Breathing - An Athlete's 'Secret Weapon'?

12 April 2011, 09:59 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

The way athletes breathe could be a ‘secret weapon’ in improving their performance, according to a Portsmouth scientist.

Dr Mitch Lomax, of the University of Portsmouth, claimed that training the muscles used for breathing, known as inspiratory muscles, could boost performance by 15%.

Dr Lomax said: “People overlook that the muscles responsible for breathing are the same as other muscles and training or warming them up before playing sport means you will perform better.

“Doing both training and warming up is the best of all.

“Anecdotally I know some athletes use inspiratory muscle training devices but they don't acknowledge it, they know it gives them an edge over their competitors and they don't want to let on.

“Any little bit of advantage you can get legally as a sportsman or woman is worth doing and training and warming up the muscles responsible for breathing in is incredibly easy to do.”

In the study, Dr Lomax used an inspiratory muscle training device which works in a similar way to other resistance training devices to build muscle strength.

An athlete doing training would use such a device to do one set of 30 breaths twice a day and would then do a further two sets immediately prior to the sporting event as a warm-up.

Dr Lomax tested 12 runners over six weeks and found that those who did inspiratory muscle warm-ups improved their times by 5% to 7%.

Those who did inspiratory muscle training improved their times by 12% and those who did both improved by 15%.