Altitude Training and Endurance Performance (Part 2 of 4)

BY IN Uncategorized On September 22, 2016



Various methods of altitude exposure and/or hypoxic training exist including: Live High-Train High (LHTH), and Live High-Train Low (LHTL). Despite the significant variations present between the different models of altitude training, all have the same objective: to bring about an enhancement in endurance performance at sea-level. We will discuss the effectiveness and describe the benefits and limitations of each method.

1. Traditional “Live High-Train High” Model
The more frequently utilised form of altitude training consists of the LHTH approach, where the athlete lives at a specific altitude for a certain time period and completes all their “living” and training in the one location. The optimal dose for such altitude training is suggested to be 3-4 weeks at 2000-2500 m above seal-level. Travelling to extreme altitude is ineffective as the stress on the human body and the resultant side-effects generally trump any benefit to performance. For example, the large decrease in the amount of oxygen saturation in the blood results in large reductions in VO2max. This drop in maximal oxygen consumption produces a decline in training intensity which can result in detraining. In addition, at increased elevations athletes become more vulnerable to nausea, acute mountain sickness, and lethargy which can all negatively impact the quality and quantity of training performance. Therefore, the majority of LHTH altitude training for athletes takes place at moderate altitude (2000-3000m). However, a couple of high performance coaches/managers propose the ideal altitude for the LHTH training type is much lower (1500-2000) considering athletes suffer fewer side-effects and are able to uphold the quality of training.

2. Contemporary “Live High-Train Low” Model
The LHTH method of altitude training has been complemented by the LHTL strategy in order to overcome the issues related to both living and training at altitude. The LHTL model was devised to elicit the positive cardiovascular, metabolic and respiratory adaptations, while preventing the requirement for decreased training intensity, and the adverse effects including fatigue and muscular soreness, associated with chronic oxygen deprivation. Levin and colleagues comprehensively investigated the LHTL model by comparing the endurance performance of three groups of runners (G1; live low-train low, G2; live high-train low, and G3; live high-train high). The LHTL condition enhanced their five kilometre time trial performance by 1.3%. In contrast, both the LHTH (-0.3%) and LLTL (-2.7%) group displayed a detrimental change upon return to sea-level. This research was the first to provide evidence towards the LHTL method as the most optimal approach to improve sea-level performance.

Hamlin M, Draper N, Helemans J. “Real and Simulated Altitude Training and Performance”. (2013): 205-226.


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