Does respiratory muscle training increase physical performance?

Mil Med. 2009 Sep;174(9):977-82. doi: 10.7205/milmed-d-04-6408.


Special force units and military personnel undergo demanding physical exercise and might benefit from high-intensity respiratory muscle training (RMT) by increasing their endurance performance. This study examined the effects of a 6-week high-intensity RMT on running performance and oxygen uptake (VO2max) in a group of German Special Force Squad members.

Methods: 17 participants were randomly assigned to a training or control group. Baseline and post-testing included a ramp test, as well as an incremental test on a treadmill, performed to physical exhaustion. VO2, respiratory exchange ratio, and heart rate were measured breath by breath. Furthermore, maximum running speed (V(max)), 4 mmol x 1(-1) lactate threshold (V4) and perception of respiratory effort were determined. During pulmonary testing, sustained maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressure (PI(max) and PE(max)) were obtained. RMT was performed daily at approximately 90% PI(max) for 6 weeks with 2 x 30 breath cycles using an Ultrabreathe lung trainer.

Results: No statistical differences were detected between the groups for any parameter after RMT.

Conclusion: High-intensity RMT did not show any benefits on VO2max and endurance performance and are unlikely to be of benefit to military or paramilitary training programs for an increase in endurance performance.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Running / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult