VO2 Maximum Testing

Scientifically, this is the amount of oxygen the body can use in millilitres, per kilo that you weigh, per minute.

What is VO2 Max?

Clearly this definition of VO2, whilst correct, doesn't tell us much - how do we know what to do with the information?

So, more simply, testing an athletes VO2 maximum is a measure of the endurance capability of an athlete. Basically, those who can uptake oxygen more efficiently can work harder than those who can't. Training will, over time, increase this level, although genetics also have a role to play here, so to and extent you "get what you are given!".

There are various ways in which this can be measured. The actual figure that is produced from some of these tests is not as important as the athletes measure of what was achieved and the aim of improving this over time. The most scientific way to do this is to get a laboratory test done on a treadmill with an oxygen mask and being linked up to a computer. However, this is beyond the means of most athletes and isn't entirely necessary.

It is important to note that whilst the lactate threshold limit an athlete has is loosely related to their VO2 Max, there is enough variation here that a runner with a very good VO2 Max, may have a significantly lower lactate threshold than another whose VO2 maximum isn't that high.

At Momentum Sports we believe the Balke Test - which is a simple a test whereby you try to run as far as you can in 15 minutes and record the result is the most useful for runners.

Balke VO2 Maximum Test

Go to a track and run for 15 minutes. Record the distance.

There are various formulae that have been used over the years to calculate VO2 Maximum from this, they are all reasonably accurate, here we suggest that there isn't too much wrong with the orignal Balke formula of 6.5 + distance (in metres) / 80.

As this is only an approximate test this should be fine. Results from this are clearly linear in relation to the distance covered so are not too important unless comparing with the results from other tests.

A county standard male athlete would be looking for around 4500-5000m from this test and a female about 4000-4500m.

Other tests which can be used to calculate VO2 max include the Beep Test, sometimes called the Bleep Test. This is a test whereby the athlete will set up two lines 20m apart and run backwards and forwards, completing a length by the time a bleep is emited from a tape/CD. The frequency of these increase as the test goes on.

To complete the test (which is rarely done) there are 21 levels. A result of more than 12 is good for men and 10 for women. There are table which can be used from these results to calculate VO2 maximum levels.

We believe these tests are not as useful for runner as a lot of turning is involved, which runner don't generally do when competing.