Athletes are constantly searching for new ideas or training methods to help them gain an edge over their competition. Respiratory muscle training (RMT) falls into this category and typically involves a device that you breathe through, which can be made incrementally more difficult to use. The theory is it strengthens the muscle supporting your respiratory system. There are conflicting views and research on whether or not RMT actually improves sport performance. A recent study performed a systematic review to determine if RMT improves sport performance, along with respiratory muscle strength and endurance.
The study completed a systematic review using a method known as the Cochrane Collaboration protocol. The Cochrane Collaboration is an international network of more than 28,000 people from over 100 countries who prepare, update, and review more than 5,000 Cochrane Reviews. They also prepare the largest collection of randomized controlled trials in the world. EDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, PEDro, EMBASE, EBM reviews, and COCHRANE electronic databases were searched from 1946 to July 31, 2011 to find relevant information. Articles were included if: participants were athletes, RMT was compared to sham or control in a randomized controlled design and included outcomes of respiratory muscle and sport performance, and if research was published in English.1
Two authors used PEDro (a free physiotherapy evidence database of over 22,000 randomized trials, systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines in physiotherapy and data abstraction) to perform quality assessment and abstraction. The outcomes were evaluated based upon the measures of sport performance, exercise capacity, spirometry, and respiratory muscle strength and endurance. Meta-analyses were also performed on outcomes reported in two or more papers.2
The results of the systematic review showed that out of the 6,918 citations recovered from the search, only twenty-one met the criteria for inclusion. The meta-analyses showed a significant positive effect of respiratory muscle training on sport performance outcomes of time trials, and exercise endurance times and repetition on yo-yo tests.3
Most studies showed that muscle and strength endurance improved, but was mostly dependent on the type of respiratory muscle training implemented. The review was unable to narrow down the type of athlete who would benefit the most from RMT due to small sample sizes, a difference in RMT protocols, and differences in outcome measures among the studies.4
It be concluded that RMT can improve sport performance, respiratory strength, and endurance. However, more attention needs to be focused to match the requirements that RMT demands during athletic competition. More aggressive progression of training intensity may reveal greater improvements in future studies.5
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