Do elevation training masks help increase athletic performance or are they just a waste of money?

Do Elevation Training Masks Work?

A couple of years ago I wrote about elevation training masks. If you’re not familiar with them, please check out that post. You’ve probably seen people wearing them at the gym from time to time. An elevation training mask is a wearable device that limits air intake. The theory behind them is that they help increase athletic performance by mimicking training in low oxygen/high altitude environments.  The masks look very similar to those of a crazy mask, but the masks still don’t work very well (more on that below).

Elevation Training Masks: A Quick Review

Back when I wrote my first article, I highlighted two research studies about elevation training masks. The first study found that elevation training masks showed a major reduction in oxygen at the 9,000 feet and 15,000 feet settings when compared to the 3,000 feet setting. However, there was no significant difference between the 9,000 feet and 15,000 feet. The second article showed that males had an increase in power. I did mention though, that the second study was financed by an elevation training mask company so the results should be taken as a grain of salt. For a more in-depth breakdown of the studies, you can check out that article here.

The Latest Elevation Training Mask Research

A recent study out of Texas A&M tried to see if elevation training masks would look at male Reserve Training Corp cadets. The study recruited fourteen males with the average age of 20, 169 pounds, and 13.88% body fat. The cadets were then assigned to a control group and an experimental group.

Once assigned to their groups, the cadets took part in a training session. The training session consisted of warm up and cool-down period. Training session one was a moderate-distance run that was about two miles and performed by doing sixty seconds of slow jogging followed by ten seconds of sprinting. The second day of training was an eight station body weight circuit. Lastly, the third training day consisted of a four mile run at a steady pace.  The training period lasted seven weeks.

In week one, the cadets wearing the elevation training masks started with their settings to 3,000 feet. Each week after that the settings were increased 3,000 feet and maxed out at 12,000 feet after week four. The analysis after the training period showed no statistical difference increase in VO2max between the control group and the group wearing the elevation training masks. VO2max is the ability of your body to use oxygen.

Are Elevation Training Masks Pointless?

I haven’t subscribed to the theory that that elevation training masks help to increase athletic performance more than a well designed fitness program. What is your take? I certainly wouldn’t pay for the investment. If your location allows for it, you’re probably better off at actually training in a higher elevation than trying to stimulate that environment by wearing a mask.

 

Sources:

1. http://yourlivingbody.com/2015/11/02/should-you-use-an-elevation-training-mask/

2. http://yourlivingbody.com/2014/04/01/v02-max-fitness-level/

3. Warren, Brian G.; Spaniol, Frank; and Bonnette, Randy (2017) “The Effects of an Elevation Training Mask on VO2max of Male Reserve Officers Training Corps Cadets,” International Journal of Exercise Science: Vol. 10 : Iss. 1, Pages 37 – 43.