Recent Advancements in Our Understanding of the Ergogenic Effect of Respiratory Muscle Training in Healthy Humans: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Shei, R-J. Recent advancements in our understanding of the ergogenic effect of respiratory muscle training in healthy humans: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res 32(9): 2674–2685, 2018—Respiratory muscle training (RMT) has been shown to be an effective ergogenic aid for sport performance. Respiratory muscle training has been documented to improve performance in a wide range of exercise modalities including running, cycling, swimming, and rowing. The physiological effects of RMT that may explain the improvements in performance have been proposed to include diaphragm hypertrophy, muscle fiber–type switching, improved neural control of the respiratory muscles, increased respiratory muscle economy, attenuation of the respiratory muscle metaboreflex, and decreases in perceived breathlessness and exertion. This review summarizes recent studies on the ergogenicity and mechanisms of RMT since 2013 when the topic was last systematically reviewed. Recent evidence confirms the ergogenic effects of RMT and explores different loading protocols, such as concurrent exercise and RMT (i.e., “functional” RMT). These studies suggest that adapting new training protocols may have an additive improvement effect, but evidence of the efficacy of such an approach is conflicting thus far. Other recent investigations have furthered our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning RMT-associated improvements in performance. Importantly, changes in ventilatory efficiency, oxygen delivery, cytokine release, motor recruitment patterns, and respiratory muscle fatigue resistance are highlighted as potential mechanistic factors linking RMT with performance improvements. It is suggested that future investigations focus on development of sport-specific RMT loading protocols, and that further work be undertaken to better understand the mechanistic basis of RMT-induced performance improvements.

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