The technique is transforming the way athletes train around the world.
“Live low, train high.”
Altitude training is transforming the way athletes train around the world.
While it’s more recently becoming recreational and mainstream, the 1968 Olympics sparked this movement towards low oxygen training.
Mexico City sits at 7,382 feet above sea level, which resulted in numerous performance anomalies during and after the Olympics, thus, peeking the interest of many around the world. The research boiled down to one main factor: altitude.
While there was a clear correlation between training in areas of high altitude and enhanced performance, this technique was not necessarily one that everyone could practice due to location and resource obstacles. That is where altitude chambers, altitude rooms, training masks and sleeping canopies come into play.
By exercising in a low-oxygen environment, the body makes adaptations to improve oxygen delivery to tissues and muscles, resulting in greater muscular endurance, improved power output and faster recovery.
The primary training methodology for endurance athletes is moderately intense exercise mixed with intervals consisting of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The primary training method for sprint-based/power-based athletes (Football, Basketball, MMA) is very short-duration altitude interval sessions.
Per milehightraining.com, exercising at altitude will also increase the capacity to clear lactic acid from the muscles in a shorter time frame, enabling athletes to repeat sprints with faster recovery between each sprint.
We caught up with one of the best in the business, Matt Formato at Mile High Training, to discuss how the equipment works and how it is contributing to the improved performance of athletes of all sports (mountaineers, runners, football players, basketball players, soccer players, etc.).
“We provide low oxygen training systems that can be used in the form of a tent, a converted room, a chamber or being hooked up to the machine directly with a mask, to simulate high altitude training from any sea level location. Like I said, there’s a number of ways people are utilizing this: to pre acclimate to altitude prior to competing at altitude, compete better at sea level, recovering from injury and so on.”
Athletes and teams all around the world are adopting this training approach. One in particular that uses Mile High Training equipment and methodologies is the Atlanta Falcons, NFC Conference Champions of the 2016–17 NFL season. They used it for a variety of reasons, with two major ones being the following: prior to playing in places of high altitude like Denver and to recondition injured athletes.
“We gave them an altitude susceptibility test. We ran their athletes through a series of tests, just to determine if their athletes were more susceptible to altitude. What we found is that several people who, kind of were, what we would call outliers in that they dropped their oxygen saturation level more quickly and at a decreased exertion level. So, we were able to identify a couple guys who needed to go out to Denver sooner than others and others who would acquire additional training and such to make sure that they were going to perform at their optimal level once they were playing in Denver.”
Other teams to have embraced these techniques include the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Golden State Warriors.
“It is kind of a unique training methodology and I think it has a lot of promise for teams where it’s really crucial to get their athletes back on the court, back on the field as soon as possible and a lot of times they’re limited by their cardiovascular condition. If they’re coming off of an injury, it takes some time to get back to playing shape.”
Oftentimes, even when an athlete’s injury has healed, he/she is not fully fit to play at the highest level right away. While these training techniques do not necessarily accelerate the physical recuperation of the injury, they do cut the return to court/field time in half in most cases. This is due to the athletes being able to stay conditioned through Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT) without doing physical activity. IHT consists of stationary breathing exercises that increase the cardiovascular strength.
Not only is altitude training becoming a popular tool amongst athletes, but amongst people with various health issues including diabetes, heart failure, asthma and spinal cord injuries. Sleeping at altitude, exercising at altitude, and IHT are all ways people with health issues can improve their overall health, wellness and quality of life.
There is constant research being done on the physical effects of altitude training, with new findings happening often. Most recently, there has been some fascinating research coming out of the U.K. and Australia on exercising at altitude.
“What I would say as the last point is, most of the research over the years has been really focused on sleeping at altitude and you know there’s dozens and dozens of studies looking at the performance benefits of sleeping at altitude, going to altitude camps with your team, that kind of thing. I think what is most exciting is the potential behind the most recent research that is coming out of the UK and Australia which is focused almost entirely on exercise training at altitude and this idea of doing very short, high intensity intervals at altitude and the type of benefits that they’re showing for sprint based athletes. And you know, the ability for an athlete to improve his ability to repeat sprint capacity by more than two fold in a fairly short time frame. I think this shows that you’re going to get promise from this type of methodology being applied across American sports. It’s a powerful tool that, if utilized correctly, can very much enhance the short-term performance and long-term longevity of athletes.”
Even simply sleeping at altitude with the tent canopies that Mile High Training provides can significantly improve performance.
There are numerous different ways to simulate the effects of low oxygen training and the benefits for athletic performance and overall health are unbelievable. It is tremendously promising for the sports world.
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