If you're unsure what Apnea Training is, watch this video to learn more.
The Oxygen Advantage
As athletes, we constantly look to improve muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. However, during those brutal grinders, the first thing to go typically isn’t our muscles, capacity or pliability. Rather, it’s our breath. When our breath goes, there is a cascading effect that reverberates through our system leading to breaks, missed reps, dropped barbells and the like.
The upside to this problem is that you don’t need a gym to train your lungs. You just need focused effort and a plan. Apnea training is an exceptionally valuable endeavor and you can do it from the comfort of your own home, while on the couch watching television.
Apnea training or hypercapnia training is a fancy way of saying “holding your breath.” Yes, that silly game we played as kids where would see who could hold their breath the longest actually has been proven to be a quite effective tool in the effort to improve overall athleticism.
Breathing is the quickest way to both hype up and calm down your nervous system, thus learning how to breathe becomes exceptionally important when trying to rid your body of Co2, the byproduct of aerobic metabolism. The buildup of Co2 in your system causes a domino effect during brutal workouts which inevitably ends with you slowing down and your ability to tolerate and subsequently flush out Co2 from the system will give you a leg up over the guy who is sucking wind next to you. Your muscles crave oxygen but the exchange is one-for-one. One molecule of O2 in equals one molecule of Co2 out.
As mentioned above, breath holding and other forms of apnea training are designed to increase the body’s tolerance to carbon dioxide. When Co2 builds up, it is uncomfortable. It’s the sensation that causes your twelve-year-old self to shoot up from the bottom of the pool after a whopping twenty oxygenless seconds of impressing your friends. By incorporating doses of apnea training (static or dynamic) into your training you allow your body to adapt to the stress caused by Co2 build up.
During hypoxic training, you are depriving your body of its greatest need, oxygen. So of course, there are risk factors to be aware of during your bouts of holding your breath. Your body has built-in reactions to such threats to the system such as passing out. If you pass out in a pool by yourself holding your breath, you drown. If you pass out standing up, you will fall and hit whatever objects are between you and the floor. If you have a health condition that makes hypoxic conditions particularly life-threatening, then these techniques are NOT for you. The rule is to never do hypoxic work alone. ALWAYS have a buddy.
Provided all things are healthy and functioning properly, incorporating these techniques in small doses over time is both safe and effective and will improve your level of aerobic fitness drastically.