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The Benefits of Strength Training at Altitude

The Benefits of Strength Training at Altitude

Academic research has proven that strength training at altitude can improve performance across a wide range of sports.

Strength Training at Altitude Increases Growth Hormone Levels and Capillary to Fibre Ratio

Serum growth hormone concentrations after exercise were significantly higher in the altitude group than in the normoxic group (Sea Level) on both the first and last training sessions. (Kurobe et al)

Growth Hormone (GH), also known as human growth hormone (hGH) is a protein hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland in the brain. It plays a significant role in regulating various physiological processes, including growth, metabolism, and cell repair. In the context of sports performance, serum growth hormone is of interest for several reasons:

  • GH promotes the growth and repair of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Athletes often seek to optimize their GH levels to support muscle development, recovery, and injury prevention.
  • GH stimulates the breakdown of fats, releasing them into the bloodstream to be used as an energy source. This can help athletes reduce body fat levels, enhancing their power-to-weight ratio and overall performance.
  • Adequate GH levels can accelerate the recovery process after intense exercise, reducing muscle soreness and the risk of overtraining.
  • GH is essential for bone growth and density. Athletes involved in sports with a high risk of impact-related injuries, such as gymnastics and combat sports, may benefit from maintaining healthy GH levels to support bone health.
  • GH supports the repair and maintenance of tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues, reducing the risk of injuries.

Increasing Capillary to Fiber Ratio

Skeletal muscle capillary-to-fiber ratio were significantly higher in the AST (Altitude Strength Training) group than the NRT (nomoxic) group (Kon et al)

The capillary-to-fiber ratio refers to the ratio of tiny blood vessels to muscle fibers within a muscle. This ratio is a key factor in determining the muscle's ability to receive oxygen and nutrients, remove waste products, and perform efficiently during physical activity.

A higher capillary-to-fiber ratio means: 

  • More blood vessels to supply oxygen to each muscle fiber. 
  • Enhanced muscle's capacity to utilize oxygen during aerobic activities
  • Improved removal of waste products like carbon dioxide and lactic acid that accumulate in muscles during exercise delaying the onset of fatigue and allowing athletes to perform at a higher intensity for longer durations.
  • Improved blood flow and nutrient delivery which accelerates post-exercise recovery by reducing muscle soreness and promoting faster repair.

Strength Training at Altitude

Evidence suggests that AST (Altitude strength training) with moderate loads (60–80% 1RM) and longer inter-set rest intervals (≥ 120 s) enhances muscle hypertrophy and strength compared to normoxia (Benavente et al)

Resistance Training at Altitude, commonly referred to as Resistance Training in Hypoxia (RTH) has been shown to yield superior performance enhancements when contrasted with identical sessions conducted at sea level in academic research and in practice.

Resistance Training at Altitude can be conducted within altitude gyms or within the Box Altitude Training Cloud using the Vitruviuan Trainer+

Session Protocols

All sessions commence after athletes have warmed up and are followed by a cool down.

Frequency: 2-4 Sessions per week

Periodization: Blocks of 5-8 weeks

Duration: 60 min (including warm up and cool down)

Modality: Sport specific resistance exercises

Intensity: 80% 1RM 

Repetitions: 3-4 sets x 8-10 reps (to failure) per exercise

Rest: Greater than 120 seconds

Session Example

The session includes 3 sets of 8-10 reps (to failure) per exercise. The weight is 80% 1RM with a rest period of 120 seconds between sets and exercises. The exercises are back squats, leg press, lunges and deadlifts.

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