Physical Education - Measuring VO2 max.
Measuring VO2 max
It is important that you understanding what VO2 max. is and what is means
to the endurance athlete. However, it is also important that you understand
how VO2 max. is determined and worked out. The following is a brief
As you know, VO2 max. refers to the that you can use, or the amount of
oxygen you use at maximal levels. To determine VO2 max, all one needs to do
is measure the amount of oxygen used during a minute of maximal work. You
may have seen a picture of a person competing a VO2 max. test on a
treadmill. They wear an apparatus with a tube going into their mouth and a
peg on their nose. All breathing is done through the mouth, and a machine
measures the amount of oxygen going into the mouth and the amount of oxygen
coming out. The difference between the two is the oxygen used by the body.
They measure it over a minute (or 30 seconds multiplied by 2) to get a
View the video showing one method of measuring VO2 max.
While a person is standing on the treadmill before the test begins, we can
measure his/her VO2 at rest (usually about 0.5 litre/minute). This is the
amount of oxygen required to keep the body going at rest (that is; heart
beating, lungs breathing, brain working, etc.) As they begin exercising,
the subject's VO2 increases as the intensity of exercise increases. This
increase is usually done gradually over a period of 15-20 minutes. If the
intensity is increased too rapidly, the amount of lactate produced is
likely to fatigue the muscles before the person reaches maximal heart rate
. The idea is to get the person working at maximal intensity (max. HR)
for 30 seconds or 60 seconds, and measure the amount of oxygen being used
by the body. This is the person's VO2 max.
Typically, results can be up around 5-6.5 litres/minutes for elite male
endurance athletes, and between 4-5.5 litres/minutes for elite female
athletes (results based on the AIS results taken from Australian elite
For many athletes, the VO2 max. figure expressed in litres/minutes is not
that relevant and not an accurate predictor of performance, because body
weight is not taken into account. Sports such as marathon running,
cross-country skiing and cycling require participants to carry their body
weight around with them. For marathon runners, this body weight has to be
lifted with every step they take. In the case of rowers, however, body
weight is not such an issue, as they are seated in a boat the whole time.
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