VO2 Max

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 max means the maximal amount of oxygen (in mL) that your body can consume per body weight per minute while you are at your full work capacity (or max heart rate).   It's a combination of how much oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump, and the muscles' efficiency in utilizing the oxygen.The unit of measure is mL/kg/min.  The range of normal VO2 max is between 20 mL/kg/min (very poor) and 60+ mL/kg/min (excellent).  A higher VO2 max indicates better cardiovascular strength.

An athlete with a high VO2 max will perform more efficiently as it relates to cardiovascular strength during endurance-based activity, but not necessarily perform more efficiently during anaerobic activity such as sprinting and weight-lifting.

How is VO2 Max Tested For?

The test takes 8-12 minutes.  The subject is placed on a Treadmill or stationary bike at a fairly easy speed.  The speed or resistance is increased in 60-second intervals, along with incline on the treadmill.  The subject wears an oxygen mask to measure oxygen intake and CO2 output.  They also wear a heart rate monitor to track increase in BPM during each 60 second interval.  The test runs until the subject is too tired to continue.  After the subject reaches their maximum limit, the administrator will bring speed and incline back down to an easier pace and monitor the subjects HR recovery for 2 minutes.

Why is VO2 Max Important for Athletes to Know?

Establishing a baseline for Maximal Oxygen Consumption is important when beginning any endurance training program.  This allows you to create a program that will ensure you improve by constantly challenging the cardiovascular system.  

The data gathered during the VO2 test allows each athlete to have specific conditioning programs designed based off their results from the test.  Each conditioning program can be specific to the athlete's sport and position.

How Can I Improve My Cardiovascular Endurance?

Cross-training is important in endurance programs.  Swimmers, for example, can cross-train through running, biking, rowing, or any other endurance exercise. Another popular method for improving cardiovascular endurance is interval training. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) includes short periods of high-intensity exercise paired with short periods of rest.  

Tabata is one example of HIIT.  During tabata, you would work for 20 seconds at full-intensity and rest for 10 seconds for 8 rounds with a single exercise before moving on to the next exercise. 

Should Anaerobic Athletes Care About Their Cardiovascular Endurance?

You bet.  Very few athletes are true anaerobic athletes.  Shot put, discus, and Olympic weightlifters are some of the few.  For all other athletes, having a strong cardiovascular system will help them recover from short bursts of high-intensity movements in their sport.  The ability to recover more quickly will allow them to perform at their full potential and they will be less likely to become injured due to fatigue.