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How High Are You? Do Training Masks Really Simulate Elevation

Recently elevation training masks have become a small trend. If you’ve seen the guy at your gym or running down the street in what looks like a Bane mask from Batman, then you’re a witness.

The idea behind these masks is that by limiting airflow during exercise, the athlete will experience similar effects of training at high altitude. Increased red blood cell count, which carries oxygen to muscles, is the desired effect of altitude training. When these athletes return to sea level their bodies are more efficient at transporting oxygen resulting in increased endurance.

Unfortunately, the positive effects of altitude training require an increase in altitude. Studies have yet to find or support any positive effects from elevation training masks. While the masks do make it harder to breath, simply increasing your strength of breath will not lead to an increase in performance. This is because getting air into the lungs when exercising isn’t the problem. The problem is getting oxygen to the working muscles.

All wearing a mask does is make it harder for air to get into your lungs. Studies have not found that masks lead to an increase in red blood cell counts. So in reality, wearing an elevation mask is no different than putting a plastic bag over your head and seeing how far you can run.

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