What is High Altitude (Hypoxic) Training?


Hypoxia is defined as an inefficient oxygen supply in the blood. When the human body is exposed to hypoxic environments, such as high altitudes, it struggles to produce the amounts of energy required to function.

Many athletes choose to live and/or train at high altitudes because the state of hypoxia deprives the body of oxygen, the primary source of energy for our cells, and triggers the onset of several physiological adaptations geared towards enhancing the efficiency of the body’s respiratory, cardiovascular and oxygen utilization.

When your body senses it is not receiving the amount of oxygen it is accustomed to, it begins to produce more red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your muscles. Your kidneys release a hormone called erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells. The increased oxygen transportation from the red blood cells means your body will optimize the amount of available oxygen. The increase of red blood cells helps improve your VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can obtain and use during intense exercise.

So, acclimation to high altitudes theoretically improves the delivery of oxygen to the muscles, which means better performance and faster recovery.

There are three different methods of high altitude training:

Live Low Train High is a popular method of altitude training with many proponents, and involves living at sea level and training at high altitudes. This method is believed to be most effective at the peak of training and near the date of competition.

While altitude training stimulates an increase in the production of red blood cells, it can induce detraining effects due to the physical inability to train at the same intensities when at sea level, which is why experimentation with the Live High Train Low method of altitude training began.

Live High Train Low (LHTL) is currently the most popular approach where an individual spends at least 12 hours a day in a high altitude environment (for at least 3-4 weeks). This method involves either the use of high-altitude living and sleep chambers or living in a high altitude, such as on a mountain, and traveling down to a valley to train. This method has more practical results as far as performance but can be impractical for many athletes to achieve, financially and logistically.

Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT) consists of high-altitude interval breathing sets and can be performed in a relaxed state. This method of altitude training enhances the body’s utilization of oxygen and is common prior to an altitude ascent.

One of the greatest advancements in altitude training is the equipment. Over the years, home and training equipment has been developed that eliminates logistical and expensive travel issues and allows total convenience, athletes are able to achieve their desired method of altitude training without actually traveling to high altitudes to live for months at a time.

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts training at Bodies by Mahmood have full access to the Hypoxico High Altitude Trainer, which can simulate altitudes of up to 21,000ft and has purported benefits that include:

  • Increased lung capacity

  • Increased lactic acid threshold

  • Increased hemoglobin mass and red cell volume

  • Muscles more efficient at extracting oxygen from the blood

  • Ultra-efficient workouts as hypoxic exercise burns extra calories

Regardless of your fitness level, you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your workouts by using the Hypoxico High Altitude Trainer on a variety of stationary Cybex equipment at Bodies by Mahmood.