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What Is A VO2 Max Test? | Why & How To Work Out Your VO2 Max

What Is A VO2 Max Test? | Why & How To Work Out Your VO2 Max


– [Mark] Now we talk about
a lot of different metrics in sport such as heart
rate, pace, calories, cadence, and so on. But one that always turns
the heads is VO2 max. – Yeah, now you’ve all
likely heard the term VO2 max and with advances in technology these days is becoming far easier and accessible to be able to measure it yourself. In fact, this very watch here apparently can tell me my VO2 number. – Which is great, but
actually what is VO2 max and why is it thought to be so important? Well, today with the help
of the Sports Science Lab at the University of Bath and our channel partner Polar, we’re going to be answering just that and one of us actually
doing a VO2 max test. – Now, before we flip a coin here, Mark, let’s have a little bit of background about what a VO2 max is. Now, a person’s VO2 max is also known as their
maximal oxygen uptake. And, is a measurement
of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize
during intense exercise. Now, the measurements of this are milliliters of oxygen used in a minute per kilogram of body weight. – Right, well, since oxygen is critical in fueling our muscles to perform, the higher your VO2 max, the better, the fitter you are in theory. And this means the higher
you can get your VO2 max, the more oxygen your body
can deliver to your muscles enabling you to perform better or faster. And by knowing your VO2 max, we can then accurately
create our training zones and train more smartly. So, to give you a little
bit of perspective of what we’re aspiring to, Greg Lauren, the ex pro
cyclist, had a VO2 max of 92.5. Kilian Jornet, the epic
ultra runner adventurer, has a VO2 max of 92. And it said that Paula Radcliffe, the previous women’s world
marathon record holder, had a VO2 max of 75. – Okay, well that’s all very well, but to give a little bit of context here, it is said the the average person, male, should I say, has a VO2 max somewhere between 40 and 45. And the equivalent for female is somewhere between 30 and 35. – Yeah, and that being said, by having a high VO2 max
doesn’t necessarily mean that you will perform
well and go win races and beat those with a lower VO2 max. Actually, a lot more
components are in play, such as your physiology, your psychology, but obviously having a
VO2 max and being fitter is important, will help,
but more crucially, knowing your own VO2 max, tracking that and seeing improvements in
that, is what we’re after. So, with all that, we should really look at how you find out your VO2 max. – Yeah, and there are a couple
ways that you can do this. But the first one that we’re
going to concentrate on is by going into a sports lab and measuring it that way. – Yeah and it’s time to
flip the coin, Fraser. Heads or tails? – I’ll go tails. – Ready? (suspenseful music) Heads! – Oh, it’s heads. And I’m guessing you don’t want to do it. – Not really mate, no. – All right, okay. Pull my socks up, get ready for test. (soothing music) – All right, so, behind me, Fraser has just started his VO2 max test. I’ve done a number of these over the years and I can tell you, they are not pleasant. So, I’m kind of pleased I’m
not on the treadmill today. You will notice though that
Fraser’s got a mask on his face. That’s staying connected to a
rather fancy bit of kit here. This is a gas analyzing machine. This is measuring the volume of oxygen that he’s inhaling and the amount of air that he is exhaling. And typically, during a VO2 max test, the athlete will perform
some form of ramp test where the intensity gradually increases until the athlete either
fails and has to stop, or their oxygen consumption plateaus. So yeah, like I said, this
is a pretty tough test. What happens during the
plateau during the test, is basically the athlete
goes from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic metabolism. Meaning that, they are
no longer using oxygen to fuel the breakdown of carbohydrates, amino acids, fats, and so on. Because there is simply
no oxygen to do so. So yeah, we are doing this in a lab, which also means that we
can take blood samples which is really handy, so
we can get lactate levels and we’re going to get that all
important VO2 max for Fraser. Good luck, Fraser! (upbeat music) Well, Fraser, valiant effort in there. That was, impressive. – Yeah, that’s one way
of putting it, Mark. I’ve only just stopped sweating now, about an hour down the road almost. I mean, yeah, it was only 11 minutes, so just under 11 minutes of running, but, it was a tough 11 minutes and that’s the whole point. The numbers in particular were starting at 11 kilometers an hour and then every minute increasing up about a kilometer an hour, so that got me to 20.5 kilometers an hour at my failure point. And then the crucial numbers at that point were 198 as a max heart rate,
which doesn’t surprise me. – That’s high. – Used to, no, yeah my heart
rate always went quite high. And then the whole point
in the test was the VO2 and now it comes in at 67.3. – [Mark] Which is also very
good by most people’s standards. Maybe not yourself, given
what you used to have, – Yeah, it seems– – but, you’re not practicing. – No, I know I’m not. I forget that. It seems quite low, but either way, if that’s what it is now, and– – And also, we were able
to take bloods in this. You got peak lactate of 7.6, which again is good.
– Milibles. Yeah. – Yeah. – Seems like a reasonable
number for working hard. – So a lot of interesting stuff there. But what if I told you, Fraser, I also got my VO2 max once
you were on the treadmill and I just sat in a chair. – Yeah, not entirely happy about this. How did you do that? – Well, on a number of devices out there you can do a fitness test. So on our Polar Vantage V, they have a fitness test function. Now, devices and brands differ. Some brands and devices require you to do a little bit of activity. This one in particular
actually just needs you to take your resting heart
rate, heart rate variability, and a few other metrics like
your height, weight, etc. And it will workout your VO2 max. So I did that. And I know what you’re
probably thinking out there. How on earth can that be accurate? Well, we’re going to put
this to the test here. ‘Cause I thought, you’ve now
got a very accurate VO2 max from the lab. – Sure do, yeah. – So here’s a heart rate, and let’s do the fitness test. – Okay, well, it’ll be
interesting to compare. (upbeat music) So I have just finished
doing my VO2 max test on the watch here. And, actually, I’m surprised at the number this has given me. This has given me 69.0,
which compared to my 67.3 from the very accurate lab test
I’ve just done this morning is very, very close indeed. – Yeah, I’m absolutely amazed by that. That’s really impressive. Now, obviously this isn’t quite
as detailed as a lab test, but it gives you a really
good ballpark figure and hopefully that changes
as your fitness changes. – Yeah, I mean there’s pros and cons to everything of course. And with the lab in particular, you know that it’s going
to be in a very controlled environment, you’re going to
have extremely accurate results, very detailed results as well, and you’re also going to get
some more detail in there with things like the
efficiency you’re running at, heart rate values obviously, and your lactate is coming out there, and so on and so forth. – Yeah, I guess though on the flip side, the down side of a lab test is,
well firstly you need access to a lab which for some
people, just isn’t possible. – Yeah. – Well now they are becoming
increasingly more available. Then you need to find
availability within that lab, be able to book in. That’s going to cost
you and it’s hard work. – Yeah, where as with this fitness test on the watch, it’s free
to use once you’ve paid for the watch in the first place and you can keep doing that whenever you want going forwards. It’s also very easy and
instantaneous information to get from the watch as well. – Yeah so just keep doing
it over and over again. But then as I mentioned already, obviously it’s not as detailed and maybe as accurate as
a fully fledged lab test, but it’s open to anyone, as
and when they want to use it. – Yeah, so I guess now Mark, we have to decide what do we actually go and do with this VO2 max information? – Well and go compare
everyone else, obviously. – Yeah, true, actually. I was thinking maybe more in terms of what we could do with our training. – Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, obviously from this you then will be able to calculate your training zone. So theoretically, using your VO2 max is probably the most accurate way of calculating those training zones. So those percentages of your VO2 max for your training zones are
on the screen right now, so make sure to take
a screen shot of that. And the idea being if you go ahead and train to those training zones, you’re really like, bang on the money and should really see an
improvement in your fitness and hopefully your performance. So that is what VO2 max is, how you can find out your VO2 max and what you do with it. Now, if you have enjoyed today’s video, make sure you give us a thumbs
up and like for the video. If you don’t already subscribe to GTN, make sure you click on the
globe on screen right now and hit the bell icon to get notified when some of our videos come out. – Yeah, now hopefully you
have enjoyed this video because I’ve put in quite a lot of effort, – You sure did. – To get the number I did. But, if you want to see some other videos, then one that we have made recently is a swimmer versus a runner. And you can see that here. – Yeah, and if you’d like to see how to run to heart rate zones, you can see that by
clicking just down here.

