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More and more athletes are starting to realize the benefits of wearing mouthpieces in training and competition. Rich Froning, the four-time individual CrossFit Games champion and leader of the CrossFit Mayhem Freedom team, recently partnered with a mouthpiece company after he saw the positive effects it had on his training and recovery.
So, which mouthpiece does Rich Froning wear? Rich Froning wears the AIRWAAV mouthpiece, which was released after researchers spent 15 years studying the effects of mouthpieces on athletic performance. While the AIRWAAV mouthpiece is a good product, there are better mouthpieces that have more advantages and are more comfortable to wear.
In this article, I’ll provide an overview of Rich Froning’s mouthguard, discuss the reasons why he wears one, and review some of the research that AIRWAAV uses to back up its claims. I’ll also talk about which mouthpiece I recommend instead of AIRWAAV.
Check out my reviews of the Best Mouthpieces For Crossfit.
Rich Froning’s Mouthpiece: An Overview
Development of the AIRWAAV mouthpiece began in 2004 when the company was in its earliest stages. They approached Dr. Dena Garner, Director of Undergraduate Research at the Citadel, to lead their research efforts. She’s been studying and testing mouthpieces and their effects on athletic performance ever since.
The AIRWAAV mouthpiece boasts three main features:
1. Patented Vistamaxx™ material that is designed to help the mouthpiece stay in place during heavy workouts
2. An intake bar that sits behind the bottom front teeth and helps direct the tongue down and forward
3. A bite plate that is designed to absorb gentle biting or clenching when athletes are under high exertion
The goal of the AIRWAAV mouthpiece is not to restrict breathing, but to make it more natural and efficient by placing the tongue and jaw in a more optimal position.
Check today’s price of the AIRWAAV mouthpiece on Amazon.
Why Does Rich Froning Wear a Mouthpiece? (4 Reasons)
Rich Froning first began wearing a mouthguard to protect his teeth during lifting sessions, but he began noticing an improvement in his breathing during metcons.
AIRWAAV makes several claims regarding the advantages of wearing a mouthpiece during training. Many research studies back up these claims while also supporting other benefits that aren’t specific to the AIRWAAV mouthpiece.
1. Increased endurance
According to AIRWAAV, wearing a mouthpiece reduces your respiratory rate by up to 20%, resulting in less lactic acid buildup.
A study written by Dr. Garner and published in 2015 by the Academy of General Dentistry studied the effects of various mouthpieces on respiratory physiology in college-aged subjects.
The study analyzed three different types of mouthpieces: a boil-and-bite mouthpiece, an ethylene-vinyl acetate custom mandibular mouthpiece, and a polypropylene custom mandibular mouthpiece. A group of subjects was not fitted with any mouthpiece.
The subjects were classified as recreationally fit. They ran for 10 minutes in four separate trials. Outcomes showed that the boil-and-bite mouthpiece resulted in a significantly lower respiratory rate when compared to the other mouthpiece types or no mouthpieces at all.
A study published in 2019 by Clinical and Experimental Dental Research showed similar results. This study analyzed 17 healthy subjects between the ages of 18 and 43, with the average age being 25.73.
Each subject was fitted for a custom mouthpiece at the beginning of the study. They performed 10 minutes of steady-state running while wearing heart rate monitors and utilizing metabolic carts to measure differences in oxygen (VO2), carbon dioxide (VCO2), respiratory rate (RR), and ventilation (Ve).
The study’s results showed that both respiratory rate and ventilation were significantly reduced, with no negative effects on carbon dioxide or oxygen outcomes.
While both of these studies showed similar outcomes, it is important to note that the subjects were young, healthy, and already in shape. Additionally, the effects of mouthpieces on activities longer than 10 minutes were not measured.
2. Increased strength and muscular endurance
AIRWAAV claims that wearing a mouthpiece can help increase strength and muscular endurance, but research on the effects of a mouthpiece on strength exercises shows inconsistent outcomes.
A study that I spoke about recently tested the effects of a bite regulator on 23 subjects who performed various exercises, including the bench press and leg press.
Results from this study showed a significant improvement in leg press performance. Researchers believe this is due to decreased resistance to airflow.
