Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

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Nomath
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by Nomath » September 13th, 2021, 9:15 am

I have collected a couple of studies published in scientific journals where the effects of inspiratory muscle training for rowers have been investigated. I will concentrate on two issues that have been raised in the previous posts :
1. Is there evidence that specific high-resistance Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) does more for breathing power than high-intensity interval rowing by itself ?
2. Is there evidence that high-resistance IMT improves rowing performance ?

The studies share a similar design : a group of selected (e.g. age, sex, performance level) rowers is randomly divide in two subgroups. One subgroup uses almost daily an IMT device set at a high resistance for a period of many weeks in addition to their regular rowing training. The other subgroup (called ‘placebo’ or ‘sham’ group) does not do the specific IMT or use the training device at a low-resistance setting, but otherwise follows the same regular rowing training program. The two groups are compared at the start and at the end of the period on Maximum Inspiratory Pressure (MIP) and on rowing performance.

The following is a brief summary ; more details in the papers which are mostly free-access on the internet.

Inspiratory muscle training improves rowing performance in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2001, p.803-809
Subjects : 14 female competitive rowers, aged 23.8 ± 3.8 yrs.
IMT training : 30 breaths twice daily at about 50% of MIP ; placebo group did 60 breaths daily at 15% of MIP.
Results after 11 weeks : IMT group had increased MIP by 42% ; placebo group had insignificant MIP-increase.
6-min all-out rowing test: IMT group increased distance by 3.5% ; placebo group increased distance by 1%.

The influence of inspiratory and expiratory muscle training upon rowing performance in Eu J Appl Physiol, 2007, p.457-466
Subjects : 17 competitive male rowers from a local rowing club, aged 20-35 yrs, all non-smokers.
IMT training : 4 weeks of twice daily 30 breaths at 50% of MIP ; placebo group did expiratory muscle training (EMT)
Results after 4 weeks : IMT group showed significant increase (25%) in MIP ; EMT- group had small increase
6 min all-out rowing test : IMT group showed 2.7% improvement in mean power ; no significant change in EMT group

The inspiratory muscle training in elite rowers in J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2008, p.279-284
Subjects : 15 elite male rowers, aged 20-30 yrs
IMT training : 11 weeks of twice daily 30 breaths at 60% (6 weeks) and 77% of MIP (5 weeks) ; control group had no IMT training.
Results after 11 weeks: IMT group showed significant (30%) increase in MIP. Interestingly, the %-increase was much bigger for one rower who started with a relatively low MIP (see figure below). 14 Weeks after cessation of the training, the MIP values were still significantly higher than at the start
No results on rowing performance reported.

Image

Specific inspiratory muscle training does not improve performance or VO2max levels in well trained rowers in J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2008, p.285-292
Subjects : 12 male and 7 female members of Greek national rowing teams, aged 17-30 yrs
IMT training : 6 weeks starting at 30% of MIP increasing to 80% after wk-2 ; 5-7 sets of 4-5 min. Control group did no IMT training.
Results after 6 weeks : IMT group showed significant (28%) increase in MIP.
Rowing performance : no significant change in all-out 2000m time for IMT group, same as for control group. Also no change in VO2max. Interestingly, the IMT group reported a lower perceived shortness of breath during the 2000m race compared to the control group.

The effects of inspiratory and expiratory muscle training in rowers published in Research in Sports Medicine, 2011, p. 217-230.
Subjects : 9 male and 12 female rowers from a local rowing club, aged 23 ± 11 yrs
IMT training : 10 weeks using a device for a combined inspiratory and experitory training ; the test group used a high resistance setting and the placebo group a low resistance setting
Results after 10 weeks : test group showed increase in both inspiratory and expiratory muscle strength.
Rowing performance : both test group and the placebo group improved 2000m time ; no additional benefit of high resistance setting.

Inspiratory muscle training effects on oxygen saturation and performance in hypoxemic rowers: effect of sex in J Sports Sci, 2019, p.2513-2521
I could not get a free-access copy. Summary below is based on abstract.
Subjects : 20 male and 16 female well-trained rowers
IMT training : 6 weeks, 5 times/week, 30 min/day.
Results after 6 weeks : MIP increase by average 33% (male) and 52% (female)
Rowing performance : IMT-male group had insignificant improvement in 2000m time ; IMT-female group had significant improvement in 2000m time.

