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Live High, Train High: Fine Points and Pitfalls

Live High, Train High Altitude Training: Fine Points and Pitfalls

Altitude Training

Live high, train high is by far the most widely practiced altitude training technique as well as the most challenging and problematic. After reading this post you will know exactly what to avoid and what to make sure you do in order to maximize the benefits from live high, train high altitude training.


For those unfamiliar, this is the current status quo on live high, train high altitude training:

Live high, train high (LHTH) is the traditional altitude training technique where athletes relocate to a high altitude camps or areas to both live and train. Decades of clinical data on LHTH demonstrate that, though it does improve performance at high altitude, it is unclear whether or not it is beneficial to athletes competing at sea level.  Scientists cite detraining effects, humidity de-adaptation, and effects on cardiac output as factors that may offset its sea-level performance benefits.  As scientists have discovered that these performance-decreasing factors are specific to LHTH, the athletic trend is shifting towards favoritism of its new and improved version live high, train low (LHTL).


So how is it possible that after decades of clinical studies scientists are still unsure about its effectiveness?

The answer is that there are an extraordinary number of variables that these studies must account for.  Athlete iron status, the hypoxic stimulus (the actual elevation and the exposure time), individual responses to altitude, athletes training regiment alterations, hydration status, sea-level return timing, and potential over training effects are just some of the variables that come into play.  A series of comprehensive studies that account for all these variables would be needed for a conclusive verdict on LHTH and sea level performance.


What can we learn from decades of inconclusive LHTH altitude training data?

First, scientists have shown that LHTH altitude training is capable of inducing performance benefits that cannot be achieved via sea-level training.

Also, in the process of identifying confounding variables in LHTH altitude training studies, we have determined many pitfalls that athletes must be aware of.   These common mistakes decrease the chances of gaining a sea level edge by either preventing biological benefit acquisition or inducing biological performance decrements.

Follow these detailed instructions to avoid common mistakes of LHTH altitude training:

1)    Live and train within the optimum altitude window of 6,890-8,200 ft (2,100-2500 m).

  • This altitude range is a balance between maintaining high enough elevation to induce red blood cell generation and low enough altitude to not significantly reduce training performance and recovery
  • Range was determined by leading expert Randall Wilber in his book Altitude Training and Athletic Performance

2)    Live and train at high altitude for a minimum of 28 Days.

3)    Do not attempt your sea-Level training regiment in high altitude

  • High altitude places limitations on your body that simply prevent you from reaching your sea-level training regiment, as measured by a combination of training intensity and volume.
  • Training in high altitude also produces more lactic acid, which will reduce EPO in your blood and potentially stunt your ability to acclimatize.
  • Elevated levels of serum cortisol and other chemicals associated with overtraining have been reported in high altitude training studies.

4)    Instead Follow a Sport Specific LHTH Altitude Training Plan

  • A list of esteemed traditional LHTH altitude training plans is available in this book.
  • However, these programs typically do not adequately address detraining issues or capitalize on training advantages of high altitude.
  • They are also based on some very questionable assumptions about the periodization of training intensity and volume changes.


To learn about paradigm shifts in the science of LHTH altitude training read this post about our cutting edge LHTH program.