‘Every Second Counts’

Who are OPRO?

Founded by Dr. Anthony Lovat, BDS over 15 years ago, OPRO has become the world's leading manufacturer of mouthguards and the first choice for both amateur and professional sportsmen and women around the globe.

OPRO has always taken a scientific and analytical approach to developing products and was granted the Queen's Award for Innovation in recognition of its groundbreaking work.

More recently OPRO has extended its professional approach to product development into the world of sports performance. The RespiBelt is brought to you by OPRO360, OPRO's new sports equipment division, and is the first of that division's specialised and patented products aimed at helping athletes improve both endurance and performance in their chosen sport.

Who Developed the RespiBelt?

The team behind the development of the RespiBelt is from Progressive Sports Technologies based at the Sports Technology Institute at Loughborough University.

Progressive is a sports research and development company using research led insights in product development. Founding director Professor Mike Caine studied the effects of breathing training during his own PhD, and at the time, was part of the group headed by Professor Alison McConnell who developed the Powerbreathe products. Breathing training devices have previously been mouth based, breathing through airflow resisting valves. There are both advantages and drawbacks with these devices. The main drawback being that it is not possible to train in an ambulatory mode i.e. running, with the devices in the mouth, and as such specific adaptations are not optimised. By providing the resistance against the expansion of the ribcage rather than at the airway, dynamic ambulatory breathing muscle training becomes possible.

The Inventors - Professor Mike Caine, LU & Ross Weir, Progressive.

Professor Caine worked with Alison McConnell, Professor of applied physiology at Brunel University, developing and evaluating McConnell's invention, Powerbreathe. Professor Caine has remained at the forefront of breathing muscle training with the development of RespiBelt and other devices still under development in the labs at Loughborough Universities, Sports Technology Institute.

Ross Weir conceived the RespiBelt concept with Professor Caine. Ross has subsequently driven the product development and validation program through Progressive Sports Technologies, based at the Sports Technology Institute, Loughborough University, UK.

Why Train the Breathing Muscles?

At rest breathing requires very little effort. But, and it's a big one, as breathing effort increases and the unpleasant sensation of breathlessness begins, breathing can quickly become uncomfortable.

Breathing draws air into the lungs where oxygen is absorbed into the blood stream. As we exercise, breathing increases to remove the carbon dioxide that builds up in the exercising muscles, delaying the fatigue of exercise.

To breathe we have to work against the resistance of the both the ribcage and the airways of the lung. Professor McConnell describes in her book, Breath Stronger, Perform Better, that athletes working at the highest levels of physical effort, such as an Olympic rower maintaining 460Watts of effort, would require their breathing muscles to produce a further 85watts to power breathing. In this situation the breathing muscles are using 16% of the energy available. The 85watts required for breathing is a huge additional demand on the elite athlete's finite resources.

There are also activities which further add to this breathing effort. These include cycling, due the bent body position, and Swimming, due to the added water pressure pressing on the thorax. Alsoin this category is the wearing of backpacks, body protection, modern swim suits, wet suits, body armour, ballistics vests and respirator masks etc which will all add to the breathing effort. As an example, wearing a loaded backpack and a thermal facemask whilst hiking at altitude will cause a significant increase on the breathing effort.

In addition, the respiratory system is prioritised over that of the exercising muscles. At high exercise efforts oxygenated blood can be diverted by the body from the exercising muscles to protect the respiratory system from catastrophic fatigue.

Trying to train the breathing muscles without a load is not effective. Using running as an example, when running at your 10k pace the breathing muscles are working at 60% of their maximum, unfortunately this is not enough to fully stress the breathing muscles. To reach the effective training zone which is >75% of maximum effort requires your fastest 3k pace. As such the volume and duration of training for these muscles is too low.

Exercising with the RespiBelt imparts an additional training load to the breathing effort, therefore a significant training effect can be enjoyed, but at lower levels of exercise intensity and for the longer periods of time, ideal for targeting the breathing muscles. The breathing muscles adapt becoming stronger and more efficient. In turn, this brings overall improvements in athletic performance, such as improvements in running economy; you will use less energy, your movement is more efficient and exercise feels easier.

Combined with modern training techniques, necessary duration and intensity of athletic training, this product will make you faster and more efficient than your competition.

Don't give your competitors the edge, stay ahead of the pack.

Why a Compression Belt?

Unlike mouth based training devices, RespiBelt loads the breathing muscles around the ribcage using compressive elastic fabrics. This means that training of the breathing muscles can be achieved as the same time as other forms of training i.e. while out on a run, on your bike, in the pool. This provides the vital benefits of 'training specificity' to the physiological adaptations made. It's simply not practical to train with a mouth based device in the same way although the use of both products as part of your training regimen can be beneficial.

'Breathing Muscle' Training

For the most up to date understanding of breathing muscle training we recommend reading Professor Alison McConnells book, 'Breathe Strong, Perform Better'. Breathing Muscle Training is at the cutting edge of sport science. Modern research by scientists like Larson, Weiner, McConnell, Volianitis, Romer, Sharp, Boutellier and Spengler has shown breathing training will deliver performance benefits in the fields of sports, health and occupation.

Breathing training devices work using time tested muscle overload principles. In this case a training load is applied to the effort of breathing in. This loads the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, external obliques and other accessory muscles used for breathing. The adaptation of these breathing muscles results in increased strength, power and endurance.

RespiBelt is a garment based training device. Unlike hand held mouth based devices, which provide an airway resistance for the breathing muscles, RespiBelt provides resistance directly to the expanding thorax via an adjustable elastic belt.

Run+, Swim+, Cycle+, Move+

Published research suggests that training the breathing muscles will result in improved exercise efficiency; our own scientific testing of RespiBelt has confirmed this. As the breathing muscles require less energy and oxygen to do their demanding job, more is available to the locomotor muscles which need it most.

Additonally, sensations of breathlessness and 'runners stitch' may be reduced when the breathing muscles are well trained.

RespiBelt – Product, Materials and Features

The designs and patents that have been developed for the RespiBelt project have all been produced by the team at Progressive. The basic principle of the product is straightforward: to provide adjustable compressive load around the ribcage that will train the breathing muscle, without restricting the expansion of the ribcage.

The current version is a result of many hours' trials and tests, requiring the development of unique stretch fabrics to deliver the desirable loading profiles. In tests of the dynamic nature of the ribcage during breathing we found that the chest circumference can increase by around 10%, providing ample opportunity for applying an elastic training loads at the correct level. The elastic fabrics are the key component. They have to provide the extension and power to train the breathing muscles whilst remaining breathable, managing sweat and remain comfortable against the skin.

The elastics have been developed in the UK using the very best materials. On the inside of the belt a silicon print application provides a level of grip between the belt and your baselayer or skin, maintaining the RespiBelt in the correct position independent of the level of compression the user sets.

The adjustment of the elastic resistance is performed using a Velcro closure system. Using the Velcro allows the resistance bands to be adjusted very finely. Embroidered markings on the Velcro panels provide a reference for resetting and incrementing the training load.

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