Why MMA Training Masks Are Dangerous
The Dangers of MMA Training Masks
For those of you who train Mixed Martial Arts, I am sure you have seen the rise of what many people refer to as "training masks." These masks resembles a gas mask and restrict breathing for whomever wears it. The assumption is that this mask is making their cardiovascular workout more difficult, therefore building endurance more effectively than training without the mask. Are they correct? No, they are not!
The masks, for the uninformed, are supposed to simulate a condition known as "hypoxia" which literally translates to "low oxygen." This is achieved in situations of training at altitude which has proven aerobic endurance benefits. However, these masks do NOT simulate hypoxia, they create hypercapnia. Hypercapnia is when there is too much carbon dioxide in the blood.
If you were wondering if hypercapnia is bad for you, lets take a look at some of the adverse affects of hypercapnia:
- Reduced neural activity,
- Increased cardiac output (your heart beats much faster),
- Elevated blood pressure,
- Possible loss of consciousness,
- Possible convulsions,
- In severe cases, death.
The mask creates a facilitated "hypoventilation" which means it restricts your breathing in general. By trapping a portion of the air you exhale as well as restricting the flow of new air, you slowly become more and more hypercapnic as you inhale your carbon dioxide. There is a misconception that it creates hypoxia, because the wearer isn't breathing the same amount of oxygen. However, it's not just oxygen, they are getting dangerous levels of carbon dioxide.. This causes a lot of strain on your lungs and heart.
Among other things, wearing this mask also drastically decreases your training intensity. It is equivalent to strapping duct tape over your mouth and going for a run. Sure, you feel super hardcore, but you're super hardcore moving at about 25% of the speed you could be. Poor performance in training means poor performance under the lights. You can't afford to train at less than half speed for the sake of looking like you're using a new "cutting edge" training method.
A general red flag is that these masks generally run for less than $100. Similar machines which actually do create hypoxia (such as the ones sold by the company Hypoxico) are used by professional athletes and Olympians and run a price tag of several thousand dollars. If I were trying to sell you a motorcycle for $100, wouldn't you assume something was wrong with it before you bought it?
In closing, I may sound irritated by this new line of product, because I am and I'm not afraid to voice my opinion. I pride myself in training youth who aspire to become involved in combat sports, and I do not want dangerous products like these making their way into their hands. If you currently train with a mask or you know guys at your gym who train with them, I urge you to do some research on the topic before ever strapping that mask back on your face. In the mean time...
Train hard, train smart, and train safe!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.