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Training Masks: Are they worth the hype?

Whether you’re just getting into health and fitness or you’ve been pushing your body to its max potential for a long time, keeping up with all the trends can be difficult. One item used by many athletes to help improve their performance is a training mask. After hearing about the number of athletes who use them, many beginners find themselves wondering, “Is this product worth the hype?”

Also: Increase Your Training Intensity – Pre-Exhaustion

What Is a Training Mask?

This product is designed specifically to restrict the amount of oxygen an athlete can use while they’re exercising. In general, it mimics training at a specific elevation. It encourages lower oxygen consumption, making breathing more difficult and encouraging the body to become more efficient in its use of available air.

Other athletes use training masks in order to train harder without actually putting forth more effort. The idea is simple: at a higher altitude, because there is less available air, the body has to work harder to attain the same result. Breathing through training masks means that athletes are working harder, accomplishing the same thing they would if they trained at a higher elevation. When the training masks are removed, athletes will then see an improvement in their overall performance.

Choosing a Training Mask

Most training masks are designed to fit over the lower portion of the face, restricting oxygen to the nose and mouth. They run an average of $15-$30, depending on the model in question. Some masks are designed to simply restrict breath, making it harder to draw in air; others recycle the air as it’s breathed out so there is a higher level of carbon dioxide in each breath.

What Do Training Masks Accomplish?

  • Training masks are designed to accomplish a number of key goals. While they can’t actually replicate training at high altitudes–that would require living in a high-altitude location for a period of months, not just the occasional round of high-intensity training–they do have a number of advantages. These include:
  • Increased aerobic endurance with less stress on the body
  • Improvement in anaerobic capability
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Higher energy levels
  • Improvements to your physical and mental endurance
  • Who Uses This Product?

Training masks are most often used by individuals in endurance sports: mixed martial arts, distance runners, bikers, skiers, and more. In general, they’re used by athletes who are seeking to push themselves harder. Most athletes who are willing to try training masks are looking for extreme ways to make a substantial difference in their training, whether they have an event coming up or are simply hoping to overcome a plateau.

For beginner athletes, training masks are typically a waste of time and effort. The goal of most people using training masks is to elevate their heart rate and push their body higher at a lower level of performance–something that people who are just starting their athletic journeys are already experiencing. Athletes who are hoping to increase overall endurance and power, however, will find that mixing training with these masks in with their normal training will help them achieve the results they’re after.

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