Q+A: What does current research say about the value of oxygen-deprivation training?

What does current research say about the value of oxygen-deprivation training?



Working out in hypoxic conditions (where oxygen levels are low) creates more metabolic stress than exercising in a normoxic environment (i.e., at sea level). Thus, hypoxic training has many fans among serious fitness enthusiasts. But how well does it work?

Most research on hypoxic exercise has centered on aerobic training. A recent study shifted gears, using whole-body, high-intensity circuit training (HICT) to test the effects of hypoxia on repeat sprint ability (RSA), aerobic performance (VO2max) and resting energy expenditure (REE).

Twenty-eight college-aged, resistance-trained men joined the 8-week training study, divided into hypoxia and normoxia groups. All had pre- and post-training measurements taken for RSA (10 30-meter sprints with 30 seconds of rest between sprints), VO2max on a treadmill and REE.

Results were mixed. With 8 weeks of training, the hypoxic group improved its fatigue index between repeated sprints, though sprint speed did not improve. The hypoxic group also improved velocity, time to exhaustion and VO2max during the aerobic treadmill test.

By contrast, the normoxic group saw no improvements in its measurements. Despite the documented gains in the hypoxic group, neither group showed significant differences in blood markers associated with improved aerobic or anaerobic performance.

REFERENCE: Ramos-Campo, D.J., et al. 2018. Effect of high-intensity resistance circuit-based training in hypoxia on aerobic performance and repeat sprint ability. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 28 (10), 2135–43.

Meet our experts

AFM_Author_Nunez TONY P. NUÑEZ, PHD, is an assistant professor in exercise science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He is an active researcher and presenter in the exercise physiology and fitness field.

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