Edge

Do Training Masks Actually Enhance Performance?

Fact: they'll make you sound like Darth Vader but won't increase efficiency.

Training Mask
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Called an elevation training mask, or training mask, it’s designed to mimic high-altitude training by restricting the amount of oxygen you can breathe in while exercising. But besides making you sound like Darth Vader, do they boost your cardio and performance?

Not really.

Two 2017 studies published in the International Journal of Exercise Science had subjects train with the mask on for three weeks. Both studies found that there was no significant increase in VO2 max.

“While taking in less air means we are taking in less oxygen, the oxygen level of the air stays the same—it’s not lowering the total amount of oxygen in that air, which is what gives high-altitude athletes the hypoxic [low oxygen] training adaptation,” explains Michael Bouranis, co-owner of Stoked Athletics in Long Island, NY. “It’s the equivalent of putting less gas in your car and then hoping it will increase its miles per gallon. It just doesn’t work like that. You’re better off building a bigger, better engine—through strength training—and a gas tank that can bring it more fuel through conditioning.”

BOTTOM LINE:

Save the masks for Halloween. Most research shows that training masks won’t do much except make you breathe hard and make your lungs a little stronger.

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