You will have seen them. A revolution in the world of running, donned by Lycra wearing men and women, resembling somewhat of a Batman villain in florescent trainers. Developers are calling it the ‘altitude training mask’. Sported by famous athletes across the globe, this fire-fighter-like accessory is quickly beginning to take over the fitness world.
The creators at trainingmask.com have designed a piece of equipment with the aim to aid fitness fanatics all over the world. The mask itself looks like the bottom half of a gas mask; it fits over the face and jaw and has a filter over the mouth with air valves.
The intention of the mask is to restrict the amount of air entering the lungs during exercise, simulating a high altitude experience. It focuses on hypoxic training, a system that has been used for decades to try and enhance athletic performance. The makers claim the mask will strengthen the diaphragm, increase lung stamina and improve mental focus. Sounds great doesn’t it? Reviews for the product however, have been mixed. Consumer feedback varies dramatically, with the effectiveness and cost of the product being a big talking point. Amazon.com has
over 300 reviews for the mask; some of the positive reviews include comments such as:
“This is by far the best piece of training equipment I have ever purchased. If you want your metabolic fitness to go through the roof then this is the product for you.” @Steven Simmonds.
“Want to intensify your training regime? Get one of these, you will not be disappointed. The added bonus of being able to change your sleeves (cover) is brilliant.” @PaulLucas82.
However, not all the reviews left on the site are positive ones:
“I had hoped this product would help in my training for higher altitude ascents in conditioning my breathing. It falls very short of the mark. No good for cardio work even on its highest setting, builds up a fair amount of moisture in the mask. Not pleasant.” @GreatLittleApp13.
“It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that if you’re at sea level, breathing sea level air (20.9% oxygen) through a restrictive device, the air coming through it and available to you is still going to be of 20.9% oxygen content. So how do products like this simulate altitude training as they claim?
Quite simply, they don’t.” @LemonadeDinosaur.
Many reviewers of the product say that it does work, but the price is far too high for what it offers fitness wise. An MMA blog comments on the effectiveness of the mask when asked if the product helps to stimulate red blood cells.
“Living at a high altitude does. This is because the amount of oxygen in the air is less than at sea level, which is different than just not being able to breathe in enough air. With normal breaths at altitude, your body doesn’t get as much oxygen and the body begins to release the hormone EPO, stimulating red blood cell production. But this takes time, like constant exposure over weeks, not over an hour spent in the gym with a mask on.”
“Training with the Elevation Training Mask may improve lung strength and lung capacity, however, these improvements don’t result in any increases in aerobic fitness” @PowerDojoMMA.
Alex Viada, an established training coach and founder of Complete Human Performance has a dismissive view of the training mask’s effectiveness, claiming that altitude devices:
“Simulate altitude in the same way sticking your head down the toilet simulates swimming.”
After speaking to students at Exeter University, it became clear that the general consensus regarding the effectiveness of the training mask is a negative one. David Harris, PhD student and personal trainer, is angered by the ineffectiveness of the mask, especially due to such a high retail price.
“You’re essentially putting £100 down the drain. I noticed minimal difference throughout my training last summer. Altitude training takes months of consistent exposure to high altitudes, not going on a rowing machine for half an hour whilst wearing a scuba diving mask!”
IBF Boxing World Champion, Charles Martin, revealed on sky sports that he’s is training at the ‘Big Bear’ complex in California, in the build up to his April 9 fight with Britain’s Antony Joshua. This facility is a favourite destination for professional boxers, due to its high altitude. However, athletes will stay at the location for as long as 3 months at a time, which gives the body time to adapt to the altitude and as a result, go through the stages that the training mask attempts to replicate. Boxing superstars such as Floyd Mayweather Jr, Mike Tyson and Manny Pacquiao; to name a few, have all trained at the high altitude complex, signalling the effectiveness that prolonged elevation exposure has.
Unfortunately for the makers at trainingmask.com, it appears that the idea stemmed from a successful means of training, yet fails to replicate the benefits associated with high altitude training. The overwhelming consensus from users is that the mask is too expensive for the service it provides. It is pretty clear to see that unless you want to create a make shift superhero villain outfit, the elevation training mask is more buck than bang.