A performance mouthpiece is in our opinion the single most important piece of equipment you can use during your workout (strength or otherwise). It is even useful during yoga and sitting meditation! In fact, it’s become so important to us that we no longer consider it optional for our clients!
There are two different types of performance mouthpieces, available on the market that we feel are effective. Each has a feature that the other lacks. Below we’ll explain the key differences between the two and our answer to eliminating that difference. It is not our intention to describe in detail all of the features of the two products-or even to have you favor one over the other-but rather to explain why we have found them such a great training aid and how we’re looking at making it better.
A performance mouthpiece is much different from the mouth-guards used during contact sports. They’re designed to lay on the bottom molars so that the action of biting down prevents grinding and sliding of the jaw. This has extreme important mechanical and performance implications for your workouts.
Improved Posture And Workout Technique
For starters, wedging an object between the molars and biting down on it places the masseter muscles in a position of maximum moment arm. For its size, the masseter muscles are one of the strongest in the body. Their contraction has an irradiating effect that stiffens and stabilizes the spinal column which immediately improves the postural control system’s ability to balance.
Try it with the following experiment:
- Grab a pen or pencil and a partner. The cleaner and thicker the pen/pencil, the better. (The cleanliness and size of the partner isn’t as important.)
- Stand on one leg and straighten the line side arm out to your side so that it is parallel to the floor.
- Ask your partner to press down sufficiently hard enough on the hand of the extended arm so that you lose your balance. Have you and your partner note how difficult it was to make you lose balance.
- Take the pen or pencil and place it horizontally in your mouth. Place it between your molars.
- Bite down moderately hard on the object and repeat the above experiment.
If you did the experiment correctly, both of you should have noticed that it was significantly more difficult to knock you over the second time around. You were better stabilized and therefore in a better state of balance.
Stability of the trunk is required in any activity in existence. If you want the appendages to operate correctly that is. The action of biting down on a wedge actives the masseter muscles and the deep neck flexors. The resulting action is a slight tuck and retraction of the chin which in turn elongates the spine. Think of optimal trunk stiffness as that of a giant tree trunk rooted in the ground.
The irradiating and co-contraction effect of biting immediately creates improved directness of the activity in question. This is so because a more stable column allows for the intended musculature to act on the joints in an efficient and low force manner. The result is improved participation of the targeted structures which leads to a better training stimulus. As a bonus, it lowers your risk of injury for the same reasons.
The second advantage of a performance mouthpiece is the improved functioning of the respiratory system. Improved respiratory function mitigates fatigue and improves recovery via lowered cortisol production.
Biting down on performance mouthpiece mechanically opens your airway for improved respiratory and gas exchange. As mentioned above, biting down tucks the chin down and back slightly. This mechanically “pries” open the airway. As the intensity of the bite contraction increases, the tongue shifts to the bottom of the mouth. This is not required at rest. In fact the opposite is recommended at rest. The more intense the activity however, the more we want the tongue down against the bottom of the mouth and the front lower teeth. The tongue is attached to the diaphragm. As the force requirements of an activity increase, your body elicits the Val Salva maneuver. It does so for a few reasons, but the one that is germane to this discussion is again trunk stability. The Val Salva maneuver creates an internal pressure gradient via the contraction of the diaphragm that improves stability of the spine. The performance outcome however is that because the tongue is attached to the diaphragm, it gets “swallowed” the harder the diaphragm has to contract.
A performance mouthpiece helps to position the tongue in the mouth so that breathing mechanics are optimized as the activity intensity increases.
New Age vs. The Airwaav
There are currently two mouthpieces on the market that we endorse. One is the 6DS by New Age Performance, and the second is the HIIT model by Airwaav. As previously mentioned, both have an advantage that the other doesn’t. The reasoning for the differences is that the two products are promoted for slightly different objectives. It is however the combination of those two differences that leads to optimization of performance. While there are other minor design differences between the two, we will stick to the major ones; which are pretty simple:
1)The New Age 6DS mouthpiece is thicker in diameter which improves your mechanical advantage. The improved leverage puts your structure in a better position to produce force. Basically, it does a better job at making your strength performance improve. The company claims on the order of 10-15% immediately. Our experience mirrors this. Even in cases that are not quite as dramatic, performance is still better with than without.
2) The main feature of the Airwaav is the intake bar. While the Airwaav is much thinner-and thus opens the mouth less-it provides a stiff bar at the bottom that keeps the tongue in the proper position. Basically, this one excels at improving your respiratory performance to a greater degree.
We are currently suggesting both models for our clients to decide which they prefer. They can be purchased via the following links:
Disclosure: We only recommend products we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission.
After having experimented with both models, we have started working on our own design, while we are still in the very early stages, we believe our design will fit the needs of a broader exercising public.
There really isn’t a physical activity that can’t be enhanced with the use of a performance mouthpiece. Every activity requires that you are strong and that you breathe properly. We’d prefer not to favor strength over breathing, or vis-a-versa, but use one to leverage the other. Until ours is ready for release, the ones currently out there will suffice.