What is VO2 Max?

By Jeff Quinn


VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is a measurement that determine an athlete's capacity to perform sustained exercise. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during maximal exercise and is generally considered the best indicator of an athlete's cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. The more oxygen you can use during high level exercise, the more energy you can produce.

Your VO2 max is expressed as a number that reflects how many milliliters of oxygen you are using in one minute per kilogram of body weight and written as ml/kg/min. If your VO2 max is high, you will likely be able to do more strenuous activity for a longer period of time. If it is low, you will quickly become winded with only minimal effort. Elite endurance athletes typically have very high VO2 max values.

VO2 Max can be tested on either a programmed treadmill or spin bike. The resistance will keep building throughout the test process. Your heart rate will be recorded each minute. Should you complete the test without having to stop, there is a point at which your heart rate should level out regardless of the increase in work. This will be your VO2 max.

What can you do with the results? Here are some heart rate zones you will be able to use as guidelines:

Recovery Zone is 60 - 70% of your VO2 Max: Active recovery training should fall into the lower end of this zone.

Aerobic Zone is 70 – 80% of your VO2 Max: Exercising in this zone will help develop your aerobic system.

Anaerobic Zone is 80 – 90% of your VO2 Max: Training in this zone will help to improve your body's ability to deal with lactic acid and may improve your lactate threshold. This type of training should be of shorter duration with recovery zone work of double duration between efforts.

"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity." ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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