Ever wondered why some training programmes work for some athletes and not for others? Why some people are genetically gifted athletes? Why there is a fixed set of intervals for all athletes? Why certain drugs work for some and not others? Do compression socks work? What the hell does a VO2 max test tell you, is it just useless information? Is lactate friend or foe? I delve into the sport science world and try to find the answers to train smarter and hopefully become a better athlete. This page is written in my own thoughts and words with a cross-pollination from several other sites and links to the original articles. Some of it might sound like a rant but it is written to make you think. So if you read it without a open mind then your in the wrong place. Enjoy and open your mind.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


SpiroTiger:  Spiro what? sounds like a fuzzy little animal that lives in the woods!  Rather it is currently the only training device that can train your lungs effectively.  Sure there are other low cost devices such as Powerbreathe and PowerLung out there, but they will only allow one to train the respiratory muscles for about 30 seconds before one goes blue in the face and keels over panting.

The PowerLung is more like gym training for the lung where as the SpiroTiger was designed to train the endurance muscle of the lungs which will train the diaphragm, breathing co-ordination and the inter and intra muscles involved during breathing.

If used correctly will a athlete develop a larger VO2? Will you run/bike/ski/swim faster? Will you have more power? It all depends on what is limiting your performance... if you have a respiratory limitation and then strengthen this limiter then the answer to the previous questions is a possible yes. So for the same given heart rate, power output and effort your lungs could be more efficient.  Depending on how much you use and abuse the SpiroTiger (abuse because there is some unofficial protocols for hypoxia (IHT) training, disclaimer: The Spiro Tiger is not ( NOT ) build to be used as a IHT equipment but only as a diaphragmatic endurance training equipment the reason is the O2 and pCO2 reactions) you could improve the gas exchange in the lungs, improve muscle coordination of the muscles involved.  Example: If a athlete was tested to have a limitation of the respiratory system and strengthened the lungs he will likely be able to race or train longer before his diaphragm muscles starts to tire out, where upon his vT or TV (Tidal Volume) might likely drop (smaller TV), his breathing rate will increase and the body will have one of several reactions, one could be metaboreflex (here is another explanation, metaboreflex) or the ECGM (Extended Central Governor Model).   The better we can train our weakest system (which can be found through various tests) the better we can train the system before the ECGM or CGM "kicks in".

You may ask don't we train our lungs when doing normal exercise?  Yes and no!  How often can you stress your respiratory system to get the training effect you want for the lungs? If your lungs is not your weakest link and example your muscle utilisation is the limiter and you train just up to the point where the muscle is stressed (assume the other two systems do not compensating for it) then it is unlikely you will be able to efficiently and regularly train the respiratory system through normal exercise.

With the SpiroTiger a athlete can effectively train his lungs every day, but within reason, I wouldn't use it the day before a race or hard session in case the breathing muscles involved has not recovered in time.

Abit more on the device and my own findings using the SpiroTiger: The device works with a hand held unit that can be programmed for breathing frequency and bag size.  The unit will also give information if you continue to breath incorrectly at the current breathing rate (inhaling more air than is being exhaled and vice versa) that you will start to hyperventilate or go hypercapnia in which case the machine will shut down as a safety precaution.  Apart from washing the device there is zero maintenance cost to it.  A Pulse Oximeter is used as part of my Spiro training to monitor blood oxygen saturation which is also vital when doing Hypercapnia workouts. 

Using it one will unlikely see any difference for some weeks. The main problem with the device is boredom, working out session which is interesting and fits in with my normal training programme.

Is it a training session?  Damn right, a average session is about 25 - 45 minutes. Sometimes after a session I am totally knackered, out of breath and my stomach muscles hurt!   Why my stomach muscles are hurting is probably because  I am using my diaphragm more than normal. The Diaphragm plays a big part in core stabilization.  So strengthening of the diaphragm with breathing training could prevent or slow the process of a athlete falling apart at the core. 

I have noticed huge differences in breathing using the SpiroTiger as part of a warm up before a race or hard training session. Yup breathing into a bag that resembles a over sized condom in front of your team mates does make one look like a plonker! But while they are lying on the floor from the last sprint session and I am already walking down the hill for the next rep who's laughing then!  Some differences I have notice both from daily use and as part of a warm up is, not gulping or gasping for air, I seem to recover (respiratory) quicker between intervals.  I don't have erratic breathing patterns in the early parts of a session and my lungs don't hurt as much anymore. A warm up may vary depending on what kind of race warm up a athlete needs respiratory wise.  One theory is a warm up of the diaphragm to give a metaboreflex reaction before the start of a race so you have pushed the respiratory rate into over drive so that when the race starts the body doesn't panic and the metaboreflex is delayed. Or you simply need to control the CO2 level, so you could go either hypercapnia or hypocapnia all dependent on your race start type. There is no specific protocol and it is very individual, I myself am still trying different variations to see what works. 

Another area that I have noticed differences compared to the past has been when training at altitude (IHT and Hypercapnia is not suported by the manufacturer, a athlete should work with a physiologist or doctor when planning to use the SpiroTiger for other than what the manufacturer recommends). With all of this there could be other factors also involved but I believe a lot has to do with how I have trained my lungs which was previously not possible. Another area I will summarise in a later blog is the use of hypercapnia for recovery which comes mainly from Russian studies.

SpiroTiger is not the solution to winning a race that will make you go from zero to hero, but it will add another tool to your training box. Keep in mind when training the respiratory system with this device that you are only training a part of the whole working system and the results are very individual. For further reading on SpiroTiger training visit the SpiroTiger FaCT, SpiroTiger Time to try harder.

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