normal Training
(Sea Level)
VO2 max + 7.2% + 8%
Wmax + 15.5% + 17.8%
Onset Blood Lactate Accumulation (OBLA) + 11.1% + 11.9%
Peak Power + 2.1% + 8.5%
Hemoglobin 15.4 –> 15.3 14.3 –> 14.5
Hematocrit 44.9 –> 44.8 43.9 –> 44.0


“What exactly do these results mean Eric?”

Basically, that when hypoxic training (training at altitude) was compared to normal training, subjects on a 4 week interval training program showed NO DIFFERENCES IN RESULTS.

That means there were NO CHANGES in:

  • Aerobic fitness (VO2 max)
  • Anaerobic power (Wmax)
  • Anaerobic lactic power (OBLA)
  • The ability of your body to transport oxygen (hemoblogin and hematocrit)…

… between training at altitude vs. training normally at sea level.

Things are NOT looking good for Altitude Training Devices!

Now, you might have noticed the difference between the 2 groups with respect to peak power, especially since I highlighted them in yellow. :)

While these #’s show that normal training resulted in greater increases in peak power, these results are tricky and are actually NOT significant.

This is mainly because the normal training group started at 729 watts vs. 872 watts of peak power, making it a lot easier for them to increase because they started at a lower level.

It’s like the guy who just starts Bench Pressing can go from 100 lbs to 200 lbs a heck of a lot quicker than the guy who has trained for years and can Bench 300 lbs and is trying to hit 400 lbs.

The bottom line is that this study, which used interval training that resembles the training an MMA guy would do, showed NO DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ALTITUDE AND NORMAL TRAINING.

I repeat…

Over a 4 Week Interval Training Program, Altitude Training
Showed No Benefit Over Normal Training at Sea Level

Sorry, but based on the pure science of altitude training, seeing as it doesn’t work at all, that would make altitude training devices pointless to begin with!

The studies I’ve cited have shown that High Altitude Training (Train High) is pretty much worthless with respect to aerobic AND anaerobic fitness.

Altitude training does not result in increased red blood cell count or improved oxygen transport, thus does not improve aerobic or anaerobic fitness at all and neither will Altitude Training Devices!

Now, let’s move on to some of the other claims these devices make:

  1. Increased lung capacity
  2. Improvements to something called your Anaerobic Threshold
  3. More energy
  4. Improvements in physical and mental endurance and mental focus… and many more.

More pretty big claims from these Altitude Training Devices I’d say!

From the study I just described, #2, 3, 4 and the “Physical stamina” portion of #5 are all out the window.

But here’s something interesting I found about #1, “Increases in Lung capacity as your lungs have to work 9 times harder to get the oxygen in.”


When using the Altitude Training Devices, yes,
your lungs do have to work harder.

But that begs me to ask,

 

“Do stronger lungs or increased lung capacity
result in improved performance?”

This is all that really matters and I’ve got an answer for you that comes from a highly unlikely source…

The PowerLung is another device that trains your lungs via constricted breathing.

PowerLung breathing trainer

The PowerLung constricted breathing device.

They’ve put some studies on their website here.

The one that we’re interested in as athletes is the very last one (coincidence?) found here:

The study tested a control group vs. a group that used the PowerLung five days per week for five weeks 5 sets of 25 breaths.

Let’s look at the results: using the PowerLung improved lung capacity and lung strength by measuring how much air was blown out after a maximal inhalation and how much air could be blown out in 1 second and 3 seconds.

So maybe there’s something to this constricted breathing after all?

Well, maybe not…

Here at the performance results from this study, straight from the PowerLung website:

“No significant differences for VO2 max, ventilation (VE), tidal volume (VT), or total time.

The control group demonstrated an increase in Anaerobic / Lactate Threshold (LT), a decrease in HRmax and a decrease in RERmax.”

So in terms of performance, there were no changes, except the group that didn’t use the PowerLung improved their Anaerobic Threshold!

What this means for the MMA Altitude Training Devices is that although it may improve lung strength and lung capacity, this has no bearing on aerobic fitness (VO2 max) or anaerobic fitness (AnT).

