Application of altitude/hypoxic training by elite athletes

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Sep;39(9):1610-24. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e3180de49e6.


At the Olympic level, differences in performance are typically less than 0.5%. This helps explain why many contemporary elite endurance athletes in summer and winter sport incorporate some form of altitude/hypoxic training within their year-round training plan, believing that it will provide the "competitive edge" to succeed at the Olympic level. The purpose of this paper is to describe the practical application of altitude/hypoxic training as used by elite athletes. Within the general framework of the paper, both anecdotal and scientific evidence will be presented relative to the efficacy of several contemporary altitude/hypoxic training models and devices currently used by Olympic-level athletes for the purpose of legally enhancing performance. These include the three primary altitude/hypoxic training models: 1) live high+train high (LH+TH), 2) live high+train low (LH+TL), and 3) live low+train high (LL+TH). The LH+TL model will be examined in detail and will include its various modifications: natural/terrestrial altitude, simulated altitude via nitrogen dilution or oxygen filtration, and hypobaric normoxia via supplemental oxygen. A somewhat opposite approach to LH+TL is the altitude/hypoxic training strategy of LL+TH, and data regarding its efficacy will be presented. Recently, several of these altitude/hypoxic training strategies and devices underwent critical review by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for the purpose of potentially banning them as illegal performance-enhancing substances/methods. This paper will conclude with an update on the most recent statement from WADA regarding the use of simulated altitude devices.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Altitude*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / prevention & control*
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Sports / physiology*


  • Oxygen