You’ve seen Wanderlei Silva training with an alien looking mask strapped to his face and B.J. Penn crawling into a sleeping chamber tent at night. Not since Tito Ortiz purchased Oscar De La Hoya’s Big Bear Training Camp has altitude training gained such notoriety. But the benefi ts of training at altitude aren’t new, elite endurance athletes have utilized this type of training for decades. With cardio having become such an important part of the MMA game, altitude training has become and important component for the complete fi ghter.
WHAT IS ALTITUDE TRAINING?
Altitude training is essentially hypoxic, or low oxygen training. In simple terms, training in a low oxygen environment forces your body to adapt by producing more red blood cells and improving its ability to fl ush lactic acid, thereby increasing the effi ciency of your cardiovascular system as a whole.
HOW DO I DO IT?
The benefi ts of hypoxic training can be achieved by spending several weeks training in a natural high-altitude environment (like Ortiz’ Big Bear Training Camp at 7,000 feet above sea level) or by using simulated altitude training devices such as mask systems or sleeping chambers.
WHAT ELSE CAN I GAIN?
The physiological adaptations brought about by hypoxic training help fi ghters acclimate themselves to high-altitude venues like Colorado more easily. In addition to increased cardiovascular stamina and endurance, fi ghters also experience quicker recovery times.
Matt Formato IV of Hypoxico, one of the leaders in simulated altitude training devices, helped explain the effects high altitudes can have on a fi ghter. “When you’re up at altitude, the atmospheric pressure actually fi lters out the oxygen molecules so that when you take a breath, you’re body takes in less oxygen.
What our equipment does is it actually removes that content of oxygen very slightly from basically 21% in the air at sea level … to roughly 15% oxygen, so that 6% reduction equates to about 9,000 feet of altitude,” Formato explains. The body, in turn, responds by producing the extra red blood cells it needs to adapt.
Specifi cally for a fi ghter, we would actually recommend the altitude workout… because lactic acid buildup is a tremendous issue in a highly anaerobic sport like mixed martial arts. What happens with the exercises at altitude is that the body learns to deal with lactic acid buildup and actually enhances its ability to clear that lactic acid buildup.”
Top stars such as Frank Mir, Rashad Evans, Joe Stevenson, and B.J. Penn have all utilized altitude training or simulation devices as part of their extensive mixed martial arts training. So the next time you want to razz a fi ghter for wearing a creepy breathing mask or sleeping in a tent, think again. They just might have the edge you’re looking for.