Finally, with respect to the mental aspect of having your breathing impaired, I suggest you simply train with a partner who mounts you and keeps trying to cover your airways as you try to escape…

Or, you could do this…

——————————————————

CONCLUSION

If you read all of this and Part 1, you’re either really interested in being in top shape for MMA (good for you!), you love to spend some money on new gadgets but do your due diligence first, or you’re just killing time, hopefully time at work that you’re getting paid for. :)

Either way, congrats for having the patience to stick with it. In today’s ADD-riddled society, this kind of patience is rare.

Now, I just want to recap everything and summarize everything for those who skipped the science stuff or those who are still a little confused.

Takeaway #1 – Training at altitude doesn’t seem to improve performance, especially with respect to the physical demands of MMA

Takeaway #2 – The claims of improved performance using Altitude Training Devices are based on more claims that altitude training improves performance, which are false and false, respectively

Takeaway #3 – Training with restricted breathing devices may improve lung strength and lung capacity, however, these improvements don’t result in any increases in aerobic or anaerobic fitness (unless your lungs are your limiting factor, which may be the case if you have COPD or some other lung disease)

These are my conclusions, based on this study and others I’ve read.

Are these conclusions definitive?

Unfortunately, in science, no, they’re not. They never are. For every variable, you’ll find some studies that find a benefit, some studies that don’t, and a bunch that show no difference.

But here’s what I’m going to do – use my BRAIN.


When you restrict breathing (Altitude Training Devices)
or oxygen (altitude), you can’t work as hard.

This is a fact.

It may feellike you’re working hard as heck, but in fact, the intensity will be much lower than what you could do without one of these devices or at sea level.

If you can’t work at a certain intensity level, you can’t push certain systems to the point where they can adapt.

Remember that old core training principle of adaptation.

So, because you can’t work at an intensity that will cause beneficial adaptations, you won’t get adaptations.

For submaximal endurance sports (ie marathon running, long distance cycling, etc), the case is very different, but for a mixed sport like MMA, where there’s a whole lot of high intensity going on, I think that altitude training devices are a waste of time, and will go the way of the Ab Belt and Shake Weight.

Oh, wait, the Ab Belt and Shake Weight are still around?

Oh well. At least those on the inside, like anyone who is subscribed to my newsletter gets the real TRUTH. Too bad for the rest of the shee-ple.

You and I both know that shortcuts with no negative effects are few and far between.

If you were going to buy any altitude training devices, I suggest you spend your money somewhere wiser, like some good quality organic food, or maybe a periodized strength and conditioning program that’s PROVEN to work.

Thanks for sticking with me. Boy my fingers sure are tired!

The last thing I’d like to ask of you:

Please do me a favour and Share this with your friends via the Facebook buttons below or just go old school and email them the link to this article.

I put a lot of work into this article series, so if you appreciate it, show me by spreading the good word my friend; spread the good word.

Sincerely,

Eric “MMA’s Myth Buster” Wong

P.S. In case you were wondering, this post is serious and NOT tongue-in-cheek and no, I do not make any money if you purchase an Altitude Training Device, Ab Belt, or Shake Weight. :)

MMA Altitude Training Device Review FAQ

Here are some questions I know will be asked, if you have any more, let me know in the Comments section and I’ll answer them for you.


Q: How exactly does altitude training stimulate red blood cells?

A: Come on, weren’t you reading – it doesn’t! But living at altitude does (Live High). This is because the amount of oxygen in the air is less than at sea level, which is different than just not being able to breathe in enough air.

Here’s basically how it works: with normal breaths at altitude, your body doesn’t get much oxygen so it thinks, “I need more O2 or I’m gonna DIE! What should I do?”

Then this hormone EPO through the body’s infinite wisdom increases, which then stimulates the production of red blood cells.

But this takes time, like constant daily exposure over weeks, not over the hour or two of training that you might do in a day.


Q: So is wearing Altitude Training Devices  actually like being at altitude?

This is a fundamental question that I realize I didn’t address in the main articles so I’ll talk about it here.

In short – NO.

Here’s why…

At altitude, you aren’t getting  as much oxygen because each liter of air has less oxygen in it (due to lower atmospheric pressure at altitude).

When you’re wearing one of these devices, each liter of air has the same amount of oxygen, you’re just getting less air overall.

You don’t get any altitude benefits because when you inhale, you’re getting less air than normal, but the % of oxygen stays the same.

When the normal amount of oxygen comes in with this breath, there is nothing different for your brain to adapt to, unlike at altitude, when you take in a normal breath, there is far less oxygen, so your brain goes, “Holy crap, what’s going on – I’d better do something about this or I’m gonna die.”


