3 Reasons NOT to Wear a MMA Altitude Training Mask

Posted: November 4, 2014 in conditioning, Exercise, Fitness, kettlebell, MMA, muscle, power, strength, workout
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I suppose if you are dressing up for Halloween as Bane, it might be a good idea to strap on one of those fancy MMA high altitude simulating masks, but if it doesn’t happen to be October 31st, there is a pretty good chance all that mask is doing is making you look like an idiot.  All the rage these days, training masks that have been popularized by the psuedo-science laden MMA magazine advertisements and Facebook ads alike, don’t hold up to the stringent demands of real science. Let me drop some actual knowledge on you about these  masks so you can better choose your workout gear going forward and hopefully avoid those nasty looks people keep giving you..

bane mma mask

What do these masks promise to do for the unsuspecting user?

  • Improved oxygen uptake
  • Improved anaerobic capacity
  • Increased lung capacity

The claims by the manufacturers of these masks are loosely attributed to the mask simulating training at high altitude (because the breathing restriction aspect of the mask allows less air/less oxygen in each breath) which allegedly causes the user to have lung efficiency adaptations.

So now we know what the claims are, let’s take a look at the science to see if it supports these claims.

  • Improved oxygen uptake – This one falls apart REAL quickly. The basic principle of the oxygen deprivation mask is riding the tails of LLTH (Live Low Train High) principle…. i.e. you wear the mask only when you are training to simulate altitude. This has been proven false. In the study, “Is Hypoxia Training Good for Muscles and Exercise Performance?” authors Vogt and Hoppeler clear this up by stating, “… A common feature of virtually all studies on “live low–train high” is that hypoxic exposure only during exercise sessions is not sufficient to induce changes in hematologic parameters. Hematocrit and hemoglobin concentrations usually remain unchanged with “live low–train high.”  Next…
  •  Improved anaerobic capacity – In the study “Effects of intermittent hypoxic training on aerobic and anaerobic performance. ” authors Cable and Morton found that hypoxic training (using a mask or training at altitude) had, “no enhanced effect on the degree of improvement in either aerobic or anaerobic performance.”  Damn you science!!!
  • Increased lung capacity – All right, last chance here training masks! On the third and final chance at bat, the training masks actually deliver….well…kinda.  It is true that there indeed is an increase in lung capacity due to the restricted nature of these masks, however, that increase did NOT lead to an increase in any of the important aspects of performance such as VO2MAX or anaerobic capacity. Darn!

mma mask fitness

While it might feel like I am here to bash the entire genre of altitude simulation/MMA training masks, the reality is I am just trying to be a clear voice of science founded reason on the topic.  I think it is important to note that while the above info beats down the mask’s ability to back up the claims of the marketers out there, it does actually have a very viable use for MMA athletes.  Wearing these masks makes it hard to breath and “smothers” the user so that they have to adapt psychologically to wearing them and thereby become prepared should an opponent block their breathing in a fight(this is legal to do in MMA) it won’t have as dramatic of an impact on the training mask user.  See, one good point after all!

If you don’t mind looking like a dork and you want to improve your mental game for MMA, then a training mask might be the thing for you!  Everyone else, keep on doing whatever you were already doing…

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