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Is the elevation training mask any good?

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Many people are asking if there is any validity behind the Sean Sherk training mask so we thought we would shed some light on this question.  We have seen the questions like, “is this a gimmick or can it be used for real MMA Training” or “will this really increase my lung capacity or increase my oxygen intake?”.  So, we did some investigating and here is what we found.

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However, we are not here to debate if high altitude training works.  We feel that does not nee to be proven as it has been used by many elite athletes for many years and they wouldn’t go without it.  So, the assumption we are starting out with is that High Altitude training does work.  But, does this mask actually simulate elevation training?

Reducing the O2 in the air

How do High Altitude Training Masks Work?

There have been numerous elevation masks some that have actually worked and of course some that have been scams.  There are two basic ways that these masks have worked.

First, some have actually simulated high altitude training through modifying the oxygen levels.  They duplicate the lower oxygen content found at high

altitude, thereby reducing the amount of inspired oxygen. For example, the CAT system by Colorado Altitude Training reduces the oxygen content to 15.2% to simulate 9,000 feet at sea level.   Although the total pressure is unchanged, the inspired oxygen is the same as at high altitude. However the price tag of this system isn’t even available on the site which means it is probably not affordable to the average athlete.

Reduce the O2 to the body

The second method is to lessen the amount of total oxygen to the body so the body is made to use that oxygen more efficiently. With this reduced oxygen the athletes human is effected in several ways however the most important is that the red blood cells and new capillaries (small blood vessels) increase the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the entire body.  Some MMA athletes have even resorted to taping a snorkel to their head so they have to breath through the snorkel like Wanderlei Silva which obviously works since he has done this in numerous training camps.

Both Ways Work to Make the body Work More Efficiently

The bottom line is that both these systems work it just comes down to cost effectiveness and portability.


For most athletes that train they don’t have the luxury of having some sort of lap pool so there are basically training stationary.  In MMA there is not a way that has been devised yet to training the functional muscles while staying in one place where a hose can be attached to CAT (see above) like machine.  So the best way to combat this is to use the second method and reduce the O2 to the body instead of the air this way the athlete can move from station to station and exercise to exercise.

Cost Effectiveness

To reduce the actual O2 from the air is an expensive way to basically get the same effect as reducing the O2 from the body.  However, the second method is a much less pricey way to simulate high altitude training for athletes who don’t have the finances of an athlete in the NBA, or NFL.

So, is this for real or a scam?

It is our opinion along with many other MMA fighters and athletes that the Sean Sherk Elevation training mask simply works in getting the body to use O2 more effectively thus improving your overall cardiovascular conditioning.  It allows the MMA athlete to use in in any gym setting without a lot of hassle or without modifying your movement.  If you are interested in purchasing the elevation mask you can click on the image of the item to the left.

** To be completely up front we do sell the training mask at The MMA Zone.  However, we do sell the training mask because we think the points in this article shed some light on the validity of this training tool.

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44 Comments For This Post

  1. gbshaun Says:

    It’s easy to tell, absolutely definitively, if the mask is simulating altitude by using a fingerclip Pulseoximeter. These used to be expensive medical devices, but now i see them for the public for under $100.
    When you are at altitude, especially exercising, the blood saturation level drops below the usual 96-99%. I think for an altitude effect during exercising the levels need to down in the lower 80′s. It’s the reduced saturation which causes the body to adapt, so no desaturation no altitude training effect.
    There used to be a re-breather device for exercisng on the market 30 years ago, but it had canisters or sodasorb in a backpack to scrub the CO2. Aparently it did enable the desaturation, but was bulky. Do a google search for “Po2 Aerobic Exerciser”

  2. Tony Thacker Says:

    Thanks for the tip and comment that is awesome to know. I haven’t seen the Po2 Aerobic Exerciser but you have peeked my interest I will go and take a look. Thanks again for the great comment!