Q: If I wear Altitude Training Devices to bed, will it help stimulate increased red blood cells?

A: Nope, not at all, because when at rest, your body is getting the same amount of air and oxygen it always does, so it will not need to adapt to anything, just maybe a little stronger breathing at rest, which would be wasteful and unwanted. But if your wife asks you to wear an altitude training device to bed that’s another story ;)

 

Leave a Reply

176 Comments on "MMA Altitude Training Device Review: Conclusion"


Larry
3 years 8 months ago

I ll buy three sets of beach towels

Justin
3 years 8 months ago

Hey Eric – another common thing for fighters to do is to put a belt around their chest or ribs to restrict breathing and run up and down stairs or whatnot. Is this basically another example of the same thing?
Also – kind of off topic, but what’s your personal opinion about CrossFit as conditioning for fighters and grapplers?

3 years 8 months ago

Hey Justin,

Restricting the chest is the same idea as the PowerLung… So yes, it’ll strengthen your breathing muscles and improve your lung capacity, but unless these things are a limiting factor for you, it won’t do much for performance. Unless you have some lung disease or condition like COPD or asthma, then I’d seriously try it out.

As for CrossFit, one thing I find with CrossFitters is the high rate of overuse injuries, tendonitis, etc, because you just bash yourself into the ground every workout.

If you’ve got to train MMA, boxing, jiu-jitsu etc during the same week, these sessions are going to be negatively impacted because both your muscular and nervous systems are going to be hammered, so you’re not going to pick up as much there…

Plus, I’m not one for ‘random’ workouts – fail to plan, plan to fail and a mediocre plan followed will outperform randomness.

Lee
1 year 7 months ago

It’s not random. It’s constantly varied. There is a big difference. Also, you write “As for CrossFit, one thing I find with CrossFitters is the high rate of overuse injuries, tendonitis, etc, because you just bash yourself into the ground every workout.” Where do you find this? I own a CrossFit gym, and have trained hundreds of CrossFitters over the past 3 years, I find that statement to be completely inaccurate. I appreciate the article you wrote above for the research and attention to detail you’ve exhibited. You should do the same when giving advice about all things, CrossFit included. CrossFit is a general physical preparedness program, and can compliment any training regimen. I know a lot of MMA fighters that CrossFit. But, I do agree that if you’re a competitive MMA fighter you might want to train for more specificity.

Justin
3 years 8 months ago

Thanks Eric!

Rob King
3 years 8 months ago

Hey Eric

Great blog post man.

I was debating buying one of these masks, thanks for the info.

Even though there is crap all research I may order one and test it. I have wasted money on worse lol

Thanks

Rob
http://www.RobKingFitness.com

dragonmamma/naomi
3 years 8 months ago

Damn. I was all set to buy a large economy pack of balloons and make a killing by selling 7 to a pack as a BUILD LUNG STRENGTH AND CAPACITY: ONE WEEK PACKAGE DEAL for ONLY $9.99!!

But now you’re teaching people to think and not fall for these scams. Thanks a bunch, Eric, there goes my easy money.

Fady Ibrahim
3 years 8 months ago

That video was hilarious man, good stuff Eric

Jay
3 years 8 months ago

Could you do a review on the O2 Trainer by Bas Rutten? I’m fairly sure none of these types of aids help, but it would be interesting to see real statistical data to prove it.

Michael
3 years 8 months ago

Thanks for the science, applause for the acting-skills!

Raymond
3 years 8 months ago

Great review. Great article. This is why we’re here… NO BS and NO BIAS!

Thanks Eric

Poopy Pants
3 years 8 months ago

2 days too late… i just bought the damn thing. now i gotta sell it on e-bay!

3 years 8 months ago

Don’t worry, it’ll go fast… It’s a hot item right now.

anthony
3 years 8 months ago

hey brother,
good job on the information, though i am a little dissappointed because i’ve already got the mask,
maybe it was just me, or because i smoke, i did feel an improvement in breathing.. i felt like i had alot more energy through a bigger lung capacity,
wether that’s really what happened, or it was just mental.
but if it was mental than so be it.

kinda like those silly power bands… they dont make you stronger or anything, but it’s in your head?

3 years 8 months ago

Hey man ain’t nothing wrong with a little Placebo effect… :)

But if you smoke, maybe it is a good thing? Either way, if you’re feeling the effects, I can’t argue with that at all so keep on it!

