The Oxygen advantage by McKeown, any thoughts?

New to structured training (just over one month now) and quite new to intensive cycling, both road and mtb (almost 2 years). I haven’t practiced sports before. I love it and it changed my life. The biggest limit I find in comparison with my faster counterparts (people which practice sports since childhood) is breathlessness.
A longer climbs in mtb, they won’t loose me altogether but I’ll be panting uncontrollably and my power will fade in time.
Researching this problem I found the book by McKeown. I read a few chapters and I’m somehow still tentative to commit and start exercising. On top of that I find it not aligned to what the TR instructions seem suggest (example: force used airs from your lungs).
The book has very positive reviews all through the internets. But strangely, not a mention in this community. Find that surprising.
So what’s your take? Could it help a guy like me which seems to particularly struggle with breathlessness at higher intensity activities?


I’m listening to a podcast on it later today. I’ll see what I think after that.

I’ll be panting uncontrollably and my power will fade in time

You’re just lacking the fitness of your counterparts. Keep training. You’ll get there. Niche breathing techniques aren’t going to make you fit.


@UgliestWeenie breathing exercises are a tertiary performance improvement. If you want to improve your performance vs your peers on climbs here is what you should focus on in order of effectiveness:

1.) Your training. This is of primary importance & impact.
2.) You plus your bike weight. This is of secondary importance.
3.) Other tertiary items such as breathing exercises or aerodynamics (since we’re talking about a climb)

Breathing exercises can help but they’re not going to make the difference. It’s a 1% type of thing. If you forget about training and concentrate on breathing you are going to absolutely suck. If you don’t pay attention to breathing and train conscientiously and consistently you are going to get a lot better.


Agreed training more is what’s needed. The problem might seem like it’s to do with breathing but actually it’s that your body needs to adapt to be able to make use of the oxygen coming in. These adaptations won’t be about the kind. Training will increase your blood volume allowing more blood to be delivered to the muscles (which is why Lance Armstrong was doing epo rather than doing extra breathing exercises) and more mitochondria to use the oxygen delivered. There’s a good trainerroad podcast that explains the science behind this in depth. Think it’s this one: Training Basics: How to Increase Your Aerobic Capacity (Ask a Cycling Coach 273) - YouTube

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There is a sh!t ton of info to unpack here. Not being an expert or PhD and reading between the lines and what I could infer…

The total volume of air we breath in does not all go towards oxygenation (gas exchange/O2 and CO2). There is some part of our airways not used. So, the part that matters is alveolar ventilation.

The respiratory systems aim is to oxygenate to the best it can the blood from the lung to the heart so it gets that O2 rich blood to the muscles for work. Pulmonary oxygen exchange and CO2 exchange occurs by diffusion in the lungs and therefore is critically dependent on the partial pressure difference between the alveolar gases and the blood gases passing through the pulmonary circulation. At rest most have no problems oxygenating but, during exercise, the partial pressure can drop due to increased HR/transit time. Depending on the person and intensity the body can reach equilibrium (partial pressure) at different intensities and really gets to the heart of maxO2 uptake (VO2max). Some have genetically better ability to move O2 than others…

So, operating at VO2max oxygen is the commodity to worry about. Apparently, respiratory muscles (including the diaphragm) can use about 15% of the O2 during VO2max efforts.

Enter McKeown. The theory is that via restricted breathing techniques one can train respiratory muscles to fatigue less during max exercise and increase alveolar ventilation and sustain that partial pressure longer into high intensity.

I didn’t even go into the role of CO2 but, that’s my quick summery. There have been studies done on this. I’m not super familiar. One of the readers here @brendanhousler uses a breathing tool that I believe is designed to train respiratory muscles. Brendon just won a national championship and has had some results that would make most here drool so, perhaps he can add his perspective.

Interesting to say the least and I’m planning on doing more research. Most including me have been taught to exhale to get rid of CO2 and try to level blood chemistry while at max efforts.


hey! yes, I do use a breathing tool that I won’t mention in this comment as it comes across as shilling as I do promote it. It has been a true game changer for me in this exact instances, VO2 work and long FTP work. If someone is interested, you can find the blog on EVOQ site.

@UgliestWeenie what altitude do you train at, this could be at play also

TBH, you are so new to training, the lungs and muscles will take some time to come around, just keep riding! crap answer but it’s a big part of it…your counterparts may just have a much greater training age and can handle the harder efforts more often and go deeper


Kudos to you. IMHO, this is the right way to do things like this.


Until this thread I made the mistake thinking that the spirometers I’ve brought home from the hospital after a collapsed lung did the same thing as devices used specifically for respiratory strength training. I think I’m going to try one. IIRC @brendanhousler uses the Aerofit Pro which is top notch and gets good reviews. But, at $300+ and another app I’m going for a cheaper version at about $30 with no app. Lots of info out there I never paid attention to…

Which model? I’m extremely skeptical of such devices, but as I am doing SBT GRVL this year, I’d be willing to gamble $30 to help mitigate the effects of altitude.

After a little reviewing I think this one…I’m skeptical as well.

I’m resisting the urge to let the emotional reaction of “OMG, this is a long ass ride at elevation and I live in Chicago” not overcome the rational “this stuff is junk” response.

Logically, I don’t see how restricting airflow during exercise does anything except decrease performance (speaking of things like training masks). Similarly, a device like Airofit or the Expand-A-Lung don’t do anything at the molecular level to spur a response from your body to produce more RBC….there may be some advantage to strengthening your respiratory muscles, but even that seems dubious.

But I’ve dropped $30 on dumber stuff related to cycling, so……:man_shrugging:



That is sort of what McKeown is about (selling?) as well as many of these respiratory tools IMO and what I’m after. I hadn’t ever considered as much as 15% of O2 gets consumed by muscles used for breathing. If those can be “trained” to be a little more efficient then I’m willing to give it a go. OTOH maybe I just need to do more VO2max efforts. Who knows?

You got me interested and after looking at Aerofit site I’m going to start for free Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises & Techniques no app, no device.

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We’ve all probably done “Belly breathing” especially while TTing in position for a long time. I find it hard to consciously do. Probably a great exercise off the bike for sure.

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Gotta start somewhere! I’ve noticed the 12 minute Foundation routine has helped breathing on the bike. So doing diaphragmatic breathing exercises off the bike should help too. Maybe graduate to a device like Aerofit, I’ll give the breathing exercises a try for 3 months and see.

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I can’t remember if it was on the TR podcast or where, but I’ve heard people say these kind of devices are worthless. I’m sorry I can’t remember more, but it’s stuck in my head.


Yeah I’m skeptical but, for $30 I’ll try it out for a couple months and see if I notice anything. I don’t know @brendanhousler but, I know who he is. He’s been giving really sound advise on everything I’ve seen posted and has some really good results to back up his words. Now whether the tool he uses works? IDK. Whether there is a difference between a $300 tool and my $30? IDK

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They’ve talked about it on the podcast and I think the general conclusion is there’s no evidence they work…and even if they did, it’s a super marginal gain if you’ve already mitigated all your other weaknesses.


I think @timon has it…that is how do you know? Evidence that something like this works would be pretty hard to capture IMO. But, I have no idea.