Interestingly, results showed no effects on bench press strength, suggesting that a mouthpiece’s benefits could be more pronounced in the squat and deadlift.
3. Faster recovery and reduced cortisol levels by up to 50%
AIRWAAV also claims that wearing a mouthpiece during intense training can help improve your recovery.
In 2011, Dr. Garner and other researchers studied the effects of wearing mouthpieces during intense resistance training. The subjects in this study included 28 Division I football players aged 18-22 years. They participated in two separate 1-hour training sessions, one with a mouthpiece and one without.
For each training session, saliva was analyzed for cortisol at the following times: pre-exercise; 25, 45, and 60 minutes of exercise; and 10 minutes post-exercise. Results showed that cortisol levels were significantly lower post-exercise after the training session with mouthpieces than without.
However, it is important to note that this study did not analyze the effects of mouthpieces on cortisol levels in females or untrained individuals.
4. Better jaw alignment
Unlike other companies such as New Age Performance, AIRWAAV doesn’t make any specific claims about jaw alignment or the benefits of clenching your teeth during heavy lifts.
However, research does show that teeth clenching activates remote muscles in the jaw and neck, a phenomenon called concurrent activation potentiation (CAP). This has a positive effect on muscular strength and power.
A study performed on healthy young men analyzed the effects of jaw clenching while wearing a mouthpiece during exercises such as the vertical jump and back row. Results showed that a mouthpiece can place the jaw in proper alignment, which helps promote balance and stability.
Like the studies linked above, this study didn’t analyze the athletic performance of females who wear mouthpieces, and the subjects were all young adults aged 26 or younger.
If Rich Froning Wears a Mouthpiece Does That Mean I Should Too?
The answer here is yes.
For powerlifters and strength athletes, clenching your teeth while strength training can help activate the muscles in your jaw and neck, causing the CAP phenomenon I talked about earlier. However, teeth clenching can also cause headaches and lead to dental issues.
Wearing a mouthpiece helps alleviate these issues by stabilizing the jaw and preventing your teeth from grinding against each other too heavily during heavy lifts.
For CrossFit and other high-intensity interval training workouts, mouthpieces put your jaw and tongue in an optimal position that helps you breathe more efficiently and increases the amount of airflow you get.
In fact, according to AIRWAAV, CT scans prove that a mouthpiece increases the width of your airways by 9%.
In either kind of training, a mouthpiece can help you recover faster. Since you’re able to better control your breathing and heart rate, you won’t redline as quickly, making it possible for your heart rate to return to normal more quickly once your workout ends.
A mouthguard won’t impact how much you can lift the same way a proper belt or lifting shoes will, but there are no known negative effects to wearing one, and you should still consider adding one to your gym bag.
Want to know which mouthguard World Strongest Man, Brian Shaw, wears? Spoiler alert, it’s different from what Rich Froning wears. Check out my article: What Mouthguard Does Brian Shaw Wear?
Which Mouthpiece Should I Get?
Although the AIRWAAV mouthpiece is a solid choice, there are better alternatives. I recommend the 5DS Mouthpiece from New Age Performance.
The New Age Performance 5DS mouthpiece boasts many of the same benefits as the AIRWAAV, but takes it even further by also promoting better jaw alignment, improved balance, and better grind protection.
I’ve tested both the New Age Performance 5DS and the AIRWAAV mouthpiece, and I found the 5DS to be more comfortable for longer training sessions.
With the 5DS mouthpiece, I was also able to get a tighter fit, whereas the AIRWAAV mouthpiece didn’t fit quite as well as I would have hoped. I was never concerned about the AIRWAAV falling out during my workouts, but the 5DS felt much more secure.
Check out my complete mouthguard reviews:
- AIRWAAV Mouthpiece Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- New Age Performance Mouthpiece: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- Best 5 Mouthguards For Powerlifting
If you’re a powerlifter or functional fitness athlete, a mouthpiece will help improve your athletic performance, especially when combined with other training tools.
While the research is still inconclusive about mouthpieces’ effects on certain movements such as the bench press, studies do show that they help athletes breathe better during conditioning workouts and recover faster from intense training sessions.
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.