Altitude training mask

Anyone experiment with the masks that replicate altitude? (for running, lifting, etc.) I have seen them out there, but I can't decide whether or not they are worth the 80-100 bucks... Any input appreciated!


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High altitude training is marketed as the reduction of Oxygen greater than 5,000 ft above sea level in a way to promote an altered muscle metabolism and increased mass of hemoglobin and Red Blood Cells.

The marketing strategy for this type of training also focuses on strengthening the diaphragm by adjusting the training mask's resistance (partial airway obstruction) to simulate different altitudes from about 3,000 feet up to 12,000 feet.

The marketing claim being the body adapts (acclimates to the higher altitude) by increasing the size of the cells and optimizes how muscles work more efficiently in this environment.

Unfortunately elevation or high altitude training masks do not replicate the high altitude or high elevation atmospheric environment. Further masks used to simulate or replicate being at higher elevation or high altitude are not worn for the days needed for the body to acclimate to high altitudes or high elevations.

Masks simulating high altitude cause insufficient intake of oxygen by creating a partial airway obstruction by at minimum increasing intake resistance and perhaps output resistance with no change in the atmospheric pressure the body is immersed in.

At sea level the body is immersed in an atmospheric pressure of 14.7psi at elevations of 3,000 feet above sea level the body is immersed in 13.2 psi of atmospheric pressure. At 8,000 feet above sea level the body is immersed in 10.9 psi of atmospheric pressure. At 12,000 feet above sea level the body is immersed in 8.7 psi of atmospheric pressure.

To simulate a 3,000 foot higher than sea level elevation the mask must cause a partial airway obstruction by creating a 1.5 psi differential. To simulate a 8,000 feet higher than sea level elevation the mask must create a 3.8 psi differential. To simulate a 12,000 feet higher than sea level elevation the mask must create a 6 psi differential.

It is asphyxia (insufficient intake) caused more so than hypoxia (decreased concentrations of oxygen in in the inspired air) caused. The decrease oxygen dissolved in the blood as in goes to higher elevations or higher altitudes is not actually a result of oxygen concentration as the environmental 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen air mix remains fairly constant up to 70,000 feet.

It is the physiology of the human body and chemistry of blood need to be immersed in a pressurized atmospheric environment that gets gasses of oxygen and carbon dioxide dissolved into the blood and plasma solution and perfused into and out of organs and tissues.

Acclimating to higher above sea level elevations and altitudes is the body adapting its physiology, chemistry, and biology to this lower atmospheric pressure environment. Acclimation requires more time (days of exposure in the environment) the higher the elevation or higher the altitude going to.

Using masks to simulate high altitude by asphyxia has significant medical risks as the elevation gain being simulated requires partial airway obstruction to create a higher intake pressure differential.

These medical risks particularly if an underlying cardio-pulmonary disease or condition is present include:

Edema of the lungs

Hemorrhage into lungs or plural space (tension pneumothorax/hemothorax)



Altitude air pressure calculator


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Effects of High Altitude Training
Absolutely agree 100%. This is the best explanation I have ever read as to why the masks dont replicate a high altitude or low oxygen environment.
I appreciate the thoroughness!

So I can definitely side with the fact that it does NOT replicate higher altitudes, but would you see any benefits to training with these masks? I see there are risks, but like everything there are risks. Just getting out of bed I could break an ankle.

Oxygen deprivation to the muscles seems to me as though it would make the muscles work harder under the given circumstance. The benefit I would see would be that when performing the same task without the mask, everything would seem rather easy.

That being said I am not an exercise physiologist, and if what I said seems like a bunch of crap, then please tell me. I have always just been curious about these and wondering if it could actually benefit in training.


Staff member
I personally do not believe such mask training has any benefits.

Waterboarding in my opinion provides the exact same improving fitness benefits.

If such mask training was a benefit, obstructive sleep apnea would be high altitude fitness training and not a serious heath risk medical problem.

If such training was beneficial so would Erotic asphyxiation or breath control play for purposes of sexual arousal be such a good concurrent effective fitness training option you could sign up for such sex activities at your local gym.

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">The Highest Price for Pleasure

.... One of the dangers of sexual asphyxiation is that it can trigger a heart attack. Deprived of oxygen, the chemistry of your blood changes. Those chemical changes can throw the heart into deadly heart rhythm abnormalities or cause and cardiac arrest. So you can die even if a partner loosens the noose. "The probability of a successful resuscitation is pretty low," Wiseman says. ...</div></div>

A bit more of the macabre nature of believing partial asphyxiation is the preferred improving fitness training method for any endeavor:

Modern propensities ; or, an essay on the art of strangling

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Open the video in YouTube and read the show more history. "His is most likely the first recorded death from erotic asphyxiation."
I own and occasionally use a Training Mask. Before I continue into my experience and discoveries, I'd like to agree with Yukon in that waterboarding may be just as beneficial.

