Both Hypobaric Hypoxic Chambers and Normobaric Hypoxic Chambers are crafted to simulate conditions found at higher altitudes, presenting distinctive advantages for athletes, researchers, and adventurers. As the names suggest, the primary distinction lies in the atmospheric pressure within the chambers.
Entering a hypobaric hypoxic chamber immerses individuals in an environment crafted to mirror the reduced atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels encountered at higher altitudes. The term 'hypobaric' encapsulates the primary feature of these chambers—reduced pressure. Within a hypobaric chamber, atmospheric pressure is intentionally lowered. This is achieved through sophisticated equipment, including vacuum pumps. These pumps play a pivotal role in gradually evacuating air from the chamber, effectively lowering atmospheric pressure. This precision control ensures a safe and controlled descent into hypobaric conditions, allowing users to acclimatise to reduced pressures and oxygen levels akin to high-altitude environments.
In contrast, normobaric hypoxic chambers maintain the ambient atmospheric pressure of their location while strategically adjusting only the oxygen concentration to simulate high-altitude conditions. Reducing oxygen content is done by pumping nitrogen into the chamber, decreasing the percentage of oxygen in the room and mimicking the oxygen levels experienced at higher altitudes. This approach allows for a targeted hypoxic experience without alterations in atmospheric pressure, making it ideal for those looking to reap the benefits of exercise without the risk of becoming nauseous, a common occurrence in low-pressure environments.
The decision between hypobaric and normobaric environments depends on the goals and preferences of users. Hypobaric chambers are usually reserved for the military or airlines looking to expose pilots to the atmospheric pressures they may face at high altitudes. For most others, normobaric chambers are the preferred option as the focus is on the physiological adaptations that come about when training in low oxygen: increased red blood cell count, increased mitochondrial volume, and increased capillary density.
Jake Ward is the Sales Manager at Altitude Training Systems and has a background in strength and
conditioning, as well as applied sports science, having worked with elite sporting organisations and
sport technology companies.