Altitude Training for GAA players and Field sports

Posted: July 9, 2013 in GAA

MikePhillips_JerryFlannery_altitude_training_LionsListening to Ashley Jones speak a few times last week about hypoxic training we thought it would be a good idea to asked Irish olympian Colin Griffin for some insight into it. Colin knows his stuff when it comes to altitude training with centres in Limerick and Dublin along with mobile units on the road.

If you are GAA player or playing any sports and looking to massively improve your performance then this is for you if you can get to his centre.

Altitude Training for team sports

Since the 1968 Olympic Games held in Mexico City at an altitude of 2300m, athletes and coaches have utilized and experimented with altitude training as a means of improving athletic performance. When living and training at altitude or in a hypoxic (low oxygen) environment, the body compensates by triggering a host of physiological, blood, respiratory as well as anabolic adaptations that improve performance.

Altitude training has been used predominantly by athletes in endurance sports due to increased oxygen carrying red blood cells and aerobic performance benefits. In recent years physiologists and coaches have been expanding the concept of altitude training into team sports. There has been growing evidence to suggest that training in a hypoxic environment can improve repeated sprint performance, strength and power, as well has helping injured players rehabilitate and return to match fitness quicker.

Recent studies have shown that doing repeated sprints in a hypoxic environment (simulating 2500-3000m) improves sea-level repeated sprint performance due to improved glycolysis and O2 utilization. Delayed onset of fatigue due to faster phosphocreatine re-synthesis, and better utilization of fast twitch fibres were also found. The better utilization of fast twitch fibres is an interesting one as when athletes compete at altitude; sprint and jump performance tends to be greater, with the opposite for endurance events. Well timed and careful implementation of hypoxic training sessions into the programme of a team sport player can be of significant benefit. Repeated sprint training or anaerobic interval training can be done on a watt bike or a treadmill using a hypoxic exercise mask system or in a hypoxic chamber. For compromised players who need careful training load management due to injury profile or deconditioning, doing hypoxic training in an unloaded exercise such as a bike can be a good way to achieve cardiovascular stimulus without overloading the muscular-skeletal system. Players can also benefit from sleeping in an altitude tent to improve aerobic conditioning and thus repeated sprint performance a practice used by many premiership soccer and rugby players as well as Australian Rules players. The same aerobic and oxygen-carrying benefits that endurance athletes gain can also enhance repeated sprint performance.

There have been some positive findings observed from athletes doing resistance training in a hypoxic environment such as increased muscle hypertrophy and growth hormone response. For players to do resistance training, including Olympic lifts in a hypoxic training can help maximise the training response both muscular and hormonal. There are numerous anecdotal reports from athletes who find they lift more and recover better when doing resistance training in a hypoxic environment.

When a player is injured and can’t carry out fully loaded workouts on the pitch, they can do unloaded ‘cross-training’ sessions in the gym to maintain their fitness levels. Doing those ‘cross-training’ sessions at simulated altitude will certainly provide a greater cardio fitness stimulus. Because a hypoxic environment increases metabolism and fat-burning, an injured player can avoid unwanted weight gain while injured. There are some reported therapeutic benefits of altitude exposure on healing of soft-tissue and bone injuries. Increased capillary density and thus peripheral blood flow and O2 delivery accelerates healing.

The biggest limiting factor to sporting performance is the availability and delivery of oxygen to the brain and the working muscles. When that homeostasis is altered in any way such as reducing oxygen availability for a given workload, it makes the workout more challenging triggering several physiological adaptive responses at muscular and cellular level, which if implemented carefully can improve performance!

For more information on Altitude Training contact:

Colin Griffin

The Altitude Centre Ireland


Twitter: @AltitudeIRL

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