The once-odd notion of wearing a mask (outside of a Halloween party, of course) has now become commonplace with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. To keep transmission and infection rates lower among the general population, folks are recommended to mask up whenever they can’t practice proper social distancing (staying six-feet away from other people).
But before the appearance of the virus, the one place regular mask use wasn’t that out of the norm was at the gym since the fairly recent advent of restrictive breathing training masks. There was always one or two dudes who strapped up with a training mask to start huffing and puffing during HIIT workouts or cardio blasts on the elliptical.
Training masks are usually made out of neoprene and feature a few adjustable valves to alter the amount of air flow that’s getting to your lungs. They’re purported to do many things, like simulate the demands of training at higher altitudes and force your respiratory muscles to work harder to make them stronger and more efficient. Those claims play into the goals of anyone who’s trying to get an edge in building a great physique and take their fitness to the next level, which is pretty much everyone reading this website.
But do they really do anything besides make you look a little goofy (and menacing) while pounding out a few miles on the treadmill?
Before we get into whether these training devices can actually help boost your gains in the cardio department, let’s take a look at what may be happening with your respiratory system when you put one on. Obviously (like almost all of us know by now), placing a close-fitting mask around your mouth is going to make it harder to breathe. The restrictive air flow can also put more strain on your respiratory system, making it work harder to get the same result.
But do either of those reactions to the mask’s restrictions mean you’re becoming more efficient at using oxygen or actually getting fitter? And will they prevent the transmission of the coronavirus or other diseases?
Here’s what we found: