At The Altitude Centre we’ve long been fans of resistance training in hypoxia. Any athlete who’s been coached by one of our team of specialists will know that resistance training performed at altitude can be a highly effective way of improving strength, reducing risk of injury risk, and ultimately increasing performance levels, whether cycling, running or mountaineering.
Research in this area has consistently reinforced this, and driven our own application of resistance training in hypoxia. For example, previous research has shown that lifting just 20% of 1 rep max (a very light weight) to near failure can improve muscle size, strength and power when performed at altitude – a method we regularly implement in rehab programs or to help manage athlete training load. Other research has shown that lifting heavier weights (~70% 1 rep max – a moderate to heavy load) can accelerate the rate of gain in strength compared to training in normoxia – a method we look to implement to intensify training ahead of important training or competition blocks.
Now, a new review by Louise Deldicque from UCLouvain, Belgium, one of the foremost researchers on muscle at altitude, has shed new light on this area. The review tells the story of 16 individual research studies which have investigated resistance training performed in hypoxia, and compared the responses to training undertaken at sea level. Prof Deldicque found that adding hypoxia to resistance training at a range of loads from 20 – 90% 1RM, with the final set probably performed to failure, can help improve the hormonal response which will subsequently lead to greater performance gains. The review cites research demonstrating a great lactate and growth hormone response to resistance training in hypoxia, which may act as important signals within cells to increase size, strength and power of muscle fibres, which ultimately means we can lift more weight, run more quickly, and be more resilient to injury.
Based on the available literature, 2–3 sessions a week performed in hypoxic conditions for 4–6 weeks with a FiO2 of 0.14–0.15 should recommended to athletes looking at potentiating the effects of resistance training
The recommendation to train 2-3 times a week, and the recommended inter-set rest periods, match many of the pre-existing guidelines on resistance training for athletic performance. This is good news for athletes, who will not have to change their pre-existing strength routines to accommodate altitude, instead just needing to take their current program and execute it in a hypoxic environment like that found at The Altitude Centre. In fact, the 15% oxygen/2700m level at which our altitude chamber is set, matches Prof Deldicque’s recommendation for the environment exactly – we find that training at this altitude allows athletes to retain the absolute quality of work required from hard training, whilst also gaining the benefits of being at altitude.
Therefore, implementing resistance training in hypoxia is very simple and straightforward. If you already have a strength program, simply pick it up and drop it in the chamber, and if not, then perhaps joining a Summit Circuit, or a Personal Training Session could be the perfect place to start. To find out more about resistance training in hypoxia, or to book a call with one of our Performance Specialists to discuss your training, get in touch below!