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Inspiratory Muscle Training

by Cyndi Otfinowski

Why try inspiratory muscle training?

People with Long Covid, stroke , and other breathing pattern disorders, including athletes, can benefit from respiratory muscle training. It is strength training for your diaphragm: up to 30 breaths, >3 days per week. If you are curious, keep reading….

Inspiratory muscle training has been shown to improve activity tolerance and reduce the feeling of shortness of breath with more intense activity, such as talking, singing, and running.

The diaphragm is responsible for the majority of the work of breathing. If we are not using our diaphragm efficiently and effectively, our breathing is more effortful, and we fatigue quickly. At rest, we may not notice. But with activity or exercise, we become short of breath or need to work harder to breathe. We may experience neck, shoulder, or chest pain if the muscles in these areas (aka. accessory muscles) are doing most of the work of breathing.

In order to get enough oxygen with activity, we increase the volume of air we breathe, followed by the number of breaths per minute. If our diaphragm is not strong, or not efficient, then the ability to increase the volume of air is limited and we may breathe faster to get enough oxygen, and fatigue quicker. As well, with increasing demand on the respiratory muscles, blood will be reduced to the arms and legs (metaboreflex) to provide oxygen and remove metabolites (waste from cells) in the core to ensure breathing continues. This will reduce activity tolerance and increase the feeling of breathlessness5 .

How can we solve this problem?

By learning how to breathe most effectively and efficiently with our diaphragm and then strength training our diaphragm with inspiratory muscle trainers. Physiotherapists can help you strength train your diaphragm with respiratory muscle trainers.


1. McNarry, M A., et al. “Inspiratory Muscle Training Enhances Recovery Post COVID-19:

A Randomised Controlled Trial.” European Respiratory Journal, January 1, 2022. .

2. Menezes, K KP, et al. “Respiratory Muscle Training Increases Respiratory Muscle

Strength and Reduces Respiratory Complications after Stroke: A Systematic Review.”

Journal of Physiotherapy 62, no. 3 (July 1, 2016): 138–44. .

3. McConnell, A. Respiratory Muscle Training: Theory and Practice. Elsevier Health

Sciences, 2013.

4. Chang, Y, et al. “Effects of 4-Week Inspiratory Muscle Training on Sport Performance

in College 800-Meter Track Runners.” Medicina 57, no. 1 (January 15, 2021): 72. .

5. Witt, J. D., J et al. “Inspiratory Muscle Training Attenuates the Human Respiratory

Muscle Metaboreflex.” The Journal of Physiology 584, no. 3 (2007): 1019–28. .

6. Dubé, B-P, and Martin D. “Diaphragm Dysfunction: Diagnostic Approaches and

Management Strategies.” Journal of Clinical Medicine 5, no. 12 (December 5, 2016):


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