To keep this short and simple, the Training Mask has taught me patience with high endurance training, for example; when training to run a sub 6 minute mile, pre Training Mask, it was easy to run with my mouth open to catch bugs and suck wind because of the intensity. Unfortunately I was never able to hit my mask because of fatigue. As of 03/02/15, I can run a 6 minute mile without sucking wind (gasping for air while running). I used the mask while going through a 4 week strength program and again discovered patience is a staple to training, as I was lifting 98-90% of my 1RM (Rep Max). I had strength gains, but am hesitant to credit the Training Mask. While having the Training Mask on, a seal is created around the mouth to prevent it from opening which has helped me exercise patience. Also, I anticipate to feel similar struggles when I find myself training at a greater altitude without the mask. None of my findings/discoveries have been scientifically or clinically proven. I am not a scientist, just a Wannabe.

That link above (helps) explain(s) the physiology of training at a higher altitude; however, Khan never mentions that specifically. Pay attention, you may get the idea.


Staff member
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: JBrandlen</div><div class="ubbcode-body">

That link above (helps) explain(s) the physiology of training at a higher altitude; however, Khan never mentions that specifically.</div></div>Physiology is not mentioned because it is limited to only discussing three laws of physics related to gasses and not the physiology of the human body's need for and utilization of a gas mixture.

In a gas mixture the pressure of any individual gas in a container is equal to the pressure it would exert if it was the only gas in the container. Thus at sea level atmospheric pressure of 14.7 psi the partial atmospheric pressure of oxygen is 3.07 psi. This is the starting point of the oxygen cascade, as one moves down through the body to the cell, oxygen is diluted down, extracted or otherwise lost, so that at cellular level the PO2 may only be 3 or 4mmHg.

In most simplified form of mechanically explanation breathing is just a displacement pump of chest volume increasing and decreasing. Further, biologically and physiologically the mechanical pump design of the chest and lungs is not designed to create a perfect vacuum to draw air in or squeeze chest cavity and lung volume to nothing to force air out. From a mechanical efficiency and effectiveness of the pump perspective the partial pressure of gases in a mixture of gases doesn’t have any controlling or manipulative influence.

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">SUCTION HEAD vs PERFORMANCE pertinent to pump theory gives some insight to the importance of atmospheric pressure and cavitation that can occur if the air flow is partially or totally obstructed.</div></div> In the human body cavitation is connected to edema (fluid from lung tissue swelling) and tension pneumothorax/hemothorax medical conditions.

Unfortunately the videos correlation to lung mechanics has a disconnect in that as long as the heart is beating the lungs is never a closed sealed container even when holding breath. As the blood flows through the lungs the circulatory system is attempting to get oxygen (02) from the lungs and concurrently attempting to put Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the lungs.

The referenced video also fails to address physiologically the decreasing O2 partial pressure as altitude 8,000 feet above sea level is passed cause changes in blood chemistry that put more strain on other organs such as the Kidney and Liver to minimize the metabolic damage the body is being exposed to. This adaptation to lower air density (lower O2 partial pressure) is acclimatization.
23 Feb 2015 I tested my VO2 max with equipment I have access to in the gym that I work; it was 59.1 ml/kg/min. Per this discussion I dedicated my time to research and efforts to increase my VO2 max. Today, 24 Mar 2015, I tested my VO2 max. In the month of training to increase my VO2 max it is now, 62.9 ml/kg/min. During the month I exercised 6x/wk for at minimum of 60 minutes. I DID NOT USE MY ELEVATION TRAINING MASK EVERY DAY. My frequency of using the mask was 2 days on, 1 day off. The last week of training was composed of "2-a-days" on 4 of the 6 days.

Things to note, I would run, swim, row, yoga (sometimes hot yoga), hike (always with a 45lb ruck), recreational sports, and ride. Before I tested both occasions, it was at the same time of day, no caffeine or exercise before the test, same testing environment, same body position.

I'm absolutely open to questions, comments, and criticism (Yukon). There is more to report; however, I need to get back to work.


Staff member
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: JBrandlen</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> I tested my VO2 max with equipment I have access to in the gym that I work;...
I'm absolutely open to questions, comments, and criticism (Yukon). There is more to report; </div></div>Laboratory testing is the only accurate method for determining your VO2 max.

Self VO2 max testing is an estimation calculation and accuracy of such tests are suspect as other significant anthropometric measures are often not considered.

anthropometric measurements a set of noninvasive, quantitative techniques for determining an individual's body fat composition by measuring, recording, and analyzing specific dimensions of the body, such as height and weight; skin-fold thickness; and bodily circumference at the waist, hip, and chest.
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