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What is Inspiratory Muscle Training?

By Christine Hudson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Inspiratory muscle training is a regimen of breathing exercises that aim to strengthen the respiratory muscles and make it easier for a person to breathe. It can be used in patients with emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, or other breathing ailments. These types of ailments have been shown to weaken and even deteriorate muscle bulk, including the muscles of the respiratory system, thereby depriving the body of necessary oxygen. This training is designed to strengthen and rebuild those muscles with controlled breathing exercises. Studies have also shown that this type of muscle training may also increase endurance during cardiovascular exercise or in sports.

During a normal breath, a person typically uses between 10 and 15 percent of his or her lung capacity. With inspiratory muscle training, a person typically can increase the amount of lung capacity used. Deeper breathing uses a bit more energy but also allows more oxygen to enter the bloodstream with each breath while strengthening the breathing muscles.

As one of the most popular respiratory training techniques, inspiratory muscle training can be performed at home with a training device, at a doctor’s office, or at a rehabilitation center. Devices provide resistance to force the diaphragm to expand more during breathing. The problem with the inspiratory training devices, however, is that the resistance they provide is nonlinear. If the person breathes slowly, only a small effort is required to produce flow through the device, meaning the true benefit and purpose of the device can be lost.

Basic inspiratory muscle training can be performed at home with some benefits. Training at home should usually only be done by athletes or exercisers wishing to improve performance. People with breathing conditions generally should not begin breathing exercises without the direction of a doctor. At-home training typically involves exhaling completely, breathing i slowly and deeply, and widening arm positions to open the diaphragm. Certain studies have shown the practice of "pursed-lip breathing" provides an advantage, as it creates back-pressure in the airways that are always open during the exercise.

Numerous studies have been performed to examine the benefit of inspiratory muscle training in patients with various breathing conditions. Difficulties have been encountered in some, creating less than optimal clinical situations and therefore controversial results. Still, others have improved training techniques and have more controlled clinical conditions, and have consistently demonstrated positive results. This creates a hopeful outlook for many people who have deteriorating breathing conditions.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon162198 — On Mar 22, 2011

Any tightness in your chest should be relayed to your doctor asap- there could be many causes, and if it's your heart as you suspect it needs help right away. Also important: your moderate emphysema could make things a little worse. Please call your doctor. If you can't reach him call 911.

By anon129477 — On Nov 23, 2010

I feel as if there is a belt around my chest and I can't expand my chest to take a full breath of air.I have moderate emphysema and I am on advair and combivent now for over a week. It don't feel as if its going to work. I still can't breath and it's very uncomfortable.I also have five stents because of coronary heart disease. I'm beginning to think it could be my heart again. any suggestions?

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