The benefits of high-altitude training have been touted for decades. This hypoxic (low oxygen) training helps to familiarize your body with lower levels of oxygen, kind of like training your body to operate on less sleep or less food. While this is good in moderation, what if you’re actually suppressing your body’s performance abilities in this unnatural training environment? At some point, will that lack of oxygen catch up with you, much like a lack of food or sleep might?
Hypoxic training is the idea of training in low oxygen environments, so that your body will learn to create the same amount of energy with a significantly lower amount of oxygen. It trains your body to function more effectively in an oxygen debt. It also causes your body to produce more oxygen carrying red blood cells as an adaptive response. You can do this by traveling to high altitudes for training, or by purchasing hypoxic training equipment, such as tents or masks. The potential downsides to hypoxic training are that power outputs are diminished, muscle mass may be lost, over training happens more often due to slower recovery times, and performance plateaus tend to become common (which can have a negative effect on confidence) because there is only so far you can push your body with less oxygen.
Hyperoxic training is the exact opposite. It focuses on increasing the amount of oxygen your body has access to during exercise in an effort to increase potential power output, increase endurance, increase overall training capacity, and reduce recovery times. The theory is that with consistently more intense workouts, your muscles will simply respond better and faster, while also generating “muscle memory” for higher speed and power outputs. In addition, when your muscles are infused with oxygen, they are able to better handle the increased training intensity, eliminating the major risks associated with overtraining.
Ideally, a combination of both hypoxic and hyperoxic training would create the best results. You can train your body to function with reduced amounts of oxygen part of the time, and increase the intensity of your workouts and speed of recovery through increased oxygen supplies the rest of the time.
Generally speaking, if power, speed and muscle building are your goals, hyperoxic training (with extra oxygen) will be most effective. If endurance is more of your goal or you are competing at high altitude, a combination of hypoxic training and hyperoxic training would be most effective. In this case, the hypoxic training would help your endurance, while the hyperoxic training would ensure that you don’t lose power, speed and muscle mass.
In the past, hyperoxic training was only available for very elite level athletes because it required training under the supervision of a medical doctor who had access to medical grade breathing oxygen. With recent product developments, however, recreational breathing oxygen is now available in small, portable canisters – like Oxygen Plus – that are readily available and extremely affordable. This has brought the concept of hyperoxic training within reach of any athlete.