I'm seeing conflicting opinions while googling about this. Is running with a training mask on beneficial in terms of improving VO2max? Can it be worn during comparatively light training activities like a tempo run?

  • Additionally, there are a couple other similar questions on the site with other studies linked.
    – JohnP
    Mar 5, 2021 at 17:33
  • VO2max is not really even a well-founded scientific concept in the first place. As you increase pace, supposedly there is a plateau in your oxygen consumption, which is your VO2max, but for many runners and cyclists, there actually is no plateau. Among trained athletes who are performing similarly, VO2max don't correlate with differences in performance. Some elite athletes dramatically improve performance and at the same time their VO2max goes down. It would be better just to refer to aerobic performance rather than VO2max, which is just one measure of aerobic performance.
    – user6305
    Mar 6, 2021 at 1:17
  • @BenCrowell: I'm reading a book called Running Formula and it corroborates what you said. It says that VO2max isn't as much a great indicator of running performance as are the speeds at various levels of VO2. Which is to say: what matters more is the speed at VO2max and the slope of VO2 vs. speed line. Mar 7, 2021 at 17:34

1 Answer 1


tl; dr - Masks are (mostly) gimmicks.

They advertise as being able to raise VO2 max, by simulating high altitude training. This would in turn, raise EPO in the body, which then in turn stimulates red blood cell production, increasing oxygen transport.

In reality, while they may increase the muscle tone of the breathing muscles (intercostals, etc), they do not perform as advertised regarding increasing oxygen capacity. In fact, a couple of studies (admittedly with small sample sizes), have shown that maskless people training in the same manner/environment had better results than those wearing the masks.

Here are a couple studies you can read through, with the summary below:


Wearing the ETM while participating in a 6-week high-intensity cycle ergometer training program does not appear to act as a simulator of altitude, but more like a respiratory muscle training device.


This study concluded that the ETM did not cause a significant increase in VO2max under the training conditions of this study. However, results may differ if there is an increase in the frequency of exposure to the ETM, as well as an increase in the duration of the training period.


No-between group differences were found in any parameter (ANCOVA), therefore the two protocols should be considered equally effective.

  • It's just common sense and physics - how can breathing through a straw change air density?
    – ruslaniv
    Mar 6, 2021 at 9:17
  • I would also delete the mostly word. Are there any studies showing stronger breathing muscles result in better performance?
    – ruslaniv
    Mar 6, 2021 at 12:27

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