Background and objective: Hypoxic training techniques are increasingly used by athletes in an attempt to improve performance in normoxic environments. The 'live low-train high (LLTH)' model of hypoxic training may be of particular interest to athletes because LLTH protocols generally involve shorter hypoxic exposures (approximately two to five sessions per week of <3 h) than other traditional hypoxic training techniques (e.g., live high-train high or live high-train low). However, the methods employed in LLTH studies to date vary greatly with respect to exposure times, training intensities, training modalities, degrees of hypoxia and performance outcomes assessed. Whilst recent reviews provide some insight into how LLTH may be applied to enhance performance, little attention has been given to how training intensity/modality may specifically influence subsequent performance in normoxia. Therefore, this systematic review aims to evaluate the normoxic performance outcomes of the available LLTH literature, with a particular focus on training intensity and modality.
Data sources and study selection: A systematic search was conducted to capture all LLTH studies with a matched normoxic (control) training group and the assessment of performance under normoxic conditions. Studies were excluded if no training was completed during the hypoxic exposures, or if these exposures exceeded 3 h per day. Four electronic databases were searched (PubMed, SPORTDiscus, EMBASE and Web of Science) during August 2013, and these searches were supplemented by additional manual searches until December 2013.
Results: After the electronic and manual searches, 40 papers were deemed to meet the inclusion criteria, representing 31 separate studies. Within these 31 studies, four types of LLTH were identified: (1) continuous low-intensity training in hypoxia (CHT, n = 16), (2) interval hypoxic training (IHT, n = 4), (3) repeated sprint training in hypoxia (RSH, n = 3) and (4) resistance training in hypoxia (RTH, n = 4). Four studies also used a combination of CHT and IHT. The majority of studies reported no difference in normoxic performance between the hypoxic and normoxic training groups (n = 19), while nine reported greater improvements in the hypoxic group and three reported poorer outcomes compared with the control group. Selection of training intensity (including matching relative or absolute intensity between normoxic and hypoxic groups) was identified as a key factor in mediating the subsequent normoxic performance outcomes. Five studies included some form of normoxic training for the hypoxic group and 14 studies assessed performance outcomes not specific to the training intensity/modality completed during the training intervention.
Conclusion: Four modes of LLTH are identified in the current literature (CHT, IHT, RSH and RTH), with training mode and intensity appearing to be key factors in mediating subsequent performance responses in normoxia. Improvements in normoxic performance appear most likely following high-intensity, short-term and intermittent training (e.g., IHT, RSH). LLTH programmes should carefully apply the principles of training and testing specificity and include some high-intensity training in normoxia. For RTH, it is unclear whether the associated adaptations are greater than those of traditional (maximal) resistance training programmes.