Effects of respiratory muscle training on performance in athletes: a systematic review with meta-analyses

J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jun;27(6):1643-63. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318269f73f.


The purpose of this study was to perform a systematic review to determine if respiratory muscle training (RMT) improves sport performance and respiratory muscle strength and endurance. Methodology followed the Cochrane Collaboration protocol. MEDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, PEDro, EMBASE, EBM reviews, and COCHRANE electronic databases were searched until July 2011. Articles were included if: (a) participants were athletes; (b) RMT was compared with sham or control in a randomized controlled design and included outcomes of respiratory muscle and sport performance; and (d) published in English. Quality assessment using PEDro and data abstraction was performed by 2 authors. Outcomes evaluated were measures of sport performance, exercise capacity, spirometry, and respiratory muscle strength and endurance. Meta-analyses were performed on outcomes reported in 2 or more papers. Results of this systematic review revealed that of the 6,923 citations retrieved from the search strategy, 21 met the inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses demonstrated a significant positive effect of RMT on sport performance outcomes of time trials, exercise endurance time, and repetitions on Yo-Yo tests. Inspiratory muscle strength and endurance improved in most studies, which in part, was dependent on the type of RMT employed. Determination of the type of athlete that may benefit most from RMT was limited by small sample sizes, differing RMT protocols, and differences in outcome measures across studies. In conclusion, RMT can improve sport performance. Closer attention to matching the ventilatory demands of RMT to those required during athletic competition and more aggressive progression of training intensity may show greater improvements in future studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance
  • Respiratory Muscles / physiology*