  3. Ray Lasky Says:

    “I was currently at the fitness expo with a few friends and actually got the chance to use this mask first things first its a GREAT and amazing idea, i wanted to try this peice of equipment and see if the hype added up, we got to see sean sherk use it and then we got our chance to go on stage and do 5 stations with the mask. OK I MUST SAY THIS…. OMG after the first excercise i noticed a much different breathing patern within my self, taking longer and harder breaths, about half way through my second excercise my lungs were on fire, and i (THOUGHT) i was in good shape. The mask basically made everyone of us look like amatures in the ring .. other then sherk of course!! I made it to the 4th excercise and started to feel a bit light headed but kept pressing on, i was soooo tired and oxygen deprived but felt almost (euphoric) as the 5th excericise ended i ripped the mask off my face gasping for air! I then felt the real effects of (oxygen deprived altitude training) for those of you on the board asking if it works

    … YES IT WORKS, and it works GREAT!!! i got a free mask for doing the seminar but was going to purchase one even if they didnt give it to me. This is and probably will be the BEST training/ work out tool i have ever used. I now have used it 4 more times and seem to have better and better cardio as i use it, the VO2 (lung capacity expansion) is UNBELIEVEABLE!! i suggest to anyone who is thinking about buying one to get one.”

  4. Sam Says:

    This looks like a good ideas but, i have been through that article and i am still not sure, to me it does not appear to simulate altitude as the only way to do that is change the pressure of the air or the make up of the air you inhale, this appears to just make it harder to breath and that restriction and extra effort is the “altitude effect” not a true altitude effect will make you hypoxic yes lowering the oxygen saturation but not bringing about the same physiological effects, in saying that i would imagine there would be some benefit from adding this to your training. I would love to learn more if there is some more data out there would be good to see it.

  5. Jeff Says:

    I own this mask and I feel like it was a great purchase, it’s not supposed to simulate altitude, it’s just simulating the amount of O2 at different altitudes. It helps you to learn to take good deep breaths which saturates your blood with more O2. It also helps a great deal with your mental game because this mask will make you want to quit within 10-15 mins. It’s about working more efficiently with more quality and less quantity.

  6. Tony Thacker Says:

    Hey Jeff,
    Thanks for the info and comment. I am very glad to hear that you are happy with your mask and it is helping your cardio!
    Take Care,

  7. Roy Witty Says:

    Is it safe to sleep while wearing this mask?

  8. Tony Thacker Says:

    We don’t recommend that you sleep in the mask. You will get the benefits of it while wearing it working out.
    Thanks for the question and comment!

  9. Phil Says:

    Does the mask restrict the total amount of air intake, making it physically harder to breathe or does it only reduce oxygen levels? So does it provide resistance training for your respiratory muscles or make your whole body more anaerobic?

  10. Tony Thacker Says:

    The mask reduces oxygen level which makes your body use the oxygen it has more efficiently. It also makes your whole body more anaerobic since the muscles in your body have to produce the active work with less oxygen, much like training at the higher altitudes. Thanks for the question, it was a very good one.

  11. Craig Says:

    I bought one of these masks a couple months ago to help in supplemental training for an upcoming Mt Kilimanjaro climb (19,340ft). I live in the Midwest U.S. so any real altitude training is over 1,000 miles away from me. I was skeptical before buying it and had read all sorts of reviews and forums about altitude training.
    I ended up using the mask regularly for 1 month before i left for the trip and i did anything from wearing it for an hour while watching tv, to wearing it during part of my regular training routine.
    I have no doubts whatsoever that it works and that it helped me successfully summit. When I bought it I planned on just reselling it on ebay after my training was done, but now I’m so convinced about its results I’m keeping to use during regular exercises and training for other upcoming trips.

  12. Tony Thacker Says:

    Awesome thanks for the great comment Craig! I am glad you found it to work for you.

  13. Doctor Alex Alexander Says:

    I recently saw a patient in my clinic with Hb of 190. Last time it had been checked it was 150. He was a non smoker.

    Tests were done for Sleep Apnea and he was found to have this conditon. During sleep his breathing was so slow that his oxygen saturation dropped to below 90.

    Subsequent to this he was treated with a CPAP (Constant Positive Pressure Ventilation) Machine, and over the next 6 months his Hb dropped back to 145 (normal).

    There are two main points.

