Cycling Maximal Oxygen Consumption Test (VO2max)

The VO2max test is the criterion measure of aerobic power in athletes. See the general protocol method for measuring VO2max. Described here is the method to measure VO2max using cycling exercise on a cycle ergometer.

ergometer required: cycle ergometer - an exercise bike is the basis of most cycle ergometers used for VO2max testing, though a method of adjusting and measuring the power output is usually required. A commonly used cycle ergometer is the Monark bike. Sometimes the subjects are able to use their own bicycle, placed on rollers or a treadmill, for the testing. This has the advantage of having the correct bike setup for the athlete.

other equipment required: Oxygen consumption measuring equipment (e.g. oxygen and carbon dioxide analyzers, or expired air may be collected and volume measured via Douglas bags or a Tissot tank, or measured by a pneumotach or turbine ventilometer), a stopwatch, heart rate monitor and RPE scale (optional).

pre-test: Explain the test procedures to the subject. Perform screening of health risks and obtain informed consent. Prepare forms and record basic information such as age, height, body weight, gender, test conditions. Check and calibrate equipment. The seat and handlebars should be adjusted to the appropriate heights for the athlete. Perform an appropriate warm-up. See more details of pre-test procedures.

procedure: Exercise is performed on a cycle ergometer. The exercise workloads are selected to gradually progress in increments from moderate to maximal intensity.

measurement: 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 the general protocol method for measuring VO2max. Heart rate should be measured every minute of the test, and you may also want to measure ratings of perceived exertion (RPE).

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.

VO2max cycling testVO2max cycling test

target population: Any sport in which aerobic endurance is a component, though it is most suitable for sports involving cycling.

advantages: cycling is a stable exercise mode that may be suitable for some subjects that may have balance or joint injuries. The cycle ergometer also provides a more stable base for heart rate measurement, which is often affected by the more abrupt movements while running. The cycle ergometer also provides an easy method of monitoring and changing workloads.

disadvantages: for subjects unaccustomed to cycling exercise, they may fatigue earlier due to local muscle fatigue before VO2max has peaked.

note: The cycling VO2max test is a maximal exercise 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. See PARQ.

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