VO2 max is reached when oxygen consumption remains at a steady state despite an increase in workload.
A few key results out there on record and in scientific literature.
Highest ever recorded Oskar Svendsen (cyclist) 97.5 ml/kg/min
Espen Harald Bjerke (cross country skier) 96.0 ml/kg/min
Greg LeMond (Cyclist) 92.5 ml/kg/min
Matt Carpenter (marathon runner) 92 ml/kg/min
Tore Ruud Hofstad (cross country skier) 92.0 ml/kg/min
Floyd Landis (Cyclist) 90.0 ml/kg/min
Miguel Indurain (Cyclist) 88 ml/kg/min
Lance Armstrong (Cyclist) 85 ml/kg/min
Chris Fromme (Cyclist) 84.6 ml/kg/min
Mark Walters (Cyclist) 83.5 ml/kg/min
Peter Sagan’s VO2 max was 83 ml/kg/min at the beginning of his career. He also had a resting heart rate of just 37.
Kip Keino (Olympic 1500m champion) 82 ml/kg/min
The best score from Øyvind Leonhardsen (professional footballer) was 80.9 ml/kg/min
Seb Coe (Middle Distance runner) 77 ml/kg/min
Jack Flatley (professional boxer) 71 ml/kg/min
Lee Gong Dook (Middlesborough) (2007) 71 ml/kg/min
David Beckham (Manchester United) 67.6 ml/kg/min
Elite Norwegian Players (1998) 67.67 (±4.0) ml/kg/min
German 1981 squad 67.0 (±4.5) ml/kg/min
1st Division Spanish League (2001) 66.4 (±7.6) ml/kg/min
Ben Hilfenhaus (Australian Cricketer) (2007) 64.1 ml/kg/min
Norwegian division 1-3 (1997) 62.8 (±4.1) ml/kg/min
Derby County FC Squad (2005) 62.1 (±5.0) ml/kg/min
SBC Club Record (Pre Season 2008) 61.4 ml/kg/min
Martin Johnson (England Rugby) 60.6 ml/kg/min
Values for Elite players lie in the 55-70 ml/kg/min region with the mean value of 500 UK professional players in 2003 being 59 ml/kg/min
Players falling below 60 ml/kg/min may fail to perform well consistently at the highest level of professional play.
An English Premier League Squad (2002) 59.4 (±6.2) ml/kg/min
Edward Watson (SBC Coach) (pre season 2006) 57.5 ml/kg/min
Kelly Smith (England Ladies World Cup Team) (June 2007) 57.2 ml/kg/min
Casey Stone (England Ladies) (2007) 57.2 ml/kg/min
Professional referees are required to make 50.84 ml/kg/min on the bleep test
Assistant referees are required to be able to make 50.26 ml/kg/min on the bleep test
VO2 max and age
As we get older our VO2 max decreases. A study by Jackson et al. (1995) found the average decrease was 0.46 ml/kg/min per year for men (1.2%) and 0.54 ml/kg/min for women (1.7%). The decline is due to a number of factors including a reduction in maximum heart rate and maximum stoke volume.
VO2 max for various groups
The tables below, adapted from Wilmore and Costill (2005), detail normative data for VO2 max (ml/kg/min) in various population groups.
Explanation of the Mathematics of Vo2 Max
Max VO2 = 132.853 (0.0769 x W) (0.3877 x A) + (6.315 x G) (3.2649 x T1) (0.1565 x HR1-4)
W = body weight,
A = age,
G = gender (0 = female, 1 = male),
T1 = time for the 1 mile track walk expressed in minutes and hundredths of a minute,
HR1-4 = the heart rate in beats . min-1 at the end of the last quarter mile.
