Altitude training is a recognized sports scientific method to increase performance in athletes, although many different protocols exists and there are many opinions about their effect.
Physioinnovation believes in some of the protocols in altitude training and we have tried to give you a digest of some of the studies regarding the altitude training in this blog… At AlpCamps Sports Institute we live in altitude and use the altitude training as a tool to increase performance, loosing weight, adapt to high amounts of metabolic waste products during anaerobic performance. Here is some of the evidence behind hypoxic training…
Although some studies have had a hard time finding the benefits of intermittent hypoxic training there are several studies that has found positive results, more recently by Faiss et al., (2013). The Swiss based research team tested the effect of hypoxic training on sprint ability and found a positive correlation in performance of the group that performed sprints in altitude compared to sealevel group and control group.
Interval training has been one of the most important factors in order to increase endurance performance, peripherally muscle buffer capacity increases, imagining your capillary system as one big spindle net, which increases in size and small branches when training with I.e. Interval training. Central factors such as heart size and ability to pump an increased amount of blood in the body are obviously also increased by interval training, these are just basic facts and benefits of physical training (Michalsik and Bangsbo, 2005).
So how could you amplify this effect by training in hypoxic conditions?
Since late 90’s there has been a lot of attention into hypoxic training/ altitude training with the study by Levine and Gundersen (1997), whom showed an increase in haemaglobin levels (10%) and 5000m running time (5%) in the group living high and training low compared to a control group and a group both living and training high (∼2800m).
However, this method is quite time consuming, since you’ll have to stay high for a minimum of 18days (Pialoux et al, 2009) in order to get any change in blood parameters and hereby performance, although best results has been obtained from at least a 24days stay in altitude until date (Levine and Gundersen, 1997).
Intermittent hypoxic training, has gained far more attention recent years because of its less time consuming efficacy. Although it’s efficiency upon elite endurance athletes yet has to prove effective to a major degree, there has been in particular one study by Dufour et al. (2006), whom showed an increase in endurance for competitive distance runners. The results were promising from the method used in this study, a +5% increase in Vo2max and +35% time to exhaustion only in the group undergoing altitude training at ∼3000m (Dufour et al, 2006).
Training in hypoxic condition or altitude cannot change blood values, since the amount of exposure in altitude like the study by Dufour et al. (2006) is not enough to change actual haemaglobin etc as seen in the recent study by the Swiss research tem (Faiss et al., 2013). However, in this type of training the peripheral factors increasing the buffer capacity in the muscles (the spindle net as mentioned above) is believed to change (Faiss et al. 2013, Dufour et al, 2006; Vogt et al, 2003) Hereby creating a better circulation and exchange in the blood/muscle barrier. Faiss et al, (2013) also discussed the possibility that fast twitch muscles had a better effect of the training in high altitude, since there could be a more dramatical shift in the ability of these fibers to get rid of metabolic waste products.
One of the reasons why there is such a change in buffer capacity (capillarity) while training in altitude is the stimulant of the so called master gene HIF-1 or hypoxic inducible factor 1, which starts the process of human adaptation to altitude (increased capillarity, mitochondrial content, glycolytic enzymes I.e.) (Vogt et al, 2001). These effects from the transcription of the Mrna gene was also seen in the hypoxic training group in the study by Faiss et al, (2013).
Although there is not fully consensus about this master gene HIF-1 (Lundby et al, 2009) it is mentioned as one of the leading factors to human adaptation in altitude (Pialoux et al. 2009) and hereby also increase in endurance performance at least in altitude (Dufour et al. 2009) and possibly also the increased performance of sprint ability at sealevel (Faiss et al, 2013).
At AlpCamps Sports Institute we daily live and exercise in Hypoxic conditions, ranging from altitudes at 400 - 3000 meters. We use a broad variety of methods, ranging from intermittent hypoxic training, train high live low, live high train low.
