Weight Training More Effective at Simulated Altitude

Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his first mainstream movie, “Stay Hungry,” said, “You must burn to grow.” Muscle cells require stress in the form of tension and inflammation to grow optimally. Bing Yan and co-workers from Beijing Sport University in China found that weight training at altitude caused greater increases in strength and lean mass than training at sea level. Subjects trained in a low oxygen room adjusted to 21, 16 or 12.6 percent oxygen (simulated altitudes of sea level, 7,000 feet, or 13,500 feet). Weight training at altitude caused the greatest changes in strength, lean mass and anabolic hormones (growth hormone and testosterone), and training at 12.6 percent oxygen was better than training at 16 percent. Test subjects performed two workouts per week for five weeks in one of the three conditions. How can bodybuilders use this information? Train at altitude. However, this might not provide the same results as training in a room with low oxygen and living at sea level. Win the lottery and build a low-oxygen training room. The training center in Beijing is expensive, very sophisticated, and not available to most athletes. Use a portable altitude generator and breathing mask from Higher Peak (http://www.higherpeak.com, Boston, MA). These cost about $2,500, which is within the budget of more wealthy bodybuilders. If this technique catches on, it will only be a matter of time before some of the leading gyms offer simulated high-altitude training rooms. (Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 30:184-193, 2016)

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