The translation for a 19-year-old male (whose Max VO2 turns out to be 67.63) is:
Body weight = 151.5 lb., T1 = 13.56 min, HR1-4 = 145 beats . min-1
Max VO2 = 132.853 (0.0769 x 151.5) (0.3877 x 19) + (6.315 x 1) (3.2649 x 9.75) (0.1565 x 125)
Max VO2 = 67.63 ml . kg-1 . min-1
An estimate of your VO2 max can be determined using any of the following tests:
- 2.4km Run Test
- Astrand Treadmill test – VO2 max test running on a treadmill
- Astrand 6 minute Cycle test – VO2 max test on a static bike
- Balke VO2 max test – suitable for endurance sports
- Balke Incremental treadmill protocol test- VO2 max test on a treadmill (male
- and female tests)
- Bruce Incremental treadmill protocol test- VO2 max test on a treadmill (male and female tests)
- Cooper VO2 max test – suitable for endurance sports
- Conconi test
- Critical Swim Speed – measure of a swimmers aerobic capacity
- Home Step Test – a step test you can conduct at home
- Harvard Step Test – measure of cardiovascular fitness
- Multistage Fitness Test or Bleep test – VO2 max test for endurance sports
- Queens College Step Test – VO2 max test
- Rockport Fitness walking test – VO2 max test
- Tecumseh Step Test – measure of cardiovascular fitness
- Treadmill VO2max test – VO2 max test
- VO2 max from non-exercise data – VO2 max test
- VO2 max from a one mile jog
- VO2 max from a race result (time for a distance)
- VO2 max Step Test
- Wheelchair VO2 max Test
History of the VO2 Max
The first mention of VO2 Max in the medical literature came in 1969 in Poland:
[Relation of the predicted maximal oxygen consumption (Vo2 max.) in humans to the age of workers in various professions].
Kozlowski S, Kirschner H, Kamiński A, Starnowski R.
Pol Arch Med Wewn. 1969 Feb;42(2):173-80. Polish.
This was followed by:
Relation between VO2 max and body temperature in hot humid air conditions.
Wyndham CH, Strydom NB, Van Rensburg AJ, Benade AJ, Heyns AJ.
J Appl Physiol. 1970 Jul;29(1):45-50.
Effects of acute alterations of Vo2 max on endurance capacity of men.
Gleser MA, Vogel JA.
J Appl Physiol. 1973 Apr;34(4):443-7.
Comparison of continuous and discontinuous treadmill and bicycle tests for max Vo2.
McArdle WD, Katch FI, Pechar GS.
Med Sci Sports. 1973 Fall;5(3):156-60.
The relationship of leg volume (muscle plus bone) to maximal aerobic power output on a bicycle ergometer: the effects of anaemia, malnutrition and physical activity.
Ann Hum Biol. 1974 Jan;1(1):47-55.
The effect on Vo2 max of adding arm work to maximal leg work.
Gleser MA, Horstman DH, Mello RP.
Med Sci Sports. 1974 Summer;6(2):104-7.
Mentions of the VO2 Max by year:
1960s – 1
1970s – 227
1980s – 688
1990s – 633
2000s – 461
2010s – 492
As you can see the first 6 years & 2 months of this decade have already produced more research publications in the field of VO2 Max than all of the previous decade.
Cooper test – an easy way to estimate your VO2 max
Essentially you are asked to run at as fast a steady pace as you can manage for 12 minutes. Note how far you have run in metres. Now subtract 504.9 from that number – for example you run 2,125 metres in 12 minutes so 2,125-504.9=1620.1. Take this answer & divide it by 44.73 & you are left with your estimated VO2 Max which in this case would be 1620.1/44.73=36.2 which would place a man in his 20s in the ‘bad’ range; a man in his 30s in the ‘average’ range; a man in his 40s in the ‘good’ range.
So where does this place estimates for various world class athletes whose VO2 max is not currently in the public domain?
Mo Farah has a personal best for the 5,000m of 12:53.11 which is 12 minute pace of 4,656.5m. 4,656.5-504.9=4151.6/44.73=92.8 ml/kg/min. This places the Alberto Salazar trained distance runner marginally ahead of Greg LeMond among known public scores. For the less gullible among you it is worth noting Farah’s best time by the age of 22 over the distance was 13:30.53 which would equate to a 12 minute distance of 4,441.53m (or 215m after the ‘growth spurt’). This would equate to an estimated VO2 max of 4,441.53-504.9=3936.63/44.73=88.01 ml/kg/min.
Bare in mind known dopers such as Lance Armstrong would have been weary to offer heightened public scrutiny by lodging a spectacular VO2 max test score and probably strategically chose to take the formal test at a time when they were (relatively) ‘out of shape’.