Breathing training involves strengthening the inspiratory and expiratory muscles as well as the lungs to improve aerobic endurance. An emerging fitness topic, recent research on breathing training suggests that training these muscles, such as the intercostals and diaphragm, can improve exercise performance.

A 2012 Sports Medicine review of 46 studies on breathing training found that respiratory muscle training significantly improves endurance performance in sports such as swimming, cycling and running. This recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study found that people using an inspiratory training device after interval training for six weeks improved running performance compared to those who just did six weeks of interval training.

One of the hottest consumer products designed to improve performance using respiratory resistance is the Training Mask 2.0. A silicone mask with adjustable resistance valves and a neoprene sleeve, the patented Training Mask was inspired by athletes and made for athletes.

“I was watching a video of [UFC fighter] Sean Sherk, training wearing a gas mask with duct tape over it and I called and asked what he was doing,” says Casey Danford, CEO of Training Mask. “He said ‘It helps my breathing and I have some of the best cardio in the UFC’ so I made a resistance cap for an Israeli gas mask and started the company out of a small basement.”

Clad by various professional athletes, the sleek resistance breathing tool is different than others because it provides a carbon dioxide (CO2) re-breathe, meaning the air within the mask that you’re breathing out actually has greater CO2 content than the air outside of the mask. This re-breathe increases the efficiency of oxygen exchange, Danford explains.

“The pH levels within the body go up because we force the oxygen molecule that binds to the red blood cell to carry more oxygen up to the extremities,” says Danford. “In return, the waste product, lactic acid, gets dumped out, so it cleanses the system as well. Energy levels go up as the lactic acid goes out.”

Since the mask can be adjusted to restrict increasingly greater amounts of oxygen, the adaptation effect may get you ready for training/living at high altitudes, where there is less oxygen available. Even if you don’t plan to live or train at high altitude, the Training Mask can beneficial for improving aerobic endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Danford says a general Training Mask protocol of three mask-wearing cardio training sessions a week for six weeks will yield noticeable results.

“The main results from running with the mask are better cardio, lung volume, and oxygen efficiency within the bloodstream in addition to re-training the way you breathe.”

Aside from running, the unique device can be worn during various physical activities including circuit and mixed martial arts training to establish proper breathing technique and get your respiratory system acclimated to a lack of oxygen.

Strap on the Training Mask and use it properly to strengthen your breathing muscles and avoid getting gassed during cardio.