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 participants 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.
target population: This test is suitable for any sports in which aerobic endurance is a component, though it is most suitable for sports involving cycling activities.
advantages: cycling is a stable exercise mode that may be suitable for some participants 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 participants 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.
- Storer TW, Davis JA, Caiozzo VJ. Accurate prediction of VO2max in cycle ergometry. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1990 Oct;22(5):704-12.
- Andersen LB. A maximal cycle exercise protocol to predict maximal oxygen uptake. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 1995 Jun;5(3):143-6.
- VO2max Swimming Test
- Treadmill VO2max Test
- Astrand-Rhyming Bicycle Ergometer Test
- YMCA Cycle ergometer submaximal test
- PWC170 Test
- Tri-level Aerobic Test
- See the general protocol method for measuring VO2max.
- Adult VO2max norm values.
- Videos of VO2max Tests being performed.
- Fitness tests for cyclists
- Comparison of Cycle Ergometers
- Cycling Fitness Tests, assessments involving cycling exercise.
- Measuring Oxygen Consumption by Indirect Calorimetry
- Methods for heart rate measurement.
- Ratings of Perceived Exertion Scale if you want to quantify effort during the test.
- VO2max test scores from different sports.
- VO2max test world bests.