    First, it is not healthy for the body to be in a state of restricted breathing while sleeping ( or while doing anything else for that matter), if it is to be for prolonged periods.

    Second, the low pO2 stimulates the production of erythropoietin from the kidneys and this causes the body to increase the Hb.

    Erythropoietin is also used by cyclists to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and is illegal.

    It is my opinion that it is safe to use the mask if you are a highly conditioned athlete whose body tissues such as brain, heart etc. can withstand tissue hypoxia for short periods of time.

    Anyone else should use it with caution, and seek medical advice first.

    Having said that I have been using the mask myself for very light training doing TaiChi and Wing Chun and find it very good.

    Doctor Alex Alexander
    South Australia

  14. Tony Thacker Says:

    Dr. Alexander,
    Thank you for your comments, and we also agree that you should only be using the mask to go from good to great condition and not from out of shape to in shape conditions. These are made to get the body ready for extreme circumstances and should not be taken lightly. Again thank you for your comments and it was very well said!

  15. David Says:

    Is the mask safe for an Asthmatic to use?

  16. Tony Thacker Says:

    This highly depends on your current asthmatic conditions, it is important to talk to your Doctor about this! Your Dr. will be able to tell you the best way to execute a program to help your Cardio.
    Thanks for the comment!

  17. Nathan Says:

    One of the things that a lot of trainers may think is that this mask “doesn’t” do what it’s supposed to do as IF — for some reason, it’s not the same…

    And they’re right.

    If you want plugged ears, altitude sickness … the process of feeling your blood thin or thicken (not sure what really happens but you bet I know the feeling if you’ve ever been the mountains) then take the trip to the altitude.

    On the other hand, if you’re smart, and don’t want to spend the $2,000-$5,000 for plane fare and lodging to go train somewhere in the mountains for a couple of weeks then this is a no brainer.


    My bet is that you’ll train as instructed. You probably should anyway.

    I was panting and breathing like a horse on steroids the first time I started using this mask.

    About a week into it, I realized — after skiing in my favorite location in Colorado – this mask works.

    I used to get altitude sickness but I don’t anymore. If it was the mask then great! It worked!

    If it wasn’t, then it must have been mind over matter.

    I’m going to go with the mask being the reason.

  18. bighead Says:

    Question, I live in So Cal and am interested in this mask, I’m a work out n00b, but most of what I do currently is jogging. A few people I told about this mask said that 98% of the effects I’d get from using it for 30 minutes at a time would be wasted within an hour of me taking it off. They said it’s because unless I live at altitude my lungs will just revert back after breathing the So Cal air. Is there any truth to this? I jog for about half an hour and want to maximize my workout without having to put in any more time. This seems like a killer product.

  19. Ro Says:

    I’ve heard similar stories about actual altitude training. I was told that the effect wears off after several days back at sea level which i guess makes sense. I would assume that it’s the same sort of thing with the mask in terms of your bodies ability to carry the oxygen around but whether it increases the strength of your diaphram and trains you to breathe deeper is another thing. Having said that i’m far from an expert on the matter and could be completley wrong. I’ve been thinking about getting one of these myself and giving them a go as they sound very interesting

  20. harry C Says:

    I play rugby and looking to improve my fitness, would this help with gym session

  21. john gallagher Says:

    I’m planning on joing the military and looked into the mask to help with my cardio will this product work for long distance running and stamina

  22. Johan Says:

    This mask should be considered a waste of money until the opposite is proven. There is no evidence that the mask will be beneficial. The only thing it will do is make you train at a lower intensity and making it feel harder because of increased used of muscles involved in the respiration, oxygen deprivation and possibly carbon dioxide retention. If you want to increase your erythrocytes you should live at high altitude (or equivalent methods alt. erytropoetin) and train at normal height.

    If this method works, we should explore the possibilities to use bronchoconstrive agents in our training… (:

  23. Tony Thacker Says:

    Thank you for the comment Johna, it sounds like you really know what your talking about. Have you tried the mask?

