Physician Led • Outcomes Centered • Patient Focused

Inspiratory Muscle Training

What is IMT? Inspiratory muscle training (IMT) is a way to specifically train our breathing muscles for optimal


Why is IMT important for you? IMT accomplishes two things.  First, IMT reduces the breathlessness that is

associated with intense exercise.  Second, it reduces these muscles’ requirements for blood flow

during intense exercise, which spares blood (and the oxygen in it) for the working muscles in the limbs.  This has been shown in multiple clinical studies to result in measurable performance improvements.  Some of these improvements include:

  • Cycling: 2.6-4.6% improvements in 20-40K time trials
  • Running: 2% improvement in 5K split time
  • Rowing: 1.9-2.7% improvement in 6-20 minute time trials
  • Soccer-specific performance test:  17% improvement
  • Swimming: 1.5-1.7% improvement in 100-200 m swim performance.
  • Altitude-sports:
    • 25% reduction in the breathing requirement of
    • 14% reduction in the cardiac output requirement
      of exercise
  • Reduction of symptoms of exercise-induced asthma or vocal cord dysfunction.
  • Triathlon:
    See above for component improvements.
    In addition, the work of breathing is lessened when:

    • Swimming in wetsuits
    • Riding in aero position

Similar improvements in endurance would be expected from sports such as basketball and football – there are simply no studies that have been done to measure this.  Finally, because the muscles of the chest and the diaphragm are important spine stabilizers, IMT improves core stability significantly.  This means that there is a role for it in physical therapy that goes beyond the expected improvements in endurance.

What is involved with IMT? Inspiratory training involves a minimal time commitment.  IMT involves inspiration (breathing in) against a pre-set resistance.  The resistance goes away during exhalation.  Full benefits from properly-directed IMT can be seen within 4-8 weeks of the start of a protocol involving thirty resisted breaths twice daily. This amounts to total training time of about one hour per week.  Because the limbs aren’t used, IMT can be done independent of an athlete’s training schedule.  When a patient at Stadia is started onto IMT, baseline measures of airway strength are obtained.  This allows us to choose the appropriate home training unit for a given individual and gives us a baseline to measure improvements over time.  After a couple weeks of isolated IMT, use of the inspiratory trainer can be continued independently or can be incorporated into a customized core stability training program.

Cost: Stadia Sports Medicine has entered into a bulk purchasing agreement with the manufacturer of what we consider to be the industry standard for inspiratory devices. These devices can be purchased for about $75.  IMT can be incorporated into a course of physical therapy when appropriate.

To learn more about inspiratory training and how it can improve your sport performance, call (515) 221-1102 to schedule a consultation.

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