VO2max Fitness can be measured by the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity. VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres, one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight. Those who are fit have higher VO2max values and can exercise more intensely than those who are not as well conditioned. Numerous studies show that you can increase your VO2max by working out at an intensity that raises your heart rate to between 65 and 85% of its maximum for at least 20 minutes three to five times a week (referenced in French & Long (2012)). A mean value of VO2max for male athletes is about 3.5 litres/minute and for female athletes it is about 2.7 litres/minute.
There are various physiological factors that combine to determine VO2max for which there are two theories: Utilization Theory and Presentation Theory. Utilization theory maintains that VO2max is determined by the body's ability to utilize the available oxygen whereas Presentation Theory maintains it is the ability of the body's cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen to active tissues. A study by Saltin and Rowell (1980) concluded that it is the delivery of oxygen to active tissues that is the major limiting factor to VO2max. A study by Gollnick et al. (1972)showed a weak relationship between the body's ability to utilize the available oxygen and VO2max.
VO2max for various groups The tables below, adapted from Wilmore and Costill (2005), detail normative data for VO2max (ml/kg/min) in various population groups. Non Athletes Age Male Female 10-19 47-56 38-46 20-29 43-52 33-42 30-39 39-48 30-38 40-49 36-44 26-35 50-59 34-41 24-33 60-69 31-38 22-30 70-79 28-35 20-27 Athletes Sport Age Male Female Baseball 18-32 48-56 52-57 Basketball 18-30 40-60 43-60 Cycling 18-26 62-74 47-57 Canoeing 22-28 55-67 48-52 Football (USA) 20-36 42-60 Gymnastics 18-22 52-58 35-50 Ice Hockey 10-30 50-63 Orienteering 20-60 47-53 46-60 Rowing 20-35 60-72 58-65 Skiing alpine 18-30 57-68 50-55 Skiing nordic 20-28 65-94 60-75 Soccer 22-28 54-64 50-60 Speed skating 18-24 56-73 44-55 Swimming 10-25 50-70 40-60 Track & Field - Discus 22-30 42-55 Track & Field - Running 18-39 60-85 50-75 Track & Field - Running 40-75 40-60 35-60 Track & Field - Shot 22-30 40-46 Volleyball 18-22 40-56 Weight Lifting 20-30 38-52 Wrestling 20-30 52-65 Athlete's Vo2max Scores
The following are the Vo2max scores for a selection of the top female and male athletes. VO2max (ml/kg/min) Athlete Gender Sport/Event 96.0 EspenHaraldBjerke Male Cross Country Skiing 96.0 Bjorn Daehlie Male Cross Country Skiing 92.5 Greg LeMond Male Cycling 92.0 Matt Carpenter Male Marathon Runner 92.0 Tore Ruud Hofstad Male Cross Country Skiing 91.0 HarriKirvesniem Male Cross Country Skiing 88.0 Miguel Indurain Male Cycling 87.4 Marius Bakken Male 5K Runner 85.0 Dave Bedford Male 10K Runner 85.0 John Ngugi Male Cross Country Runner 73.5 Greta Waitz Female Marathon runner 71.2 Ingrid Kristiansen Female Marathon Runner 67.2 Rosa Mota Female Marathon Runner
VO2max and age As we get older our VO2max 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 rateand maximum stoke volume. VO2max and performance VO2max on its own is a poor predictor of performance but using the velocity (vVO2max) and duration (tlimvVO2max) that an athlete can operate at their VO2max will provide a better indication of performance.
Improving your VO2max The following are samples of Astrands (a work physiologists) workouts for improving oxygen uptake: (1) - Run at maximum speed for 5 minutes. Note the distance covered in that time. Let us assume that the distance achieved is 1900 metres. Rest for 5 minutes, and then run the distance (1900 metres) 20% slower, in other words in 6 minutes, with 30 seconds rest, repeated many times. This is equal to your 10 Km pace (2) - Run at maximum speed for 4 minutes. Note the distance covered in that time. Rest for 4 minutes. In this case, we will assume you run a distance of 1500 metres. Now run the same distance 15% slower, in other words in 4 minutes 36 seconds, with 45 seconds rest, repeated several times. This approximates to a time between the athlete's 5 Km and 10 Km time (3) - Run at maximum effort for 3 minute. Note the distance covered in that time. The distance covered is, say 1000 metres. Successive runs at that distance are taken 10% slower or at 3 minutes 18 seconds, with 60 seconds rest, repeated several times. This approximates to your 5 Km time (4) - Run at maximum effort for 5 minutes. Note the distance covered in that time. The distance covered is 1900 metres. Rest 5 minutes. The distance is now covered 5% slower with 1½ minutes rest. This is approximately 3K pace for you, i.e., 5 minutes 15 seconds/1900 metres (5) - Run at maximum effort for 3 minutes. The distance covered is 1100 metres. When recovered, the athlete then runs the same distance 5% slower, i.e., 3 minutes 9 seconds/1100 metres, with a minute rest, repeated several times. This is at 3 Km pace When and how often It is suggested that in the winter sessions (1) and (2) are done weekly, and in the track season sessions (3), (4) and (5) are done weekly by runners from 800 metres to the half-marathon. Although it would be convenient to use the original distance marks made by the duration efforts, this does not take into account the athlete's condition before each session, so the maximum effort runs must be done on each occasion when they may be either more or less than the previous distance run. The maximum duration efforts are in themselves quality sessions. If the pulse rate has not recovered to 120 beats per minute in the rest times given, the recovery period should be extended before the repetitions are started. The recovery times between the repetitions should be strictly adhered to. These workouts make a refreshing change from repetition running. When all five sessions are completed within a month, experience shows substantial improvements in performance. The effect of altitude VO2 max decreases as altitude increases above 1600m and for every 1000m above 1600m maximal oxygen uptake decreases by approximately 8-11%. The decrease is mainly due to a decrease in maximal cardiac output (product of heart rate and stroke volume). Stoke volume decreases due to the immediate decrease in blood plasma volume.