Comparison Review: Comparing PowerLung with UltraBreathe, Expand-a-Lung, SportsBreather, PowerBreathe and Others


Powerlung Sport

Last year we reviewed the PowerLung, an effective device that gives your lungs a workout and improves lung capacity, oxygen intake, shortness of breath, etc. We discussed how they work, benefits, and why PowerLung is superior to their competitors. We continue to receive questions from our customers about specific competing models, so here we are providing a more in-depth look at Powerlung vs. others on the market such as UltraBreathe, Expand-a-Lung, SportsBreather, PowerBreathe, etc.

PowerLung is completely different than the majority of these devices.  The PowerLung works based on threshold resistance while most the competing units work based on restrictive resistance.  The restrictive resistance models have shown to provide no benefit to the user, and can even cause negative effects.  In addition, PowerLung works both your inhale and exhale muscles.

Restrictive Resistance

Breathing improvement devices such as SportsBreather (formerly “The Breather), UltraBreathe, and Expand-a-Lung use restrictive resistance.

We can keep this simple, because it really is:  Imagine breathing through a straw, that’s all it is.  These devices may look fancy because you can adjust the opening, but you could achieve the same effect by using different sized straws.  In fact, the inventor of Expand-a-Lung said himself in Swimming Technique Magazine that “they take any pipe they can find, cap it, put a mouthpiece on it and put a pinhole through it… mine is no different…”.

In a study of COPD patients, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California found you may not get any benefit from these types of devices even if you increase the amount you use it and even it you decrease the size of the opening.  This peer-reviewed study was conducted by Michael J. Belman, MD, and published in 1990.

So, for devices that use restrictive breathing, you can do it yourself free.  it is called whistling.  While you may be able to carry a nice tune, it will not improve your breathing function any more than these models will.

Threshold Resistance

PowerLung uses threshold resistance, which is similar to lifting weights.  The weight creates resistance, forcing your muscles to work in order to move them.  The more you lift weights, the stronger your muscles become.  This is virtually identical to what you are doing with PowerLung, your breathing power is forcing the movement of the mechanism of the device.  Independent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of threshold resistance in improving breathing.

With threshold resistance, you are moving something with your muscles, not just blowing air.

There are other units on the market that use threshold resistance, like the PowerBreathe.  However, unlike the PowerLung, these devices only work your inhale muscles.  You may breath in and out of them, but when exhaling, there is no resistance.  PowerLung works both the inhale and exhale muscles of your lungs, and the resistance may be easily set differently for each.

Other Considerations

Unlike others, PowerLung is made in the USA, comes with a DVD guide, and carrying case, and has toll free phone support.  In addition, PowerLung is the only device on the market with independent testing that indicates a 25% increase in lung capacity and a 20% increase in respiratory power.  Keep in mind that many other device manufacturers may site research studies, but in virtually all cases these studies were not independent and were performed by the manufacturer.

We highly recommend the PowerLung line of products, and hope that you contact us if you have any questions.  You may find the PowerLung on our Better Health Innovations site for more information: Click Here for PowerLung Information.

Full Disclosure: We could be accused of being biased, as we sell the PowerLung line on, but we have been approached by several of their competitors and declined carrying their models because they either don’t work at all or they don’t work as well.

About Steven Kirchhof

Steven is an ecommerce entrepreneur, consultant, and blogger. In addition to running two businesses, he writes for several blogs on topics such as health, fitness, and outdoor recreation. Find Steven on Google+


  1. Dave says:

    I heard that combined expiratory and inspiratory muscle training is less effective than inspiratory muscle training alone – do you have any research that shows otherwise? I also heard the POWERbreathe is available free of charge through the national health service in the UK – surely they must have independant research in order to get this approval? I also understood (with my limited knowledge) that lung capacity is determined by genetics and would not be affected by inspiratory muscle training – can you explain the mechanisms by which powerlung is able to change the size of your lungs? And finally (forgive me for going on), oxygen uptake is limited by the cardiovascular system, not by gas diffusion (except in some exceptional athletes), so how can powerlung improve this.

  2. Steve says:

    Dave, Thank you for your thoughtful input. I have a feeling that your knowledge is not quite as limited as you mentioned based on your email address :) Anyhow, it is nice to know that our blog is widely read, and I am happy to answer your questions the best I can.

    Regarding inhale vs. exhale lung exercise: While PowerLung exercises both, Powerbreathe only functions on the inhale. While the user exhales through it, there is little or no resistance. Our understanding is that there is a significant improvement in lung exercise when both inhale and exhale are trained. We take this information from independant studies such as one published in 2005 in Current Opinion of Pulmonary Medicine that you can download here: Respiratory muscle training in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: inspiratory, expiratory, or both?

    In this study, the authors state that “Inspiratory and expiratory muscles can be specifically trained yielding improvements in both strength and endurance. The improvement in inspiratory muscle performance is associated with an improvement in the sensation of dyspnea, exercise tolerance, and quality of life. When the expiratory muscles are specifically trained, a significant increase in exercise performance has also been shown…”

    Yes, I am aware of conflicting studies that indicate little advantage to exhale training.

    We are not familiar with the selection process of the UK National Health Service, but I would asume that because Powerbreathe is made in the UK, it factored into their decision (PowerLung is made in the USA).

