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VO2 Max Test

by Azlan

The VO2 Max Test, is widely accepted as the single best measure of cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power. To a novice runner, the term “VO2 Max” would likely be associated with elite or high-level athletes. But what does it actually mean? How is it useful? How can you improve it?


VO2 Max (also maximal oxygen consumption, maximal oxygen uptake, peak oxygen uptake or maximal aerobic capacity) is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise, which reflects the physical fitness of the individual. – Source: Wikipedia

Simply put, it is a measure of one’s fitness level. While VO2 Max can be tested on any level of athletes, it is of particular interest for those involved in endurance sports (e.g. cycling, rowing, cross-country skiing, swimming and running).

 Methodology (Treadmill protocol):

The subject (myself), will be running continuously on a treadmill, with increments in exercise intensity (via speed and elevation).

  1. Warm up run for 1 minute, at a speed of 8km/h.
  2. The test begins with treadmill elevation at 0%, and at a speed of 10km/h.
  3. Speed will increase by 1.0 km/h every 2 minutes.
  4. Elevation will increase by 2% every minute until 10%.


VO2 Max: 62ml.kg-1.min-1
Maximum Heart Rate: 198 bpm
Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER): 1.24
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE): 17
Blood Lactate: 10.0
Garmin Connect Data: connect.garmin.com/activity/255651432

Based on a norming table of VO2 max values, I fit into the “Superior” category of athletes. A modest result in my opinion. Athletes such as Kilian Jornet have been reported to have a VO2 Max value as high as 92ml.kg-1.min-1!

Normative data for Male (values in ml/kg/min) – BrianMac

Age Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior
20 – 29 <42 42 – 45 46 – 50 51 – 55 >55
30 – 39 <41 41 – 43 44 – 47 48 – 53 >53
40 – 49 <38 38 – 41 42 – 45 46 – 52 >52
50 – 59 <35 35 – 37 38 – 42 43 – 49 >49
60 – 69 <31 31 – 34 35 – 38 39 – 45 >45
70 – 79 <28 28 – 30 31 – 35 36 – 41 >41


While it is useful to have the actual VO2 max values known through a standardized test, many would be dissuaded to take the test, due to the relatively high costs involved. However, if you are a high level or keen athlete who is interested, be it for modification of training plans or just for reference, then it will definitely be worth the cost. You will be surprised at how hard the test is compared to what is seen in the video.

There are, of course, alternatives to finding out your predicted VO2 Max, but without the need for expensive scientific equipment. These tests include:

  1. Harvard Step Test (a measure of cardiovascular fitness)
  2. Queens College Step Test (a measure of predicted VO2 max)
  3. Maximal Aerobic Speed Test (measure to assess the minimum speed to elicit VO2 max)
  4. 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test (a measure of the velocity of intermittent fitness test)
  5. 2.4km run

The video below is a short clip of a test #4, the 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test.

Improving VO2 Max:

Changing your training periodically by incorporating some of the following workouts will help improve your overall fitness 4, and therefore increase your VO2 Max.

  1. Anaerobic Training
  2. Lactate Clearance Workouts
  3. Hill Training

You may also find other fitness tests over at Sports Fitness Advisor.

Personal Opinion:

Having completed the actual test and comparing the results against the ones from the predictions, the difference in values is quite significant.  But do remember that the VO2 max, while an astute value of a physical fitness, is not the be all and end all. It is a good benchmark to take note off, but should not replace consistent tracking of your own progress (such as time trials and race timings), and constant variety of training methods.

I hope this post has been useful!

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isaac976 (@isaac976) January 23, 2013 - 1:08 PM

Bro nice one .. where did you do this ?

Azlan January 24, 2013 - 11:05 AM

Hey bro. I did it at Journey Fitness Company as part of my schools practical sessions.


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