Effect of hypoxic sprint interval exercise and normoxic recovery on performance and acute physiological responses


Abstract: Hypoxic exercise, which can induce arterial and tissue deoxygenation, promotes physiological adaptations. However, reduced oxygen availability can lower the absolute training intensity (i.e., mechanical stress). Adding normoxic recovery to sprint interval exercise (SIE) is one potential approach to strike a balance between providing a hypoxic stimulus and maintaining the absolute training intensity. However, the effects of adding normoxic recovery to SIE on performance and physiological responses are uncertain. We tested the hypothesis that hypoxic SIE with normoxic recovery enhances arterial deoxygenation and muscle deoxygenation levels without impeding performance compared to an entirely normoxic condition. On separate days, seven male sprinters performed 4 × 30‐s ‘all‐out’ cycle sprints with 4.5‐min recovery with hypoxic exposure (FiO2 : 12.7%O 2) applied continuously (hypoxia, HYP), intermittently during sprint periods only (intermittent, INT), or not at all (normoxia, NOR). Power output, oxygen saturation, muscle oxygenation, surface electromyography (EMG) activity, heart rate, blood lactate concentration, and ratings of perceived exertion were measured. The total work significantly decreased in HYP than NOR (p textless 0.05) and INT (p textless 0.01). The aTrterial oxygen saturation was lower during HYP than NOR (∼86% vs. ∼97%; p textless 0.001), while lower values were also obtained for INT than NOR during sprint periods (∼85% vs. ∼97%; p textless 0.001) but not during recovery periods (∼96% vs. ∼97%). The heart rate differed (p textless 0.05) between conditions (NOR: ∼164 bpm; INT: ∼160 bpm; HYP: ∼156 bpm). No other variables demonstrated significant differences between conditions. Adding hypoxia during exercise while recovering in normoxia did not compromise exercise capacity during SIE, despite inducing larger arterial deoxygenation levels compared to normoxia. Highlights: Utilizing severe hypoxia during exercise and normoxia during recovery induces a substantial hypoxic stimulus while safeguarding mechanical performance in sprinters. This approach maintains neuromuscular, metabolic, and perceptual parameters without any detrimental effects, ensuring athletes can perform at their best. Alternating hypoxia and normoxia during active and passive phases shows potential for optimizing hypoxic training, striking an ideal balance between the hypoxic stimulus and training intensity and load.

European Journal of Sport Science