VO2 max : An overview, its importance, training routines and calculator

What is VO2 max ?

VO2 max stands for maximal oxygen consumption or maximal aerobic capacity and refers to the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilizing in one minute. In simple words, it actually means how hard you can breathe. The faster you run and the longer you run, the harder you breathe. The maximal point describes the level of aerobic fitness and capacity you have. Scientists simply put the term V02max to indicate this level.

VO2 max : An overview, its importance, training routines and calculator

It is one of the most popular indicators of physical efficiency, especially aerobic efficiency. It is a measure of your capacity for aerobic work. The measure can be a predictor of your potential as an endurance athlete or even of future health. Usually, athletes and trainers use the percentage value of VO2 max to express the intensity of training.

The V02 value rises significantly in teenagers (both males & females) to achieve maximal levels in age 18-20. Later in adolescence, they gradually decrease.

Why should you train to improve VO2max

VO2max is a measure of the maximum rate at which an athlete’s body is able to consume oxygen. Testing VO2max is when performing a specific activity and adjusted for body weight.

In running, it is usually determined through a procedure known as an incremental exercise test. The athlete breathes into a tube that collects and measures exhaled gases while running on a treadmill . Speed and/or gradient are increased incrementally until the athlete reaches exhaustion. The maximum rate of oxygen consumption recorded in this test is the runner’s current VO2max.

Although it is best measured in lab active testing, it can be measured by fitness watches. Also, Targets and estimations values can be extracted by a calculator, as we embedded in this article for your convinience .

By improving VO2max, we can reach better aerobic performance, running faster, performing better in interval running types and generally function better when breathing and heart rate become limiting factors.

Too low VO2max personal values indicate health hazards. Therefore, in such conditions, a person should have further checks with a doctor and to train.

18-25 _ 26-35 _ 36-45 _ 46-55 _ 56-65 _ 65+
Excellent > 60 > 56 > 51 > 45 > 41 > 37
Good 52-60 49-56 43-51 39-45 36-41 33-37
47-51 43-48 39-42 36-38 32-35 29-32
Average 42-46 40-42 35-38 32-35 30-31 26-28
37-41 35-39 31-34 29-31 26-29 22-25
Poor 30-36 30-34 26-30 25-28 22-25 20-21
< 30 < 30 < 26 < 25 < 22 < 20
18-25 _ 26-35 _ 36-45 _ 46-55 _ 56-65 _ 65+
Excellent > 56 > 52 > 45 > 40 > 37 > 32
Good 47-56 45-52 38-45 34-40 32-37 28-32
42-46 39-44 34-37 31-33 28-31 25-27
Average 38-41 35-38 31-33 28-30 25-27 22-24
33-37 31-34 27-30 25-27 22-24 19-21
Poor 28-32 26-30 22-26 20-24 18-21 17-18
< 28 < 26 < 22 < 20 < 18 < 17

Factors that contribute to VO2max value

There are two main factors in the equation: Oxygen transport oxygen to energy transfer capacity in the muscles.

  1. Oxygen transport system strength. Defined by the body’s ability to transport oxygen to the working muscles, brain and rest of the body. This required a powerful heart, high capacity blood transfer system and developed muscles.
  2. The large capacity of muscles tissues is essential in order to absorb more oxygen simultanously. Also, to activate more muscles strength each moment for the demanded activity, absorbing the oxygen and generating energy.

These factors are both genetic and training related. optimal training will bring you to the maximum capabilities defined by your genes, and most chances you have a long way to go to reach you limits.

Other factors VO2max are altitude, gender, and age. High altitudes have less oxygen hence your maximum throughput is lower. Women, due to body composition tend to have ~20% lower VO2max and as older you are the VO2max is lower.

How to evaluate VO2max

Nowadays it is easier to measure and train to improve VO2max.

There are many sports tracking watches that can do VO2max check by asking you to run a certain distance and measuring simultaneously the pace and heart rate. Indeed, there are some differences between lab tests and the variety of sports watches measurements. Still, all (or most) can give a good indication for the actual VO2max value.

There are several types of tests to evaluate VO2max. All, include running a distance which is usually longer than 1500 meters. Not necessarily by running. Some examples are 2.4km Run Test, Astrand Treadmill test, 6-minutes Cycle test on a static bike, home step-test, VO2max from race result, and others.

As an example, to perform the 2.4km test, after 10 minutes warms up, we will measure each lap till reaching the 2.4km. Then, use the calculator you have here in this page or do the math:

The formulas are:

  • percent max = 0.8 + 0.1894393 * exp(-0.012778 * time) + 0.2989558 * exo(-0.1932605 * time)
  • VO2 = -4.60 + 0.182258 * velocity + 0.000104 * velocity²
  • VO2 MAX = VO2 / percent max

where time is the race time, and velocity is race velocity in meters / minute.

How to effectively train to improve your VO2max

There are several different ways to train for better VO2max. The idea behind VO2max training is to stimulate the max capacity, only near to exhaustion hence, less chances of harming yourself from improper training.

Interval training is the most recommended way to improve VO2max value. It doesn’t matter if your goal is running a half-marathon, or to accomplish a 2K running faster, or other. Interval training can give the right workout frame for you.

One of the common interval training for VO2max includes, 10 minutes warming up, then, 60 seconds fastest run, 60 seconds slow run. Repeat this routine for at least 12 times and reach further till 20 times based on your capabilities.

Other method includes hill-interval. in this case, perform the fast runs uphill and for a couple of minutes then have a slow run down. Repeat this set or similar for 10 times or per your capabilities.

Other interval methods include more advance routines of pushing more to the limits over longer distances, but the idea is the same. Interval training that are done the right way, by pushing yourself hard, will yield V02max improvements.

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