Coaches fear that players will not be fit enough to return immediately to football after the coronavirus lockdown. While players are doing their best to stay match fit during this enforced off-season, social-distancing and staying at home is limiting their training opportunities.
Lack of space and equipment will have a detrimental effect on players’ speed, agility, strength, power and stamina. Stamina is vitally important as top-level players will cover a lot of ground (about 10-11km) during a 90-minute match. Equally critical to a great performance is having the strength to be more powerful and explosive throughout a match. So, having strong breathing muscles to cope with these demands is critical.
Breathing is driven to its highest level in players who have to cope with intermittent sprinting during the game. In fact, breathing fatigue affects more than a player’s running ability. Having strong, fatigue-resistant breathing muscles are essential for the twisting and flexing movements of the trunk during sprinting. They also contribute to stabilising and turning the body during kicking. It’s no surprise therefore that match-play induces breathlessness, as a player’s breathing will reach its highest level.
One area of training that specifically targets the breathing muscles, is POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training, or IMT.
IMT is scientifically proven 1 to increase breathing muscle strength and stamina and reduce breathing fatigue. In fact, in tests IMT:
IMT improves performance too. In fact, research 2,3 suggests that blood flow (and therefore oxygen delivery) to other exercising muscles, such as the legs, is inversely related to respiratory work. This means that the inspiratory muscles (mainly the diaphragm and intercostals), are capable of stealing blood from other working muscles. So, when a player’s body senses a conflict between breathing work and leg work, it will shut down blood flow to the legs, sparing blood for the diaphragm. As a result, performance is impaired while the diaphragm recovers.
POWERbreathe IMT helps the body meet the needs of both the respiratory muscles and the skeletal muscles by improving the strength and stamina of the breathing muscles. It achieves this is by providing an adjustable resistance to breathe in against. POWERbreathe IMT is just like a ‘dumbbell for your diaphragm’.
Just 30 breaths twice a day is the scientifically proven training protocol for POWERbreathe IMT. If players adhere to this, they will improve their breathing muscle strength and stamina in just 4-weeks.
Players are already using POWERbreathe IMT prior to playing a match. By using it to warm-up their breathing muscles, they are helping to avoid the sense of increased breathing effort and breathlessness they experience during the first few minutes of activity. Additionally, substitutes are using POWERbreathe IMT before being called up, to help avoid breathlessness from the moment they run onto the pitch.
Furthermore, a player’s breathing must recover quickly if they are to continue to make an active and effective contribution to the game. The extreme demands the game of football places on a player’s breathing will generate high levels of lactic acid. Research shows that a POWERbreathe IMT recovery session helps to speed lactate clearance more effectively than traditional active recovery strategies. In fact, breathing against a small inspiratory load immediately after any form of exercise reduces lactate by 16%. A POWERbreathe IMT also helps players recover more quickly because, unlike a normal active recovery (which usually takes approximately 5-minutes to speed-up lactate clearance), inspiratory loading reduces lactate as soon as exercise stops.
Finally, University of Kent research finds that while undergoing pre-season fitness and medical screening, a high-rate of players were found to have previously undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma (EIA). In fact, 3 out of 10 elite footballers may have undetected lung and airway problems. The result of this is a call for lung health screening, along with heart health screening that is in place at clubs following high-profile deaths from cardiac arrest. Clubs would therefore find it beneficial to include POWERbreathe IMT into every player’s daily training programme.