Breathing Resistance Exercise

The flow of air in and out of the alveoli is called ventilation and has two stages: inspiration (or inhalation) and expiration (or exhalation). To accomplish this, the whole thorax moves and changes size, due to the action of two sets of muscles: the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm. These are the muscles that are strengthened by using the Expand-A-Lung® Breathing Resistance Exerciser, to enable you to breathe deeper, easier and better.

Inspiration (Inhaling) with resistance:

The diaphragm contracts and flattens downwards
The external intercostal muscles contract, pulling the ribs up and out
The volume of the thorax increases
More air is delivered deeper into the lungs
The lung and alveoli volume increases
More oxygen is absorbed

Expiration (Exhaling) with resistance:

The abdominal muscles contract, pushing the diaphragm upwards
The internal intercostal muscles contract, pulling the ribs downward
This gives a larger and faster expiration
More CO2 is expulsed
In essence, you inhale more oxygen, and you exhale more carbon dioxide. The result is a substantial improvement in shortness of breath and endurance through better breathing. All is done naturally, with the help of the Expand-A-Lung® Breathing Resistance Exerciser.

Research Support

ATTENTION ALL ATHLETES!!! Consider Training Your Respiration.

Boutellier U, Buchel R, Kundert A, Spengler C.

Department of Physiology, University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Recently, we have shown that an untrained respiratory system does limit the endurance of submaximal exercise (64% peak oxygen consumption) in normal sedentary subjects. These subjects were able to increase breathing endurance by almost 300% and cycle endurance by 50% after isolated respiratory training. The aim of the present study was to find out if normal, endurance trained subjects would also benefit from respiratory training. Breathing and cycle endurance as well as maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) and anaerobic threshold were measured in eight subjects. Subsequently, the subjects trained their respiratory muscles for 4 weeks by breathing 85-160 1 min.-1 for 30 min daily. Otherwise they continued their habitual endurance training. After respiratory training, the performance tests made at the beginning of the study were repeated. Respiratory training increased breathing endurance from 6.1 (SD 1.8) min to about 40 min. Cycle endurance at the anaerobic threshold [77 (SD 6) %VO2max] was improved from 22.8 (SD 8.3) min to 31.5 (SD 12.6) min while VO2max and the anaerobic threshold remained essentially the same. Therefore, the endurance of respiratory muscles can be improved remarkably even in trained subjects. Respiratory muscle fatigue induced hyperventilation which limited cycle performance at the anaerobic threshold. After respiratory training, minute ventilation for a given exercise intensity was reduced and cycle performance at the anaerobic threshold was prolonged.

In Summary, the condition of the respiratory system is more important for endurance exercise performance of healthy trained subjects than hitherto assumed. Not only do respiratory muscles fatigue during intensive endurance exercise, but prefatigued respiratory muscles can also impair performance. In turn, respiratory resistance training can improve endurance exercise performance.


Claes E.G. Lundgren, M.D., PhD., professor of physiology and Biophysics in the State University of New York, UB School of Medicine. This research was supported by the US Navy Experimental Diving Unit.

In this pioneering work, subjects who followed breathing resistance training improved their snorkel surface swimming time by 33% and their underwater Scuba swimming time by 66%.
“The above data is in agreement with previous studies in cyclist, rowers and runners. They suggest that athletes in most sports could improve their performance by undergoing respiratory muscle training. It is also clear that the greater the stress on the respiratory system , the larger the improvement in performance.”
During high intensity exercise, when the breathing muscles become fatigued, the body switches to survival mode and “steals” blood flow and oxygen away from locomotor muscles. As a result, these locomotor muscles become fatigued and performance can suffer significantly. Increasing the strength of the respiratory muscles through breathing resistance exercise can prevent this fatigue during sustained exercise situations. The end result is better endurance performance!

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