Altitude Training (Intermittent hypoxic training protocols)
About IHE/HIH altitude training protocols, alternative passive recovery/performance enhancing strategies in altitude…
Different altitude-training protocols exist and there are more to come, but something that could draw attention to athletes is the most time efficient ways to gain in endurance capacity or to use recovery strategies. At Physioinnovation we consult and help you getting the right type of altitude training protocols for your sport, the timing of your peak performance, recovery strategies and so on.
Recently, Bonetti et al., (2009) conducted a trial of intermittent hypoxic exposure (IHE). IHE is described as being brief exposure to altitude ( less than 3 hours) (Bonetti and Hopkins, 2009). It has been proposed that muscular changes such as increased muscular buffering and haematological changes such as increased levels of reticolucytes (immature red blood cells – the carriers of oxygen) and haemaglobine (mature red blood cells – the carriers of oxygen) induced by a IHE protocol could possibly increase endurance performance (Bonetti et al., 2009).
Results from a study conducted by Bonetti and Hopkins (2009) obtained 3 days after the 3-week protocol by the test group (18 males) compared with a control group (8 males): The test group showed a 4,7% increase in cycling peak power, measured via a so-called incremental ramp test, where subjects increased the resistance on the bike every 3rd minute until exhaustion. These measurements was encountered in WATT, a tool that could be used by cyclists I.e. (SRM power data etc…) Lactate profile power was increased (4,4%) – This would suggest that one conducting a sport were there is a period of lactic acid building, such as heavy and sore muscles would be able to prolong his period in where he/she could work intensively.
Heart rate profile power (6,5%) was increased as well, which would suggest that I.e. running 19,5km/hr would be 6,5% less hard for the cardiovascular system. Conclusively, the results would suggest that the increased cycling performance were due to peripheral changes, such as increased muscular buffering which means a better distribution of lactate acid elsewhere in the body, since there were no changes in haematological parameters such as haemaglobine.
Practically, the implementation of this time-efficient altitude training, would suggest a break through for competitive athletes, since it can be difficult to implement long duration live high train low protocols (>12 hours a day above 2500metres >21 days) within hard training periods. The ultimate increase in performance within cycling peak power attenuated by increasing peripheral parameters such as lactate removal and more hence increase the efficiency of the muscle fibre can be obtained by consulting wihtin altitude training, as we propose at Physioinnovation.
Lately Chui et al, (2012) discovered that IHT or here called HIH Hypobaric intermittent hypoxia affected the cardiovascular system by an anti-hypertensive effect, although the study was conducted on rats the correlation to IHE on humans could might well be the same.
References : Bonetti, D.L., Hopkins, W.G., Lowe, T.E., Kilding, A.E., (2009), Cycling Performance FollowingAdaptation to Two Protocols of Acutely Intermittent Hypoxia, International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, vol.4, p.68-83
Bonetti, D.L., Hopkins, W.G., (2009), Sea-level exercise performance following adaptation to hypoxia: a meta-analysis, Sports Med, vol. 39(2), p.107-27
Millet, G.P., Roels, B., Schmitt, L., Woorons, X., Richalet, J.P., (2010), Combining Hypoxic Methods for Peak Performance, Sports med
Fang Cui, Lu Gao, Fang Yuan, Ze-Fei Dong, Zhao-Nian Zhou, David D. Kline, Yi Zhang, De-Pei (2012), Hypobaric Intermittent Hypoxia Attenuates Hypoxia-induced Depressor Response, Plos one
Is pedalling in cycling a brain controlled activity or is it a self-controlled movement that is stored as a reflex in the spine? This recently published paper by Sanket et al., (2012) shows us that the pedalling motion is highly depending on brain (cortex) activity. How can this sports scientific knowledge bring us further in understanding the pedalling motion and teach people how it is done correctly? The pedalling and biomechanical/physical training concept 5KineticGears by Physioinnovation is an approach to pedalling motion that has a great bond with neurology. It fits perfectly into the approach that pedalling is a motion that needs kinesthetic attention, brain training and a well founded biomechanists to help you learn these movements towards perfection.