My conclusion is that all investigations show that inspiratory muscles get much stronger from a few minutes high-resistance training daily during about 6 weeks. This is even the case for elite rowers. However, all studies were done with relatively young participants (<40 yrs).
There is less unanimity about improvements in rowing performance. Some studies find a small improvement, typically 1-3%, whereas others find no improvement. Females more often show improved performance.

WayHand
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by WayHand » September 13th, 2021, 10:05 am

Great work Nomath and thank you for your research on this subject.
I have often considered buying a Powerbreathe because of Eddie Fletcher's recommendation.
https://fletchersportscience.com/powerbreathe/
Perhaps I should just spend the money and give it a go but am very interested to see your results first!
Thanks again.
Wayne Handley
Derbyshire UK
50; 6'-2"; 210lbs
2k 6:58.9 (2021)

Nomath
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by Nomath » September 13th, 2021, 12:34 pm

Thanks for the link to the two papers on fletchersportscience that I didn't know.
The author of the first paper, Alison McConnell, was co-author of the first and second paper that I listed.

Nomath
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by Nomath » September 14th, 2021, 7:18 am

Digging a bit deeper in the scientific literature, I found that Prof. Alison K. McConnell from Brunel University (UK) is not only a prolific author and co-author of numerous papers on respiratory muscle training but also the inventor of inspiratory muscle training products and a beneficiary of a share in the licence income to the University of Birmingham and Brunel University. She is or was also a consultant of PowerBreathe.

I do not think that this conflict of interest corrupts the value of the studies she was part of. She is clearly an authority on exercise physiology. There are many independent studies on the merits of respiratory muscle training. These include not only performance improvement in sports but also medical conditions like COPD and low back pain. There was a fierce debate about this in the Journal of Physiology in 2012. If the results on the blood pressure found at the University of Colorado are confirmed, the Powerbreathe and similar training devices offer simple, inexpensive tools for combating modest hypertension, the most common chronic medical problem.

I find the PowerBreathe Plus an excellent tool and I will pursue my daily training for the coming weeks. Even though effects on blood pressure and rowing performance are yet unclear, I already perceive that maintaining discipline in deep breathing while rowing gets easier.

Tsnor
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by Tsnor » September 14th, 2021, 11:50 pm

Looking forward to your results.

What gets me wondering.... the studies go back over a decade. If elite rowers saw power gains then everyone would be doing it. Rowers, cyclists, football players, skiers. Athlete's are very quick to grab up the latest technique that promises power gains (example: look at the craze over short intervals "...EVEN HIGHLY-TRAINED CYCLISTS GET STRONGER AND FITTER WITH THESE MICRO INTERVALS, STUDY SHOWS." everyone tried it even though only one study showed benefits vs long 4min and 8 min intervals. And yet no one is using Inspiratory muscle strength training, or anything similar.

And yet, trusted mainstream sources like webmd have articles like "5-Minute Breathing Exercises Can Lower BP, Heart Attack Risk" very strange.

Nomath
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by Nomath » September 15th, 2021, 9:38 am

You are right that most studies that showed a performance increase from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training in rowing, cycling, swimming, etc. were done in years 2000-2010. After the critical paper in the J. Physiology in 2012, linked above, most IMST studies that I found deal with medical conditions, like COPD, low back pain, sleep apnea and hypertension.

I have no idea whether IMST is used in elite sports, e.g. cycling or rowing. You don't often see details of their training and I wonder if a 2x2 min daily high-resistance breathing exercise would be communicated. Probably not, if it indeed brings marginal gains. In the recent book Cycling Science, by Cheung and Zabala (2018), there is a 9-page chapter on Respiratory Training. Last line "Despite the mentioned caveats, given the minuscule range of performance times amongst elite cyclists, respiratory muscle training may be a worthwhile addition to traditional cycle training.'"

