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Altitude and football: What are new methods and opportunities to maximise players' fitness?

Brocherie, F., Girard, O. and Millet, G. (2018) Altitude and football: What are new methods and opportunities to maximise players' fitness? In: Hak, D., (ed.) An In-depth Guide to Sports. Nova Science Publishers, pp. 67-88.

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Playing football competition at terrestrial altitude is not an isolated phenomenon. For instance, eight of the last 19 football FIFA World Cup tournaments were hosted by countries located at low-to-moderate altitude. While football-required fitness and technical qualities are affected by the development of neuromuscular fatigue at sea level, hypoxia-induced decrease in convective oxygen transport further hinders the aerobic capacity but also the ability to perform consecutive sprints, eventually impacting the outcome of a game. This results from the decrease in partial pressure of oxygen which reduces maximal aerobic power. The later, in turn, increases the relative intensity of any given absolute level of work, potentially delaying recovery of high-energy phosphates between high intensity intermittent efforts. Despite reduction in air resistance (caused by the decrease in air density) could facilitate high-velocity running, it can also alter drag and lift, thereby impairing sensorimotor skills. Conversely, altitude/hypoxic training could help footballers preparing for competition at altitude, but also at sea level. Traditional altitude training camps involve chronic exposure to low-to-moderate terrestrial or simulated altitudes (14%) for improving oxygen-carrying capacity. While “live high-train high” or “live high-train low” paradigms are actually implemented by many elite club or national team football squads, the benefits they may have on (repeated-) sprint performance are still debated. The development of hypoxic technologies has led to the emergence of “live low-train high” methods, in isolation (i.e., the “repeated-sprint training in hypoxia” and “resistance training in hypoxia”) or in combination with hypoxic/altitude residence (i.e., “live high-train low and high”). Today, the panorama of altitude/hypoxic training methods is wider than ever and includes also practices such as “blood flow restriction” or “ischemic preconditioning”, which demonstrate encouraging preliminary results. The aims of this chapter are twofold: First, to summarize the effects of acute altitude/hypoxia exposure on football-specific qualities measured in the laboratory and/or during games at terrestrial altitude. Second, to discuss the potential benefits of each altitude/hypoxic training method in respect to sport-specific physiological and fitness development and/or in-game performance.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Nova Science Publishers
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