Have you seen folks at the gym or on the track sporting these intimidating black masks lately?
You may be wondering what’s up. Was there a new strain of bird flu you did not hear about making the rounds?
Best Elevation Training Masks
|Training Mask 3.0||
|GO4FIT Workout Mask||
|Sparthos Workout Mask||
|Elevation Training Mask 2.0||
|TEC Workout Oxygen Mask||
- What Gives?
- What’s the Big Deal About High Elevation?
- How do Altitude Training Masks Work?
- Can an Elevation Training Mask Boost Your Fitness?
- What to Look for Before Deciding on a Mask?
- Elevation Training Mask FAQs
- TOP 13 Best Elevation Training Mask Reviews 2020
To ease your mind, there is no new epidemic. These people are trying to improve their fitness.
These masks are high altitude training masks, also known as elevation training masks or resistance training masks, and they are all the rage with the fitness set today.
So you wear them at high altitude?
We will look at what these masks are, how they work, and if there is any real science to back up their use.
We will also look at what one doctor has to say, and give you our opinion on the 13 best masks available.
What’s the Big Deal About High Elevation?
Exercise at high altitudes or elevations causes your body to adapt to the lower barometric pressure of oxygen in the atmosphere at high altitudes.
High altitudes increase your oxygen transport capacity, so that when you come back down to lower altitudes, your capacity outpaces your body’s need for oxygen, for a time.
High altitudes stimulate red blood cell production and the formation of blood vessels.
How do Altitude Training Masks Work?
Makers of simulation altitude training masks seek to replicate the conditions found at higher elevations via a mechanism called hypoxemia.
Hypoxemia is a state of low oxygen in the blood. It is associated with high altitude, among other conditions.
These masks induce hypoxemia by breathing or re-breathing the air that has accumulated in the mask.
Since this air has already been in your lungs, it is lower in oxygen, thus hypothetically simulating the conditions at high altitude.
Hypoxic conditions stimulate the kidneys to produce erythropoietin, which causes the body to make red blood cells (resource). Increasing RBC count increases oxygen capacity which correlates with improved VO2 and endurance at low altitudes.
Read on to find out more.
Can an Elevation Training Mask Boost Your Fitness?
These altitude simulation masks are used by athletes because altitude training and respiratory muscle training are believed to improve the performance of athletes.
Since the 60’s athletes have been using altitude training to improve performance, a trend that started with the 1968 Olympics. Since then some athletes have worked to improve performance by living in altitudes above 2500 meters, and training at lower altitudes, below 1250 (resource).
This gave the athletes the benefit of altitude acclimatization and improved their VO2Max and aerobic capacity at sea level.
So this applies to Elevation training masks too, right?
Yes, but it is important to understand how they work.
These masks do not replicate high altitude perfectly, but they still confer several of the same benefits of high altitude training.
What does Science Say? Are They Legit, or Just a Scam?
It is complicated. We are going to get our science on, so beware.
Researchers of this new 2006 study in the Journal of sports medicine confirm that high elevation masks, or Elevation Training Masks (ETMs) do not completely mimic high altitude conditions.
What ETMs DO increase is ventilatory threshold (VT) Power output at ventilatory threshold, respiratory compensation threshold (RCT), and Power Output at respiratory compensation threshold (resource).
So what does all this mean?
Ventilatory threshold (VT) is the point during exercise where ventilation aka breathing, occurs at a rate faster than VO2.
What this means:
Respiratory Compensation threshold RCT also known as RCP Respiratory Compensation Point (RCP) is the point, or threshold in exercise where ”ventilation starts becoming excessive with respect to carbon dioxide output.”
What this means:
And “presence of a clear RCP implies a pretty maximal effort by the subject” it is believed that because these elevation training masks can increase the threshold, they can increase max power output.
According to the researchers, the results are clear:
What do Doctors Say?
This Sports Medicine Doctor has something to say about the masks in this short clip.
What to Look for Before Deciding on a Mask?
The best elevation training mask ETM’s come with adjustable resistance levels. These levels correspond to differing altitudes. Most masks have 4.6,8 or even 16 different “altitude” adjustments.
As an example, the Training Mask 2.0 has 6 settings of 3000, 6000, 9000, 12000, 15000, and 18000 meters.
The higher the setting, the greater the resistance of air flow.
Thickness of Material
This has more to do with comfort than anything. The new training mask 3.0 has a very thin material, whereas the Training mask 2.0 is a bit thicker.
Many athletes find the new 3.0 training mask more comfortable, and we think the 3.0 is the best elevation training mask available
Some masks use neoprene, nylon, medical grade silicone and rubber.
With these masks, the adage “you get what you pay for” applies, so buy the best quality mask you can afford.
This is an area where less expensive masks do not deliver. They fit of the mask must be good, in order to cause a barrier so air will not escape, otherwise, the mask will not perform its intended function.
Some masks use two straps, while some have only one. Some masks also have Velcro adjusters to get a better fit.
Elevation Training Mask FAQs
Do Altitude Training Masks Actually Simulate High Altitude Training?
High altitudes are known to have less available oxygen in the air, and in theory, using one of these masks restricts oxygen, because it restricts air intake, so that is why advertisers say they mimic altitude.
Altitude training masks most likely act more like a respiratory muscle training device. They do not precisely mimic the conditions of high altitude.
You can think of these altitude training masks as barbells for your lungs, because they are targeted to work the lung muscles by restricting air and making it harder to inhale.
It should be noted that these elevation masks to not mimic the change in pressure that comes with higher altitudes either, which does affect performance.
Are Elevations Masks Unisex? Can Elevation Training Masks be Worn by Women?
Yes, all masks are unisex and can be worn by either men or women. Just be sure to check the size chart and be aware that size is sometimes based on weight of the athlete.
Most masks fit athletes between 120 lbs and 230 lbs of either sex.
Do Elevation Masks Increase Your Lung Capacity?
Elevation training does not increase lung capacity, but instead increased lung capacity used. When you breathe, you use about 15 % capacity.
When you train with an elevation mask, you can increase the amount of lung capacity you use, over time.
Why Should I Use Elevation Training Masks When I Train?
Elevation masks train the respiratory muscles. When you exercise, your body demands more oxygen.
Because we need more oxygen when we exercise, we need to breathe deeper and take in more oxygen. In order to do this, we use our respiratory muscles.
When we train our respiratory muscles to be stronger it becomes easier to take in oxygen.
Of course, while we have the mask on, our breathing is restricted and taking in oxygen becomes more difficult. You cannot expect to see the increased performance while wearing the mask.
The benefit comes once the mask is off.
TOP 13 Best Elevation Training Mask Reviews 2020
In light of the new research done on the ETMs, we are curious to hear your thoughts and experiences? Do you think these masks are a passing fad or legit performance gear?
Drop us a line and let us know.
Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter. Your subscription gets you access to exclusive guides and content, plus you will be notified when new gear reviews come out.