Some of the reasons behind…
Assuming that the neurological feedback system has a great impact upon how we use our brain is perhaps more than ever a very important issue. The feedback system staring at the foot through maximum pressure points, the shape of the soles, the positioning of the cleats, to the pelvis and it’s angle plus pressure points on the saddle, ending at the hands with pressure points on the steer gives us the feedback from pressure neurons. They loop through our spine to our brain, giving us what is called “feedback” together with the information from our joints and tendons informing us of the angle in our joints, stretch of passive and active structures such as ligaments, tendons and muscles.
If the pedalling motion is actively controlled by the brain as proposed by Sanket et al., (2012) and not a self regulated action, then the feedback system is more important than ever! A well functioning feedback loop will generate the most accurate feed forward, hence an accurate pedalling motion and MORE EFFICIENT POWER!
What are our possibilities of giving ourselves the perfect feedback at the moment? A small example of how we work through the MyoKinematics Bike Fitting concept is by looking at the feet. The stiffer and faster the construction of the foot, the more and the faster feedback is given to the brain. Assuming that a faster feedback will give a better chance for the brain to work is not totally out of proportion. Therefore we also offer a special performance constructed sole…
The MyoKinematics bike fitting concept is all about giving the most qualitative feedback for your brain, so that you have maximum amount of information to work with. This will give you more options on order to work efficiently with your feed forward (your muscle coordination). We can actually monitor brain activity by looking at how the muscles work during pedalling. The MyoKinematics concept has the same type of technique as used in this study, but much more easily to use, non-invasive and readily available. We have consulted professional athletes that wants to have this knowledge because they of all now that the difference is in the details and the changes in details often brings a return in terms of increased power and efficiency during cycling.
Well, first and foremost it is a hybrid between becoming one with your bike and learning how to actually use your body correctly on a it, or in other words using your brain during pedalling… :-) Sounds awkward, well it is not, cycling is actually demanding a lot of coordination, we say: Take control of the bike, don’t let it control you, just because a bike’s pedals can only spin around in a very well defined direction does not mean that you can not control it… Your muscles and the way you decide to use them (brain-work) is determining how much you’ll ever get out of your career as a weekend warrior, frequent fitness spinner, pro-elite cyclist and passionate all round cyclist.
This is why the MyoKinematics concept has specified training methods that come together with an equation of a more comfortable position that is fully customized to the body’s possibilities. After correct positioning on a bike (post bike fit), the rest is brainwork, yes brain you are reading it right: brainwork…
Just an example of how pedalling technique is responsible for in cycling efficiency is a study by Mr. Wakeling, Blake and Chan (2009) that conducted a study that proposed “power output in the limb is limited by coordination of the muscles rather than the maximum power output by the muscle itself” – Wow! This is our vision with MyoKinematics in a nutshell
How do I work on my brain during pedalling to maximize my power output?
Well start looking at some videos at MyoKinematics TV and our work on 5KineticGears. We have introduced this method in Fitnessdk in Denmark, the largest fitness chain in Denmark. Follow our blog, and join the mother company on facebook, Physioinnovation , we’ll keep you updated.
AlpCamps Sports Institute™ update August & September | Bike Fitting & Coaching
Physioinnovation™ & AlpCamps Sports Institute™ has had some busy weeks in August and September, including the launch of a new and innovative Bike Fitting concept using the MyoWave (see more at MyoKinematics™). The Bike Fitting method called MyoKinematics™ is the first of its kind in the world, that we have launched based from our journey in the United States together with Sonostics Inc. Here we have some videos of both our new bike fitting method and follow-up on in the Alps. At AlpCamps Sports Institute™ we have had visits of dedicated cycling enthusiasts who started a performance process of bike fitting in the spring. In the Alps they have been working with both pedaling technique, physical training and imagery techniques on steep and challenging climbs in our backyard at AlpCamps. Contact us for more information concerning tailor made training camps for you as an athlete no matter your level. See you at AlpCamps Sports Institute™ :-)
Muscle efficiency in bike fitting and the use of MyoWave VMG technology to monitor it
We just recently launched the MyoKinematics bike fitting method, the first available kinetic and kinematic approach to bike fitting for the broad public. Here we present why the muscle efficiency is so important.
