Maximal Oxygen Consumption Test (VO2max)
The VO2max test is the criterion measure of aerobic power in athletes. Described here is the method to measure VO2max directly by indirect calorimetry.
- equipment required: Oxygen and carbon dioxide analyzers, ergometer on which workload may be modified, heart rate monitor (optional) and a stopwatch. Expired air may be collected and volume measured via Douglas bags or a Tissot tank, or measured by a pnuemotach or turbine ventilometer.
- procedure: Exercise is performed on an appropriate ergometer (treadmill, cycle, swim bench etc.). The exercise workloads are selected to gradually progress in increments from moderate to maximal intensity. Oxygen uptake is calculated from measures of ventilation and the oxygen and carbon dioxide in the expired air, and the maximal level is determined at or near test completion (see VO2max videos)
- scoring: Results are presented as either l/min (liters per minute) or ml/kg/min (mls of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute). The athlete is considered to have reached their VO2max if several of the following occurred: a plateau or 'peaking over' in oxygen uptake, maximal heart rate was reached, attainment of a respiratory exchange ratio of 1.15 or greater, and volitional exhaustion. See also the Adult VO2max norm values.
- variations / alternatives: The Vmax test is essentially a VO2max test without the gas analysis, with some similar results. Many other aerobic fitness tests estimate VO2max score from their results. See the other tests of Aerobic Endurance.
- target population: Any sport in which aerobic endurance is a component, such as distance runners, cross country skiers, rowers, triathlon, cycling.
- advantages: This test directly measures body oxygen consumption, which many other aerobic fitness tests try to estimate. You can also get direct measurement of maximum heart rate by recording heart rate during the test.
- disadvantages: this test is relatively time consuming and has high costs involved for each test compared to many other aerobic fitness tests.
- comments: There is often variability between the performance of different analysis systems. Stringent calibration is necessary for both the expired gas and ventilation measurement systems.
- caution: This test is a maximal test, which requires a reasonable level of fitness. It is not recommended for recreational athletes or people with health problems, injuries or low fitness levels.
- Videos of VO2max Tests being performed.
- There are also other tests of aerobic capacity, such as the Bruce Test.
- measuring Basal Metabolic Rate - VO2 at rest.
- Methods for heart rate measurement, if heart rate measurement is also required.
- Ratings of Perceived Exertion Scale if you want to quantify effort during the test.
- VO2max test scores from different sports.
- VO2max test world bests.