Gough, C. E., Saunders, P. U., Fowlie, J., Savage, B., Pyne, D. B., Anson, J. M., Wachsmith, N., Prommer, N., & Gore, C. J. (January 12, 2012). Influence of altitude training modality on performance and total hemoglobin mass in elite swimmers. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112. Published on line DOI 10.1007/s00421-011-2291-7.

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Changes in performance and total hemoglobin mass in the weeks following either classic or live-high:train-low (LHTL) altitude training camps were evaluated in elite Australian swimmers (M = 15; F = 11). Ss were divided into two groups for three weeks of either classic (M = 14; F = 3) or LHTL (M = 1; F = 8) altitude training. Swimming performances over 100 or 200 m were assessed before altitude exposure, then 1, 7, 14, and 28 days after returning to sea-level. Total hemoglobin mass was measured twice before altitude and on days 1 and 14 after return to sea-level. Changes in swimming performance in the first week after classic and LHTL were compared against those of a race-control (N = 11) group of elite swimmers who did not complete altitude training. Additionally, a season-long comparison of swimming performances between altitude and non-altitude groups was undertaken to compare the progression of performances over the course of a competitive season.

Regardless of the altitude training modality, swimming performances were slower on days one and seven after altitude compared to the race-control group. In both altitude groups, performances on days 14 and 28 did not differ from those of pre-altitude (the race-control group was not assessed). On days one and seven, the race-control group improved in performance in practical terms. The season-long comparison indicated no advantage was obtained by swimmers who completed altitude training. Both classic and LHTL elicited ~4% increases in total hemoglobin mass. The hemoglobin changes varied markedly between individuals in both altitude groups producing no trend that might suggest a causal link. Altitude training induced erythropoiesis which appeared not to transfer directly into improved competitive performance in elite swimmers.

Implication. Classic and live-high:train-low altitude training camps over three weeks did not enhance performances in the short or long terms of Australian elite swimmers. Swimmers who were not exposed to altitude environments improved in short-term performances more than the altitude groups. Increased erythropoiesis did not enhance performance although it is touted as being a performance-enhancing substance by drug-testing agencies.

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