The name is derived from V (volume) per time, O2 (oxygen), max (maximum).
VO2 max is the maximal oxygen consumption or maximal oxygen up-take or aerobic capacity and is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen during exercise, this shows how fit your cardio vascular system is.
Measuring VO2 Max
Accurately measuring VO2 max involves a physical effort sufficient in duration and intensity to fully tax the aerobic energy system. Basically it’s a physical test, this usually involves a graded exercise test in which exercise intensity is progressively increased while measuring ventilation and oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration of the inhaled and exhaled air.
VO2 max is reached when oxygen consumption remains at steady state despite an increase in work, the top level of air intake.
The Cooper Test
Dr. Kenneth Cooper came up with a simple test in which the distance covered running in 12 minutes is measured. An approximate estimate for VO2 max (in ml/min/kg) is:
d12 is distance (in meters) covered in 12 minutes. There are several other reliable tests and VO2 max calculators to estimate VO2 max. Most bike riders who want to find out their VO2 max do so at a sports hospital or clinic, under medical supervision. VO2 Max Levels Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is widely accepted as the single best measure of cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power.
Absolute values of VO 2 max are typically 40-60% higher in men than in women. So, VO2max varies considerably from one person to another, with sex being a primary determining factor in this variability and also background and sadly your genes. The main factors are:
- Skills Training
- Psychological Preparation
- Lactate Threshold Training
- Rest and Recovery
The average young untrained male will have a VO2 max of approximately 3.5 liters/minute and 45 ml/kg/min. The average young untrained female will score a VO2 max of approximately 2.0 liters/minute and 38 ml/kg/min. These scores can improve with training and will decrease with age, but can also vary very widely: conditioning may double VO2max in some individuals, and will never improve it at all in others.
Can you Improve Your VO2 Max?
Research shows that although VO2 max has a genetic component it can also be increased through training. The two methods for increasing VO2 max include increases in both training volume and intensity.
Research also indicates that the less fit an individual is, the more they can increase their VO2 max through training. In fact, novice exercisers have been able to increase VO2 max by 20 percent through proper training. Fit athletes have a harder time increasing their VO2 max, most likely because they are already so near their genetic potential. Aside from genetic factors, three other components have a large influence on VO2 max:
- Age – Although it varies greatly by individual and training programs, in general VO2 max is the highest at age 20 and decreases nearly 30 percent by age 65.
- Gender – Many elite female athletes have higher VO2 max values than most men. But because of differences in body size and composition, blood volume and hemoglobin content, a woman’s VO2 max is in general about 20 percent lower than a man’s VO2 max.
- Altitude – Because there is less oxygen at higher altitude an athlete will generally have 5 percent decrease in VO2 max results with a 5,000 feet gain in altitude.
VO2 max in Endurance Sports people
With endurance, such as cycling, rowing, cross-country skiing, swimming and running, world class athletes typically have high VO2 maximums. World class male athletes, cyclists and cross-country skiers typically exceed 80 ml/kg/min and a rare few may exceed 90 ml/kg/min for men and 70 ml/kg/min for women.
Three time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond was said to have had a VO2 max of 92.5 at his peak – one of the highest ever recorded, while cross-country skier Bjørn Daehlie once measured 96 ml/kg/min. It should also be noted that Daehlie’s result was achieved out of season and the physiologist who was responsible for his testing thought that it was possible the skier could pass 100 ml/kg/min at his absolute peak. By comparison a competitive club athlete might achieve a VO2 max of around 70 ml/kg/min.
In the animal world, thoroughbred horses have a VO2 max of around 180 ml/min/kg. Siberian dogs running in sled races have VO2 values as high as 240 ml/min/kg.Estimation of VO2 max Tests measuring VO2 max can be dangerous, as any problems with the respiratory and cardiovascular systems will be greatly exacerbated.
Indeed many organized VO2 max tests require a medic to be present, but if you are going to have any medical problems there is no better place to have it than in a hospital or clinic. Because of this there are a few other methods for estimating VO2 max. These generally are similar to a VO2 max test, but do not reach the maximum of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and are called sub-maximal tests.
The Formula for Estimating Peak Aerobic Capacity:
Estimated VO2 max (ml/kg/min) = 132.853 – (0.0769 x body weight in [pounds]) – (0.3877 x age [years]) + (6.3150 x gender [female = 0; male = 1]) – (3.2649 x 1-mile walk time [in minutes and hundredths]) – (0.1565 x 1-minute heart rate at end of mile [beats per minute]). On the basis of the validity (R=.88) and standard error of estimate (5.0 ml/kg/min), you can be about 68% sure that your true VO2 max is ± 5.0 ml/kg/min of your calculated value. For example, if your predicted VO2 max is 40 ml/kg/min, there is a 68% likelihood that your actual value is between 35 and 45.
You can find many VO2 max calculators on the internet to make this easier, remember that they are not a perfect or accurate method. You need to get wired up and have oxygen measurements done on the turbo trainer or tread mill by a professional coach or sports doctor to get the exact VO2 max of your body.
Pulse Monitor Tests
Most of the more expensive heart rate monitors have a VO2 max function. This based on your age, weight and resting heart rate and is only a guide, but if you use a power trainer this can give you a better idea of your bodies out-put in Watts at a certain pulse and you would know your top end.
This can prove more important and helpful than VO2 max and much easier to gauge. In the end all this information is great to know, but if you are going faster then you are training properly, all this knowledge is helpful but you still have to put in the hard work to succeed!