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Is Live High/Train Low the Ultimate Endurance Training Model?

by Jamie Ness, MS, CSCS
NSCA Coach January 2013
Vol 2, Issue 1

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Live high/train low: what changes can be expected, what dose is required, and is it preferable to other training models for improving performance in endurance sports such as running, swimming, and cycling?

Live high/train low is a training method in which athletes live at high altitude and train at low altitude, usually with the goal of improving performance at sea level. The main idea is to reap the benefits of high altitude acclimatization while maintaining the intensity of low altitude training. The live high portion of the method is sometimes simulated with the use of altitude tents. The method used for these simulated environments is either oxygen filtration or nitrogen dilution, both of which reduce the concentration of oxygen. The train low portion of the method can be simulated by the use of supplemental oxygen.

Evidence suggests that live high/train low can enhance physiological and sea-level performance to a greater extent than training methods using live high/train high, live low/train high, and live low/train low. However, before an athlete commits to such a training regimen, the costs and risks should be considered. Typically, 1% improvements can be gained after 3 – 4 weeks, but this is not always the case.

Once individual response variability is understood to a greater degree, screenings may become more common and reliable, and live high/train low or live high/train low + train high could be optimally utilized. Responders have shown as much as a 4% improvement, while non-responders have shown as much as a 1% decrement following live high/train low regimens, making individual variability possibly the most important issue remaining to be understood.

Read the full article for more information about altitude acclimatization, possible problems, effects on endurance performance, and live high/train low training protocols.

This article originally appeared in NSCA Coach, a quarterly publication for NSCA Members that provides valuable takeaways for every level of strength and conditioning coach. You can find scientifically based articles specific to a wide variety of your athletes’ needs with Nutrition, Programming, and Youth columns. Read more articles from NSCA Coach »

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Jamie Ness, CSCS

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Jamie Ness first discovered an interest in altitude training in a college course in which he took part in a live high/train low plus train high traini...

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