We have developed a novel method in partnership with Sonostics and the use of MyoWave (VMG) technology to help cyclists and triathletes to promote more efficient muscle coordination during pedaling and hereby lowering the metabolic cost of cycling (more endurance and more power).
In the quoted study by Wakeling, Blake and Chan (2010), the authors did several tests measuring lower limb muscle activity in a varied span of cadences and power output. The idea behind the testing was to monitor the variance of muscular efficiency in different position and by different coordination. Wakeling et al. (2010) found that by using EMG (Electromyography) they could monitor the metabolic cost by using different muscle coordination during pedaling. The lower the EMG signal for a given power/watt output, the more efficient the muscles were and hence a lower metabolic cost.
The conclusion is simple; the better coordination during pedaling, the more endurance and watt outputs can be sustained during cycling. This will make you a better cyclist or triathlete, since evidence shows that muscle coordination is one of the primary factors limiting power output, according to Wakeling et al. (2010).
At MyoKinematics™ we offer a laboratory based testing in a clinical setting, with a non-invasive technology called vibromyography (VMG). The VMG technology developed by Sonostics Inc. is highly accurate and delivers a highly valuable information about muscle balances, coordination and power output (strength).
Follow our blog to see how we are applying this novel technology in sports science to help cyclists and triathletes, both elite, pro and weekend warriors to become better and more efficient in their pedaling. We at Physioinnovation™, developers of MyoKinematics™are proud to be the first ones in the world to promote the VMG technology by using the MyoWave to a broad public within bike fitting.
Interval training is the most time efficient way to increase your sport performance. But what kind of intervals should you do to enhance your physical performance efficiently? This blog contains some elements from exercise physiology and the implementation of this type of training.
A bit of exercise physiology…
You should consider if you have an anaerobic component*, which is very important in your sport: skiing/football/handball/competition cycling/running among others. *(Ability to perform high intensity that is not totally covered by the oxygen supply) You will feel the burning sensation in your muscles at work, ultimately making you stop to recover… Physiologically you will have a higher amount of lactic acid in your blood, which is a good thing since it opens up the “neuromuscular” gate to facilitate more muscle fibers to contract… It is the Kalium or K+ that makes you feel pain and ultimately stop to recover…
Example of anaerobic intervals: Intervals to increase anaerobic threshold (your ability to sustain lactic acid and the removal of Kalium) is normally ranging from 5-40 seconds at max intensity for the whole period. Pause should be 10 times the workload in between sets. Ex: 30-second maximum running/biking etc followed by 10x30second=5min pause or very light recovery running/cycling etc. Sets should be ranging from 2-12 pr. session.
Goal: Increasing neural capacity (the nervous response to the muscle, speed of muscle contraction etc), increasing muscle buffer capacity to work without oxygen.
Aerobic capacity/Vo2Max If your main goal is increasing aerobic capacity or Vo2 max*, main concern should be on longer intervals, with shorter recovery breaks but overall lower intensity in work periods compared to above-mentioned anaerobic intervals.
Main outcome goals for doing intervals
Competition athletes: Increasing average and maximum speeds, increase power/weight ratio, increasing wattage (cyclists) or output without increasing effort measured in heart rate.
Recreational athletes: Lose body fat and increase power/weight ratio, increase well-being, increase coordination of movements (efficiency). This type of training would be excellent in the later preparing phase for longer endurance events such as cyclosportives in the alps, ultra endurance runs, long distance cross country skiing etc…
References: Clinical sports medicine, Brukner and Khan. training Aerobic anaerobic, Michalsik, Bangsbo.
