Is Altitude Training Bad for the Running Mechanics of Middle-Distance Runners?

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year online subscription

USD  $112.00

1 year online subscription

USD  $149.00

Student 2 year online subscription

USD  $213.00

2 year online subscription

USD  $284.00

Aims: It has been hypothesized that altitude training may alter running mechanics due to several factors such as the slower training velocity with associated alteration in muscle activation and coordination. This would lead to an altered running mechanics attested by an increase in mechanical work for a given intensity and to the need to “re-establish” the neuromuscular coordination and running biomechanics postaltitude. Therefore, the present study aimed to test the hypothesis that “live high—train high” would induce alteration in the running biomechanics (ie, longer contact time, higher vertical oscillations, decreased stiffness, higher external work). Methods: Before and 2 to 3 days after 3 weeks of altitude training (1850–2200 m), 9 national-level middle-distance (800–5000 m) male runners performed 2 successive 5-minute bouts of running at moderate intensity on an instrumented treadmill with measured ground reaction forces and gas exchanges. Immediately after the running trials, peak knee extensor torque was assessed during isometric maximal voluntary contraction. Results: Except for a slight (−3.0%; P = .04) decrease in vertical stiffness, no mechanical parameters (stride frequency and length, contact and flight times, ground reaction forces, and kinetic and potential work) were modified from prealtitude to postaltitude camp. Running oxygen cost was also unchanged. Discussion: The present study is the first one to report that “live high—train high” did not change the main running mechanical parameters, even when measured immediately after the altitude camp. This result has an important practical implication: there is no need for a corrective period at sea level for “normalizing” the running mechanics after an altitude camp.

Millet, Trigueira, and Meyer are with the Inst of Sport Sciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland. Lemire is with the Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France.

Millet (gregoire.millet@unil.ch) is corresponding author.
  • 1.

    Girard O, Brocherie F, Millet GP. Effects of altitude/hypoxia on single- and multiple-sprint performance: a comprehensive review. Sports Med. 2017;47(10):19311949. PubMed ID: 28451905 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Siebenmann C, Dempsey JA. Hypoxic training is not beneficial in elite athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020;52(2):519522. PubMed ID: 31939915 doi:

  • 3.

    Millet GP, Brocherie F. Hypoxic training is beneficial in elite athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020;52(2):515518. PubMed ID: 31939914 doi:

  • 4.

    Millet GP, Roels B, Schmitt L, Woorons X, Richalet JP. Combining hypoxic methods for peak performance. Sports Med. 2010;40(1):125. PubMed ID: 20020784 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Stickford AS, Wilhite DP, Chapman RF. No change in running mechanics with live high-train low altitude training in elite distance runners. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12(1):133136. PubMed ID: 27080980 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Chapman RF, Laymon Stickford AS, Lundby C, Levine BD. Timing of return from altitude training for optimal sea level performance. J Appl Physiol. 2014;116(7):837843. PubMed ID: 24336885 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Wilber RL. Application of altitude/hypoxic training by elite athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(9):16101624. PubMed ID: 17805095 doi:

  • 8.

    Wehrlin JP, Hallen J. Linear decrease in V ˙ O 2 max and performance with increasing altitude in endurance athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006;96(4):404412. PubMed ID: 16311764 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    D’Hulst G, Deldicque L. Human skeletal muscle wasting in hypoxia: a matter of hypoxic dose? J Appl Physiol. 2017;122(2):406408. doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Dewolf AH, Penailillo LE, Willems PA. The rebound of the body during uphill and downhill running at different speeds. J Exp Biol. 2016;219(Pt 15):22762288. PubMed ID: 27207641

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Schmitt L, Millet G, Robach P, et al. Influence of “living high-training low” on aerobic performance and economy of work in elite athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006;97(5):627636. PubMed ID: 16770568 doi:

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    Levine BD, Stray-Gundersen J. “Living high-training low”: effect of moderate-altitude acclimatization with low-altitude training on performance. J Appl Physiol 1997;83(1):102112. PubMed ID: 9216951 doi:

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 13.

    Pugliese L, Serpiello FR, Millet GP, Torre AL. Training diaries during altitude training camp in two olympic champions: an observational case study. J Sports Sci Med. 2014;13(3):666672. PubMed ID: 25177197

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 796 796 382
Full Text Views 26 26 12
PDF Downloads 15 15 5