  24. Phill Nimmons Says:

    my name is phill i am 18 i have been seriously working out for 3 years (5 times a day, 1 muscle group a day, 20 min cardio) i am currently 160lb 7 to 9 % body fat… i’m in good shape.. this mask seems like a great idea same concept as the Gurkha i take it…. my question is, would it be good to use the mask during my 20 min cardio and than directly after in my 30 to 45 min workout… or would this be to much and put myself at risk of injury or worse?

  25. Brian Says:

    The only people I would hired who use these are people who know shockingly little about pulmonary physiology. This thing absolutely would NOT simulate training out living at altitude – probably would do little to decrease oxygenation but would significantly impair ventilation. End result – metabolic acidosis with a lack of respiratory compensation. Because if the bohr effect would probably result in Increased oxygen delivery to tissues.

  26. Brian Says:

    Also increased airway pressure would result in cytokine release causing alveolar inflammation and resultant damage. Bad, bad idea

  27. jason Says:

    I have used the mask while deployed aboard a Navy Carrier. Since I am a CrossFitter for several years and I look for things to better my fitness level I figured this would be another item for my tool box. This training mask works, I used it during my cardio days either running on the tread mill or rower. It does take getting used to but when you see other people staring and telling you “That looks hard,” it only motivates you to work harder. I did stop using the mask upon my return to base because some people are freaked out by it and did notice a significant loss of stamina and endurance.

  28. Skinman Says:

    I am a certified level 1 altitude training coach in Australia. I researched that mask a while ago and it’s proponents openly admit in it’s description it restricts the airflow without any other claims. That’s fine, the mask only works the diaphragm and likely intercostals and in no way can modify the O2 content without a complicated filtration system. The mask is needlessly unpleasant and you can get exactly the same effect from a Power breathe which I do use and helped me to place 3rd in the Rottnest marathon Oct 23/11.
    The mask only restricts the airflow, it does not increase the amount of Nitrogen in the air stream as SAT machines do. If you want to train at altitude, come play with the big boys.

  29. Edward cole Says:

    If you take a look at the device and actually break down what it is comprised of its fairly obvious what its effects on the user will be, the ONLY thing this device can do from a mechanical standpoint is restrict airflow .. Which is fantastic for boosting lung capacity
    Wether or not this is the same as training at altitude doesn’t matter, this is a simple and effective way of increasing the strength and endurance of your diaphragm.

    That said I haven’t brought the product myself yet I’m just stating the obvious! Im going to get one when I start training again but it’s worth noting that the armed forces HAVE been using the same principles for decades! .. They don’t make you run in a highly restrictive gasmask for nothing .. It’s uncomfortable but in the end of it it’s suitable for almost any kind of training (watersports might be an exception)

  30. LJ Says:

    fact: It restricts airflow. So why not just by a surgical mask and wear 2 or 3 of these while exercising?

  31. Jerome Says:

    Well, I just brought the mask and waiting for it to ship. I purchased it along with a “Kutting Weight” suit (I hope I don’t kill myseld). Anyway, I will use it while doing light cardio bouts as well as heavy bag training. I’ll keep you all updated, but I believe it works even before I use it. I see a lot of MMA guys using snorkle equipment. I’m sure this is more realistic in terms of a high altitude effect than I snorkle so I’m excited about adding it to my workout.

  32. Skin man Says:

    Look up hypoxia. This mask and other devices do not Simulate altitude. They only work the diaphragm and intercostals.
    Its a badly named product that misleads the uneducated.

  33. Champ52 Says:

    My question is to the ones who have used this product. I am 2011 & 2012 Golden Gloves Champion out of Houston, Tx. For the ones who have used this product, how long did it take to actually see results?

    Let’s say 30mn a day 6days a week… long for results a month? Thank all of you kindly for your time.

  34. Tony Says:

    I don’t think anyone could say it any better. Everyone is arguing whether or not this is a magic wand and it isn’t, but it is an effective tool to add to your training. Don’t over think and complicate this thing, it is simply a tool…

  35. Champ52 Says:


    Thank you very much, Tony you too as well.

