European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 9, pp 3275–3285 | Cite as

Influence of altitude training modality on performance and total haemoglobin mass in elite swimmers

  • Clare E. GoughEmail author
  • Philo U. Saunders
  • John Fowlie
  • Bernard Savage
  • David B. Pyne
  • Judith M. Anson
  • Nadine Wachsmuth
  • Nicole Prommer
  • Christopher J. Gore
Original Article


We compared changes in performance and total haemoglobin mass (tHb) of elite swimmers in the weeks following either Classic or Live High:Train Low (LHTL) altitude training. Twenty-six elite swimmers (15 male, 11 female, 21.4 ± 2.7 years; mean ± SD) were divided into two groups for 3 weeks of either Classic or LHTL altitude training. Swimming performances over 100 or 200 m were assessed before altitude, then 1, 7, 14 and 28 days after returning to sea-level. Total haemoglobin mass was measured twice before altitude, then 1 and 14 days after return to sea-level. Changes in swimming performance in the first week after Classic and LHTL were compared against those of Race Control (n = 11), a group of elite swimmers who did not complete altitude training. In addition, a season-long comparison of swimming performance between altitude and non-altitude groups was undertaken to compare the progression of performances over the course of a competitive season. Regardless of altitude training modality, swimming performances were substantially slower 1 day (Classic 1.4 ± 1.3% and LHTL 1.6 ± 1.6%; mean ± 90% confidence limits) and 7 days (0.9 ± 1.0% and 1.9 ± 1.1%) after altitude compared to Race Control. In both groups, performances 14 and 28 days after altitude were not different from pre-altitude. The season-long comparison indicated that no clear advantage was obtained by swimmers who completed altitude training. Both Classic and LHTL elicited ~4% increases in tHb. Although altitude training induced erythropoeisis, this physiological adaptation did not transfer directly into improved competitive performance in elite swimmers.


Competition Hypoxia Living High:Training High 



The authors wish to thank all the swimmers and coaches who took part in this project. We are grateful for the contributions of Prof. Walter Schmidt and Christian Voelzke, from the University of Beyreuth, and Dr Chris Baldi, from the University of Northern Arizona. This project was collectively funded by the Australian Institute of Sport general and collaborative research fund, the Australian Institute of Sport Swimming program, and the Federal Institute of Sport Science, Germany.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clare E. Gough
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Philo U. Saunders
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Fowlie
    • 3
  • Bernard Savage
    • 4
  • David B. Pyne
    • 1
  • Judith M. Anson
    • 5
  • Nadine Wachsmuth
    • 6
  • Nicole Prommer
    • 6
  • Christopher J. Gore
    • 1
    • 2
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of SportBelconnen, CanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of HealthUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.AIS Swimming, Australian Institute of SportCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.Swimming Australia LtdCanberraAustralia
  5. 5.Faculty of Applied ScienceUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Sports Medicine and Sports PhysiologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  7. 7.Exercise Physiology Laboratory, School of EducationFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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