    Regarding Lung Capacity, studies conclude an increase in tital volume (PowerLung claims 25% increase). For example, a study published in 2001 by William Amonette, BS, CSCS and Terry Dupler, Ph.D. at the University of Houston-Clear Lake indicated “The data revealed that training using the Powerlung device produced significant changes in maximal VE, maximal VT, and submaximal VE.” – Maximal VT (tidal volume) being what we are interested in when discussing lung capacity.

    I am not quite sure of your last question regarding oxygen uptake. I believe that you are refering to VO2 Max, which is the maximum capacity of a person’s body to utilize oxygen, which was not discussed in the review.

    If I were new to this technology, it would come down to Powerbreathe and PowerLung in choosing what equipment to use in lung training. Both are the only units I know of that use threshold resistance. However, the inhale/exhale function of PowerLung, which is not available in PowerBreathe, plus the support materials that come with PowerLung (DVD, toll-free support, etc) would clearly put PowerLung above.

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Steve.
    Thanks for the comprehensive answer. It can be diffiult to separate the wood from the trees (and the biased from the unbiased as you point out) when it comes to these research papers, especially without a degree in physiology. Having said that, my interpretation of the paper you cited (‘Respiratory muscle training in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: inspiratory, expiratory or both?’) was that combined inspiratory and expiratory training is actually less effective than inspiratory training alone. Particularly, based upon the following extracts:
    “There was also a significant increase in the
    distance walked in six minutes in all three active training
    groups. However, the increase in the SIMT (25%) and the
    SEMT+SIMT (16%) groups was significantly greater
    than in the SEMT (11%) group.”
    Another extract that caught my attention was in the conclusion:
    “The safety of SEMT is unclear, and its effect
    on cough in COPD should still be investigated.”
    And finally, in the abstract, the paper explicitly states: “there is probably no additional benefit in combining SEMT with SIMT.”
    My interpretation is that this paper favours inspiratory muscle training alone rather than combined inspiratory and expiratory training. It’s also worth noting that the POWERbreathe also comes with a DVD.
    Thanks. Dave

  4. Dan says:

    Steve, Dave makes a strong argument against the need for expiratory muscle training. dan

  5. Steve says:

    Fortunately, the PowerLung provides expiratory muscle training.

  6. nick says:

    What about “the original Breath Builder(TM) invented,developed and patented by the late Harold Hanson of las vegas !”Inhalation/ exhalation respitory muscle training . a simple device 6in plastic cylinder tube with a ping pong ball inside, 3 different size holes on top for resistance and comes with 2 size mouth pieces for Brass or woodwind instruments.easy to use and less expensive it takes14 oz of pressure to blow the ping pong ball to the top”.Everyone should have one”ref. ARNOLD JACOB/WINDSONGPRESS?

  7. Steve says:

    The Breath Builder uses restrictive resistance: “3 different size holes on top for resistance”. This is covered in some detail in the post above with the conclusion that it is inferior based on the Belman study.

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  9. Harrisdecoys says:

    Couldn’t you actually get similar results say with a balloon?

  10. Steve says:

    Ah… no. A balloon would only provide exhale resistance. However, I do think it would be better than the straw/hole design units.

  11. Bambam1694 says:

    i have increased 2 mins from holding my breath by expand-a-lung? so im going to say it works, i feel a lott better in swim also. i understand your point on saying its only breathing through a straw but do you not think im having to push to get that hair out better/faster when i start needing to breath? therefore my muscles push harder and inhale harder to get that air

  12. Richard Friedel says:

    Hope this
    will not be thought of as a discordant note and the result of a quirk of
    character, but I would earnestly suggest connecting a Powerbreathe with some
    sort of manometer so that inspiratory suction may be quickly,  cheaply and accurately  measured without the expense of special
    equipment.  All that is needed is an
    infusion set from the chemist/pharmacist as an economic source of thin PVC
    tubing.  Free the tubing of the fittings,
    drill a suitable hole in the mouthpiece of your Powerbreathe or other trainer.  Thread one end of the tubing in the hole and
    then see what length of a column of water can be drawn up from a glass of

    This makes
    it much simpler to make comparisons with results given in scientific
    literature. Richard Friedel


  13. Jason says:

    Hi Steve, 
    Not sure if this thread is still active but thought I’d try my luck.
    With the restrictive resistance concept, the physics is relating to Boyles law (relating pressure and volume). I am not as sure what threshold resistance is referring, the only thing that makes sense is something mechanical like a diaphragm moving??
    P.S: I am not a chemist or physicist, just think in mechanical terms.

  14. Tullochgorum says:

    PowerBreath is university developed, validated by extensive research, approved as a Class 1 medical device, approved for free prescription by the UK National Institute of Clinical Excellence, and supported by excellent training materials, a book for end users and a textbook for clinicians.

    It’s widely used in clinical settings, and by some of the most successful elite athletes in sport.

    You really shouldn’t have bundled it together with the fakes.

    The team that developed the Powerbreathe don’t believe that traning exhalation is beneficial, as they explain in their writings. If there is a benefit it would be marginal becuase, as you say, the evidence is at best contradictory.