The problem of most scientific studies is the low number of subjects. Effects of IMST on maximum inspiratory pressure are easily found because the gains are in the 20-40% range, but finding a significant increase in performance is much more difficult because performance gains, if any, are in the 1-2% range. You probably need more than 20 subjects in a study
Even if my own training has the promised benefits, it is only a N=1 study !

frankencrank
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by frankencrank » September 24th, 2021, 2:14 am

I initially was going to post a big fat NO! But, reading the paper I find it intriguing from a medical perspective but I don't see the relevance to rowing so I think I will again say no, but not be so emphatic as I guess there is always a possibility. But, I simply have trouble coming up with a mechanism so until there is several good studies showing improvement in athletes I will still say no.

frankencrank
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by frankencrank » September 24th, 2021, 11:22 am

After thinking about this over night I am going to revise my answer above to my initial reaction - NO!

Here is why. The limiter to performance is oxygen delivery. It makes simplistic sense that something that works on the lungs might do that. But, in normal healthy athletes the lungs are never the limiter. The limiter in normal healthy athletes is always the mean diffusion distance from the capillaries to the mitochondria in the muscles. Such a device cannot affect that.

frankencrank
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by frankencrank » September 24th, 2021, 3:10 pm

Nomath wrote:
September 15th, 2021, 9:38 am
The problem of most scientific studies is the low number of subjects.
Another problem with scientific training/performance studies is how long they last and choosing the end point. Most of the studies that were done on my PowerCranks tool, supposedly testing the 40% power gain claim, lasted 6 weeks or less. 6 weeks was barely enough time for people to get through the transition and start the benefits process. Our 40% claim required 6 to mine months of immersion training to achieve that end. Further, not a single one measured pedal forces to see if the desired change in the pedaling dynamic had been achieved in the subjects.

No study is perfect. Negative studies need to be read just as critically as positive one.

As I stated earlier, the real issue with this inspiratory muscle strength tool is the limiter for oxygen delivery has nothing to do with the lungs or blood vessels in healthy people. Oxygen delivery is limited by capillary density in the muscles. The only way to change that is through training the muscles.

Nomath
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by Nomath » September 25th, 2021, 2:30 am

frankencrank wrote:
September 24th, 2021, 11:22 am
After thinking about this over night I am going to revise my answer above to my initial reaction - NO!

Here is why. The limiter to performance is oxygen delivery. It makes simplistic sense that something that works on the lungs might do that. But, in normal healthy athletes the lungs are never the limiter. The limiter in normal healthy athletes is always the mean diffusion distance from the capillaries to the mitochondria in the muscles. Such a device cannot affect that.
I suggest reading the first paper in the link posted above by WayHand. It is written by Prof. Alison McConnell, who is an expert in physiology besides being involved in the development of the PowerBreathe. In the paper she explaines why although the lungs are not limiting the oxygen supply, training the inspiratory muscles makes sense.

The paper in the link is dated 2020, but from a remark (“....in a recent study from my laboratory..”) it is clear that McConnell wrote it around 2006.

frankencrank
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Re: Could rowers benefit from Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training ?

Post by frankencrank » September 25th, 2021, 3:14 am

Nomath wrote:
September 25th, 2021, 2:30 am
frankencrank wrote:
September 24th, 2021, 11:22 am
After thinking about this over night I am going to revise my answer above to my initial reaction - NO!

Here is why. The limiter to performance is oxygen delivery. It makes simplistic sense that something that works on the lungs might do that. But, in normal healthy athletes the lungs are never the limiter. The limiter in normal healthy athletes is always the mean diffusion distance from the capillaries to the mitochondria in the muscles. Such a device cannot affect that.
I suggest reading the first paper in the link posted above by WayHand. It is written by Prof. Alison McConnell, who is an expert in physiology besides being involved in the development of the PowerBreathe. In the paper she explaines why although the lungs are not limiting the oxygen supply, training the inspiratory muscles makes sense.

The paper in the link is dated 2020, but from a remark (“....in a recent study from my laboratory..”) it is clear that McConnell wrote it around 2006.
I am trained as an anesthesiologist. I also am an expert in physiology, especially the physiology of oxygen transport and delivery. Unless she explains how this device can change the mean diffusion distance from the capillaries to the mitochondria it cannot improve aerobic muscle performance. I will go check that out but I will be surprised.

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