In the light of people stating that “they do not have time to train”, a study by Little et al., (2010) was very interesting because of the cardiovascular and metabolic benefits from a low volume training (<30min) over a 2 week period. The training consisted of high intensity interval training (HIIT) 6 times during 2 weeks.
The results were compared to similar studies, which had measured the same parameters, but with traditional endurance training as intervention (longer time - 90-120min 3 times a week). The effective intervention of this study consisted of 8-12 HIIT intervals of 60sec peak power output (all out, heavy breathing, burning legs). Each interval was followed by a 75sec break. The results were impressive and lead to both increased mitochondrial transcription factor, protein and glycogen content in the muscles, which has been seen as well in training program with longer duration as mentioned above.
These factors are determinant for endurance and could be put in to perspective in all events lasting for 90-120 minutes (the time to use up the glycogen content in the muscles).
A total of 30min x 3 days/weekly HIIT program can actually be as beneficial (metabolic/cardiovascular) as a traditional endurance training program lasting of around 300 min a week. This is a methods that we use in our approach to people wanting an efficient training program and we offer pre-made training as well as tailor made training programs at our online store www.virtualsportscoaching.com
Refferences: Little, J.P., Safdar, A., Wilkin, G.P., Tarnopolsky, M.A., Gibala, M.J., (2010), A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms, J physiol, vol. 588(6), p.1011-1022
This blog is about the positive role of altitude and interval training upon physical fitness, especially the Australian method called Train High Live Low which we argue is the most ethical and also one of the most efficient methods to move faster. This method is completely opposite to the one orginally presented by Levine & Gundersen, called LHTL (Live High Train High).
Our ethical standpoint…
We are strong believers of sports science, but we WILL NOT tolerate anything that can change blood parameters in a NON natural way, by this we mean sleeping in altitude tents for more than 8 hours or by the use of any medical banned substances. We do believe that athletes should have equal training methods even though you live at sea level or components living in the altitude or having easy access to the altitude. This is why we offer a device that can simulate altitude up to 6000 meters for athletes wanting to prepare for the effort in the altitude (a competition or event). We believe that this is a legitimate and ethical responsible way to prepare yourself to what will be required of you as an athlete in a competition. Many of us living at sea level, cannot due to financial and logistic difficulties prepare our self with a long duration altitude training camp. Therefore we offer rental of this device with an incorporated training program preparing your muscles for the effort in the altitude. The example below is taking place on bike put on a home trainer. The scientific examples is from runners but will work just fine with cyclists or cross country skiers as well.
Further there is a discussion on the effects upon the body from this type of training. Lastly there is the PRACTICAL IMPLEMENTATION based from a scientific trial, we have then personally tried out one type of interval training programmes with our own altitude simulator system from Hypoxico systems.
Some dry stuff but important to know for the serious endurance athlete… Interval training has been one of the most important factors in order to increase endurance performance, peripherally muscle buffer capacity increases, imagining your capillary system as one big spindle net, which increases in size and small branches when training with I.e. Interval training. Central factors such as heart size and ability to pump an increased amount of blood in the body are obviously also increased by interval training (Michalsik and Bangsbo, 2005).
Since late 90’s there has been a lot of attention into hypoxic training or so called altitude training with the study by Levine and Gundersen (1997), whom showed an increase in haemaglobin levels (10%) and 5000m running time (5%) in the group living high and training low compared to a control group and a group both living and training high (∼2800m).
However, this method is quite time consuming and we also believe that it is at the very border of what is acceptable from an ethical standpoint. However, since the study was carried out in a natural setting (mountains) we do accept it. But had this been conducted in either tents or chambers it would have been another case!
Intermittent altitude training, has gained far more attention recent years because of its less time consuming efficacy. Although it’s efficiency upon elite endurance athletes yet has to prove effective to a major degree, there has been in particular one study by Dufour et al. (2006), whom showed an increase in endurance for competitive distance runners. In the 6week study they implemented 2 days of training in simulated altitude consisting of 2x12 min intervals increasing the periods to 16 and 20min during the 6-week intervention.
