What Can Athletes Learn From A VO2 Max Test?

What Can Athletes Learn From A VO2 Max Test?
Lab testing is a nice way of seeing where you are at with your training, and VO2 max is one of the most common measurements.

It’s a convenient number that you can compare against other people to see how big your aerobic engine is and what your potential might be.

But how can you actually use the data to influence your training and move forward as an athlete?

Built for Athletes takes a look at what you get and how it can be used.

What Is VO2 Max & How Is It Tested?

A VO2 max test is done on either a static bike or a treadmill to measure the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use when operating at maximum intensity.

Once you go past your VO2 max, you start producing more carbon dioxide than the oxygen you’re taking in and your body increases its reliance on anaerobic energy systems which will become depleted much more quickly.

Your weight is also taken into account to give you a benchmark of cardiovascular fitness that you can measure up against some of the scores achieved by the best athletes in the world.

To get the readings, you wear a mask that’s hooked up to a machine which measures your oxygen intake while you use a static bike or a treadmill.

If you’re running on a treadmill, the speed will be gradually increased each minute and you’ll keep going until complete exhaustion. It’s brutal and typically takes around 8-12 minutes.

What Does Your VO2 Max Tell You?

Your VO2 max essentially tells you how fit you are. It’s not necessarily a prediction of performance but it does give you an idea of your potential and the capacity of your heart, lungs and muscles.

That doesn’t mean the person with the best VO2 max is the best athlete. In a test of 5km running time, for example, other factors such as your running economy and lactate threshold speed also influence your ability to run fast and are usually better predictors of performance.

But you can use the data from the test to track the effectiveness of your training over time. By conducting two tests six months apart, for example, you can see if you’ve managed to improve VO2 max.

You can also use the data to establish accurate training zones by comparing your heart rate against different speeds.

This can help make sure you are working at the right intensities to get the specific benefits you want and ensure you don’t overtrain.