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High Altitude Training Simulation Reviewed

There have been many devices launched on the market to aid in VO2 Max, improving oxygen utilisation and increasing various measures of lung function. Probably the most popular, best regarded and certainly amongst the most reasonably priced is the Elevation Training Mask which is currently available in version 2.0

The basis for the working of this mask is a system of valves that restrict air flow. These valves are attached to a mask, and the mask is made of a stretchy material which goes over the nose and mouth and is held in place with velcro fastenings.

The valves can be adjusted to vary the level of air restriction which the manufacturers claim to be an equivalent of 3,000 feet above sea level to a maximum of 18,000 feet above sea level. The valves can be adjusted on the go so that resistance can be adjusted very rapidly, even during exercise. This variation in resistance is what has given it the nickname of the High Altitude Training Mask.

So how justified are these claims, do they stack up with scientific thinking and how did our tester get on with the mask

To summarise how we believe high altitude training actually works, it is thought that as air thins with altitude the lungs have to adapt to better extract oxygen. This is thought to happen as the lungs are made of a spongy material which, under the adaptive pressure of less oxygen, will increase its surface area thus having more tissue in contact with the air and a greater percentage of overall oxygen in the air is taken into the lungs.

Superficially the mask works differently. It does not reduce the level of oxygen in the air, but instead reduces the amount of air available to the lungs. This actually causes an adaptive response in that the diaphragm is strengthened as it is forced to work harder to suck air against resistance into the lungs.

Our tester found that when first using the mask (after getting past the moderate feeling of being suffocated) he had to focus more on his breathing, which within a week of using the mask he found was completely automatic. After as little as one week our athlete found this to be beneficial in his sport (Jui Jistu) as he found his breathing to be deeper and more efficient enabling him to endure holds for longer than usual.

Over a period of 12 weeks our athlete improved his workload by 8% during his 20 minute interval training - a routine he has followed for over 18 months with static results for over 6 months prior to using the mask.

He also reported that this improvement mostly came about when he did most of his training on a high resistance level of the mask (10,000 feet and upwards).

Although short term use of the mask did not seem to duplicate the effects of high altitude training, it was observed that using the mask at very high resistance over a longer time frame did seem to reduce adaptation times to high altitude training.

Although its not been studied in detail, it could be possible that as the resistance becomes high enough and the diaphragm has been strengthened, a secondary adaptive response takes place where the lungs begin to increase surface area to try to obtain more oxygen from less volume of air, much as happens in high altitude training as the percentage of oxygen in the air decreases.

Overall, feedback and polls tend to show the training mask benefits just about all athletes using it, and that this benefit is visible pretty quickly, typically in 1-2 weeks. Recommend this product.

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