European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 7, pp 1439–1449 | Cite as

“Live High–Train High” increases hemoglobin mass in Olympic swimmers

  • Thomas Christian Bonne
  • Carsten Lundby
  • Susanne Jørgensen
  • Lars Johansen
  • Monija Mrgan
  • Signe Refsgaard Bech
  • Mikael Sander
  • Marcelo Papoti
  • Nikolai Baastrup NordsborgEmail author
Original Article



This study tested whether 3–4 weeks of classical “Live High–Train High” (LHTH) altitude training increases swim-specific VO2max through increased hemoglobin mass (Hbmass).


Ten swimmers lived and trained for more than 3 weeks between 2,130 and 3,094 m of altitude, and a control group of ten swimmers followed the same training at sea-level (SL). Body composition was examined using dual X-ray absorptiometry. Hbmass was determined by carbon monoxide rebreathing. Swimming VO2peak was determined and swimming trials of 4 × 50, 200 and 3,000 m were performed before and after the intervention.


Hbmass (n = 10) was increased (P < 0.05)after altitude training by 6.2 ± 3.9 % in the LHTH group, whereas no changes were apparent in the SL group (n = 10). Swimming VO2peak was similar before and after training camps in both groups (LHTH: n = 7, SL: n = 6). Performance of 4 × 50 m at race pace was improved to a similar degree in both groups (LHTH: n = 10, SL: n = 10). Maximal speed reached in an incremental swimming step test (P = 0.051), and time to complete 3,000 m tended (P = 0.09) to be more improved after LHTH (n = 10) than SL training (n = 10).


In conclusion, 3–4 weeks of classical LHTH is sufficient to increase Hbmass but exerts no effect on swimming-specific VO2peak. LHTH may improve performance more than SL training.


Live High–Train High Hypoxia Performance 



Blood volume


Carbon monoxide




Hemoglobin mass




Live High–Train High


Live High–Train Low


Plasma volume


Red cell volume


Sea level


Typical error


Maximal oxygen consumption


Peak oxygen consumption



The study was supported by funds from Team Denmark given to N.B.N. and C.L. The authors would like to thank all the swimmers, coaches and the Danish National Swimming Federation who participated in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Christian Bonne
    • 1
  • Carsten Lundby
    • 2
  • Susanne Jørgensen
    • 3
  • Lars Johansen
    • 3
  • Monija Mrgan
    • 4
  • Signe Refsgaard Bech
    • 1
  • Mikael Sander
    • 5
  • Marcelo Papoti
    • 6
  • Nikolai Baastrup Nordsborg
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sport Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Zurich Center of Integrative Human Physiology, Institute of PhysiologyUniversity of ZürichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.National Test Center, Team DenmarkUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  4. 4.Department of EndocrinologyHospital of Southwest DenmarkEsbjergDenmark
  5. 5.Department of Cardiology, The Copenhagen Muscle Research Center and Flight MedicineRigshospitaletCopenhagenDenmark
  6. 6.Faculty of Science and TechnologyUniversidade Estadual PaulistaSão PauloBrazil

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