The results were promising, a +5% increase in Vo2max and +35% time to exhaustion only in the group undergoing altitude training at ∼3000m (Dufour et al, 2006).
Training in hypoxic condition or altitude cannot change blood values, since the amount of exposure in altitude like the study by Dufour et al (2006) is not enough to change actual haemaglobin etc. However, in this type of training the peripheral factors increasing the buffer capacity in the muscles (the spindle net as mentioned above) is believed to change (Dufour et al, 2006; Vogt et al, 2003) Hereby creating a better circulation and exchange in the blood/muscle barrier.
One of the reasons why there is such a change in buffer capacity (capillarity) while training in altitude is the stimulant of the so called master gene HIF-1 or hypoxic inducible factor 1, which starts the process of human adaptation to altitude (increased capillarity, mitochondrial content, glycolytic enzymes I.e.) (Vogt et al, 2001).
Although there is not fully consensus about this master gene HIF-1 (Lundby et al, 2009) it is mentioned as one of the leading factors to human adaptation in altitude (Pialoux et al. 2009) and hereby also increase in endurance performance at least in altitude (Dufour et al. 2009)
PRACTICALLY: One could speculate that by implementing the model as mentioned above by Dufour et al. (2006) would give an increase in performance (+5% vo2max and +35% time to exhaustion)… That is a lot! And you have not done anything illegal, which is why this method has become so widely adopted by especially the Australians and more Europeans are looking into this method as well!
Have a look at the interval method below, here you will see the practical implementation that I tried by mimicking the above-mentioned study. I wish I had a SRM to show power (watts)…
Training method: - 10min warm up self selected cadence on a Tacx SATORI home-trainer
- 12min interval at 8/10 resistance on home-trainer min sustained cadence at 70RPM max sustained cadence at 80RPM or (∼80% vo2max)
- 3min active recovery at self selected cadence and resistance
- 12min interval at 8/10 resistance on hometrainer min sustained cadence at 70RPM max sustained cadence at 80RPM or (∼80% vo2max)
- 10 min warm down at self selected cadence and resistance on the hometrainer, still in 3000m
It is a pure endurance interval 4:1ratio, which at our point of view is good to build a solid endurance base during winter. These 2 intervals of 12min separated by 3min -10beat/min break could be used into the competitive cyclist, cross country skier or runners training program.
Contact us to learn more! We strongly suggest you choosing us a your personal sport performance coach, since the implementation of such an altitude training program has to be designed with a considerable amount of respect to your recovery methods.
References Bangsbo, J, Michalsik, L (2005), Aerob og anaerob træning, Danmarks idræts forbund, 1 udgave, 2 oplag, p.123-127
Lundby, C, Calbet, J.A., Robach, P (2009) The response of human skeletal muscle tissue to hypoxia, Cell mol Life Sci, sep.10
Levine, B.D, Gundersen, J.S (1997), ‘‘Living high-training low’’: effect of moderate-altitude acclimatization with low-altitude training on performance, the American Physiological Society
Vogt, M, Billeter, R, Hoppeler, H (2003), Effect of hypoxia on muscular performance capacity: “living low—training high”, Ther Umsch, Jul;60(7), 4p. 19-24
Pialoux, V, Brugniaux, J.V, Fellmann, N Richalet, J.P, Robach, P, Schmirr, L, Coudert, J, Mounier, R (2009), Oxidative stress and HIF-1 alpha modulate hypoxic ventilatory responses after hypoxic training on athletes, Respi physiol Neurobiol, Jun 30;167(2), p.217-20
Dufour, S.P, Ponsot, E, Zoll, J, Doutreleu, S, Lonsdorfer, W.E, Geny, B, Lamber, E, Flück, M, Hoppeler, H, Billat, V, Mettauer, B, Richard, R, Lonsdorfer, J (2006), Exercise training in normobaric hypoxia in endurance runners. I. Improvement in aerobic performance capacity, J Appl physiol, Apr;100(4), p.1238-48