Low Altitude Training Guide: Live High, Train Low

For many years, numerous athletes have turned to high altitude training as their go-training method to improve their athletic performance at sea level. Marathoners, boxers, and cyclists, among others, routinely engaged in training sessions at high altitudes because they believed that training under low-oxygen conditions helped push their bodies to higher limits and boost their performance. This was known as the train high sleep low training model.

But in recent years, breakthroughs in sports science proved otherwise. According to doctors, live high train low proved much better for athletes in boosting their athletic performance. But what is live high train low, and is it effective? Learn more about the benefits of low altitude training below.

What is Live High Train Low?

Live high train low is a training method used by athletes involving the performance of training activities at sea level while resting in high-altitude environments with the goal of improving their performance at sea level. 

The training method was developed as a way for athletes to reap the benefits of altitude acclimatization as they rested in low-oxygen environments (hypoxia) while maintaining the intensity of training sessions in an oxygen-rich setting. This would involve setting up training camps in a single location, either at sea level or at a training facility in the mountains, while the other half of the training would be simulated using an altitude simulation system.

At sea level, the live high portion can be simulated by reducing the oxygen concentration in the air either through oxygen filtration or nitrogen dilution. Meanwhile, at high altitudes, the train low portion would be accomplished through oxygen supplementation. 

The Rationale Behind the Live High Train Low Training Model

The prospect of altitude training was explored in greater detail after disappointing performances in the 1968 Olympics. The event was held in a high-altitude area in Mexico, which was identified as the cause of the disappointing performances. Athletes and trainers would later have high altitude training camps to acclimate athletes and prepare for future competitions at altitude. However, later, researchers discovered that these training sessions resulted in better performances at sea level, which led to the rise of numerous high-altitude training facilities worldwide.

The rationale behind altitude training identified the increased total red blood cell volume among athletes as the reason for the improved performance. Since red blood cells were responsible for distributing oxygen throughout the body, a higher volume would result in better oxygenation for the cells. Furthermore, exposure to high altitudes triggered the production of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO), which stimulated the production of red blood cells in the body.

However, training in hypoxia imposed more stress on athletes’ bodies, which could easily result in overtraining. To compensate, athletes would train with less intensity, which had a negative effect on their performance. Thus, the live high train low model was developed. Under this model, athletes would train at sea level conditions, which increased the intensity of their training sessions, resulting in higher gains. Meanwhile, they would rest under hypoxia to stimulate the production of red blood cells.

Benefits of Low Altitude Training

Various studies identified different benefits of low altitude training supplemented with greater exposure to high altitude conditions. These benefits include:

  • Improved Anaerobic Capacity. Interrupting hypoxia during training sessions enabled athletes to increase training intensity.
  • Muscle Buffering Capabilities. The improved intensity of training sessions led to more physiological gains.
  • Total Increase in Red Blood Cell Volume. Hypoxia triggers the opening of erythropoietic pathways, which leads to an increase in overall red blood cell count.

Effects of Low Altitude Training on the Competitive Performance of Athletes

A look into the competitive performance of athletes who had undergone live high train low training revealed significant improvements to their performance. In one comparative study, three groups of runners were observed while training under different models: (live high train low, live high train high, and train high sleep low). It found that the group that lived high and trained low improved their 5-km time trial performances by 1.3% while the other groups had a decline (-0.3% and -2.7%), respectively.

In a separate study, researchers studied a group of athletes subjected to a live high train low training program for 21 days under simulated environments. They were made to undergo intense training sessions and lived in hypobaric apartments for 12 hours a day while another group lived at sea level conditions. The results showed that the live high train low model had favorable effects on the performance of athletes by improving exercise economy and hemodynamic function in competitive runners.

Low Altitude Training Support with Altitude Simulation Technologies

The logistics behind the live high train low model can certainly pose a challenge for athletes in training and their coaching staff. Having to relocate while transitioning between different training phases is difficult to navigate and can create limitations in the training program itself. 

One way to navigate this issue is by simulating these conditions using an altitude simulation system. Although some may contend that simulated environments may not have the same effect or will not be as beneficial to athletes, scientific evidence proves otherwise. 

Furthermore, Altitude Control Technology’s altitude simulation system doesn’t just supply oxygen to the facility – it duplicates the partial pressure of oxygen that you set to ensure that athletes are able to train and rest under optimal conditions. ACT has installed systems around the world with both professional athletes, such as at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO and prestigious research institutes such as Harvard Medical Clinic.