  36. Skinman Says:

    Sorry Tony, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. It does NOT simulate oxygen content at different altitudes. You draw the same amount of oxygen through it across all filters as it is drawing in atmospheric air whic has 20.9% oxygen. Unless you go into a chamber with reduced oxygen content in the air, it is going to be the same across all filters.
    It is a diaphraghm training device. Nothing more. I use Power Breathe and fully believe in having a strong diaphraghm, as they force you to draw deeper breaths you learn to use your diaphragm better whilst also building its strength as it works against the RESISTANCE CREATED BY THE FILTERS. That is all they do. Your oxygen processing will slightly improve with diaphragm training but only because of 1: retraining your breathing muscles by shifting focus from intercostal breathing to diaphragmatic and 2: the larger air volume you are able to take in with greater ease as a result of strengthening the diaphragm and using it in a controlled manner. But don’t fool your self. Another thing to consider is this:

    products like these masks will not cause your SaO2% to drop to the levels associated with high altitude training even under the most intense exercise as there is no alteration to the amount of oxygen passing through the mask and into your lungs.
    Futhermore, strict monitoring of blood oxygen levels must occur with “altitude” or hypoxic training to avoid damage to muscle fibres caused by ROS in the mitochondria. Look closely at these guys using one of these “elevation” masks, do you see a pulse oximeter on their wrist or fingertip? Nope. Even less likely you would see one of the other highly intrusive blood monitoring devices attached intravenously.

    You guys that promote this product are all just a bunch of uninformed clowns. Like I said to someone recently. Show me 1, just 1 scientific study that has been conducted on this mask to back up the bullshit claims they make.
    Even on their website they have a page talking about lung function and the oxygenation process, nicely written with references, however the references only pertain to the basic information regarding lung function (which you could find in any medical book), none of those references are for studies that back up the claims.
    This product is bullshit and I’m sorry if I offend but the truth is often unpopular, the people who buy it are gullible and too lazy to do their own research. Get informed and get real.

  37. Tony Says:

    Hey Skinman, I didn’t state that it was actually quite the opposite. Thanks for the in depth comment, I actually agree with you, but do think the mask works but not by simulating high altitude.

  38. Skinman Says:

    I’m sorry, my bad, I meant DSchill. I was just replying to what was coming in my email. It attached Tony to it all.
    Yeah the mask achieves the same outcome a PowerBreathe does but it cannot be compared to hypoxic training. I refer to the point I made about diaphraghm training.

  39. Romain Says:


    In fact the mask do change the oxygen content you breath.
    Because at each expiration you exhale air with more CO2. A part of the air charged in CO2 stay in the mask. And then you rebreath it.

    So it modifies the proportion of O2 you breath. ;)

  40. Skinman Says:

    Carbon dioxide re-breathing. Yeah thats a good way to train. Not.
    You’re an idiot. Do your research on carbon dioxide in the blood stream. Fk what a waste of my time. I’m going to have to click “do not notify me of further posts on this”.

  41. Tony Says:

    I hope you don’t do that as I have enjoyed have your expertise in this thread.

  42. Skinman Says:

    Youre welcome to find me on facebook Tony , happy to talk to reasonable, intelligent people that can think for themselves and do their own research. Seems I might be stuck here coz I didnt click the notify box but I got one anyway hahaha

  43. deven Says:

    Hey im in track in arizona, I was wondering if this would help me improve my fitness and overall stamina?

  44. Doctor Says:

    Um, this is sad. I have done extensive research on human physiology in a hypoxic environment, and this article and product exploit at best a partial undertanding of this adaptation and its effects on human athletic performance. First and foremost, the most important physiological adaptation to hypoxia is a decreased utilization of oxygen. In otherwords, the body begins to shut down at a cellular level as it adapts to having less fuel available, and many important physiological parameters, such as VO2 max, max HR, left ventricular performance, etc. are substantially reduced. Doesn’t sound like the way you want to train for a sport requiring maximum effort. THE ONLY ADAPTATION TO HYPOXIA SHOWN TO INCREASE ATHLETHIC PERFORMANCE IS THE INCREASED RED BLOOD CELL MASS THAT RESULTS.

    Second, the adaptations to hypoxia are extremely short lived, so unless you are There are many more reasons why this mask is complete BS, but I have other things to do, so figure it out yourself by actually reading books and articles beyond a 3rd grade level.

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