Rushall Comments, (1999)

The advocacy of altitude training producing beneficial effects on sea level competitive performances persists. New altitude training centers continue to open, coaches "swear" by its value, and the lateral excuses of having altitude sojourns disguise the use of illegal drugs, are but some of the reasons behind the proselytizing. While there are still adherents to the procedure of going to train and live at altitude (hypobaric hypoxic environment -- reduced atmospheric pressure and reduced pO2), there have been some other "twists" for training that still support, although only partially, altitude effects.

One innovation has been the "live high -- train low" model (Rushall & Pyke, 1990, p. 138). Training is performed at sea level (normobaric normoxic environment) and non-training time is spent at least at moderate altitude (mild hypobaric hypoxic environment). Researches in this area are not well designed and contradictory, with most supportive studies being authored by investigators who are not divorced from bias.

Another training innovation is a modification of the "live high -- train low" model, even though it is different. Training is performed at sea level (normobaric normoxic environment) and non-training time is spent also at sea level (normal atmospheric pressure) but in an encapsulated environment with a reduced pO2 (colloquially termed a "nitrogen house"). In those living conditions, the environment is normobaric and hypoxic. It is the atmospheric pressure that differentiates this contrived living with that of the classical "live high -- train low" environment. Researches in this area too are not well designed, few in number, and produced by adherents.

Little mention is made of the difference. However, should it be given more attention? Atmospheric pressure has a direct physical effect upon fluids and organisms. There is an instant physiological and tissue response to changes in atmospheric pressure. Humans and animals are sensitive to very slight pressure changes. For example, the behavior of many organisms reflects relatively small alterations in barometric pressure associated with weather.

Whether or not an environment is normobaric or hypobaric could affect the responses of athletes. At this time, it is not known what those effects are. To equate both forms of "live high -- train low" training would be spurious. In the Coaching Science Abstracts, the two forms of pseudo-altitude training will be treated separately.

When reading and evaluating altitude research and making decisions that directly affect athletes, the increasing mysteries and dubious contentions that continue to be involved with this topic should always remain foremost in one's mind.


Rushall, B. S., & Pyke, F. S. (1990). Training for sports and fitness. Melbourne, Australia: Macmillan Educational.

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