Strong
3 years 8 months ago

Eric – You are a very funny guy. The infomercial was great. I’m buying 3!

Thanks for the knowledge and the laughs Bro’.

Strength & Honor……

Scott
3 years 8 months ago

Thanks Eric nicely done.

ray
3 years 8 months ago

awesome work man, i loved the towel video, thats gonna be stuck in my head al day.

Kenny Blanton
3 years 8 months ago

Thanks. This is the first true review I’ve found on the mask. Thanks for being real with us and setting the record straight.

John
3 years 8 months ago

Good one Eric – many thanks!

Ross White
3 years 8 months ago

Eric, another quality post. As said on your earlier post about the training mask, was thinking about investing, but after seeing this post & reading. I wont be investing in the training mask. From what I can gather nothing beats hard graft. Thanks again eric.

Ross

Vicente
3 years 8 months ago

Hi there!
great article Eric! many thanks for taking the time to share this stuff. There is just a little mistake i thought you may want to correct: the air composition is the same anywhere in the atmosphere (Mainly Nitrogen -78% and Oxygen – 21%). The point is pressure. When you breathe, you create a pressure differential with the outside, which fills your lungs with air. When you are in altitude, the pressure is much lower and you cannot take in as much air as when you are at sea level. That is why your body adapts becoming more efficient in handling the available oxygen and increases EPO production.
Many thanks and keep up with good work!
Best regards from Spain
Vicente

3 years 8 months ago

Vicente – got it man, thanks for the correction.

Rick
1 year 4 months ago

This changes most everything that has been reported. As the premise is that higher altitude contains less oxygen percentages rather than lower pressure restricting the volume of air one can take in/breath at altitude. It seems then that the mask does simulate altitude, as it restricts the volume of air that can be taken in /breath. If the oxygen percentages are the same regardless of altitude, then how does restricted air flow not simulate altitude?
I am a mountain biker and ride often at altitudes above 8,000 feet. When I train at lower levels and then go into altitude I become winded very quickly. When I train at altitude, I can ride at altitude without becoming winded as quickly. Why wouldn’t using this mask simulate the same at lower altitude as it restricts the volume of air intake similarly to the restriction at altitude because of the lower pressure?
Enlighten me please?

Ming
3 years 8 months ago

Eric,

Nice report.

I presed the fb Like button; and the following message showed up.

There was an error liking the page. If you are the page owner, please try running your page through the linter on the Facebook devsite (https://developers.facebook.com/tools/lint/) and fixing any errors.

3 years 8 months ago

Thanks for that Ming – got it plugged up for now.

Cork-boi
3 years 8 months ago

Where can I get this towel?

3 years 8 months ago

Only online through my secure website.

Tommy
3 years 8 months ago

Cheers for another top quality article Eric! Keep it up!

Marios
3 years 8 months ago

Good article Eric. Thank you for the information.

Anders
3 years 8 months ago

Impressive, Eric. Thank you very much for your info and the work you put into it
. . . . . I guess I will have to start training after all :-)
Keep up the good work

Eddy
3 years 8 months ago

Great article Eric, knew that the mask looked a bit dodgy when I first saw it so was dubious about it. Appreciate the effort gone into making these kind of articles. (By the way, I loved the video).
Thanks, Ed

kharina
3 years 8 months ago

yes yes yes!! I am so glad u did the research, I ve always said to clients if ur breathing is restricted u cant work as hard, i ve not invested in it. mostly because i couldn’t find enough hard evidence! thanks Eric!! thanks for the ASSIGNMENT!! lol xx

Chris Gee
3 years 8 months ago

HAHA
I knew it was just another scam!

Thanks for all the research you’ve done and the detailed info you have posted about the elevation traning mask.
Great job!

Rocci
3 years 8 months ago

Eric, that is a master piece lol I knew you wouldnt let me down and I am so chuffed that you put this up – cheers, I can honestly say that when I have followed you template for the NRG system when peaking nothing gets me breathing hard like those do. The video was awesome and funny as heck once again thanks. Rocci

matt
2 years 5 months ago

Wouldn’t a benefit of increased lung power and capacity be to survive in a trach choke longer?

2 years 5 months ago

Not at all Matt because increased you can’t breathe and increased lung power isn’t going to help that. Getting the guys arms off your throat is the only way.