34 comments on “What Is A VO2 Max Test? | Why & How To Work Out Your VO2 Max

  1. 8:04 Fraser says that the VO2 Max feature of the watch is free once you pay for the watch. Hmm, so the feature disappears if the watch is stolen?

  2. You should take a couple VO2 Max Tests with the Polar kit before every lab VO2 Max Test. That way we can check accuracy and precision for validity and reliability. Comparing a single data point from the Polar kit to the accurate and precise lab test isn't that convincing (even if you are only looking for a ballpark figure).
    Maybe Fraser could post some more readings to see where they land?

  3. Per my Garmin, I increase my vo2max by taking a couple days off, and doing a tempo run in the cold…. then if I want it to go down… I just run slowly in the heat :o)

  4. 69? That is impressive.
    Garmin watches (same) are also capable to provide VO2 but not in static environment but you need to run of course
    Seeing VO2 max is not to compare with others but to see your progress – but of course you/we all know it 😉

  5. what is the benefit of using such short protocol increasing speed evey 1min. I read somewhere that in order to stabilise lactate its better to stay on the speed at least for 3 min. Lactate is very individual but maximum 7.7 seems to be very very low. I not an expert but such short test seems to be not too accurate.

  6. curious how much max heart rates differ on a bike vs. running. i don't recall doing a "ramp" test for a run or a Vo2 max, but have done many on the bike and my bike zones are pretty accurate, but i assume my running zones would be different?

  7. How much does your VO2 max differ between different disciplines? I did recently a VO2max test an ergometer, can I use these data to determine my zones for running? I don't think so, but it should still be more accurate than the algorithm on my watch.

  8. The graph listed the zones as both %Max (VO2max) and %Max (Heart Rates), So why do I need to know my VO2max since I can just use the %MHR zones?

  9. Excellent video, wondering why you didn’t whip off that mask as soon as your test was over. Did your HR need to return to baseline? Can you do more videos like this, some that are HR based, like time to drop by x BPM as an indicator of fitness. I ditching my Garmin for a Polar Vantage V

  10. VO2 Max depends greatly on genetics and represents your innate ability to do constant exercise; some people really do just have good genes! But you can improve VO2max by simply losing weight.

  11. i'm not sure what i loved more – Fraser's look during the coin toss, or the super synth soundtrack during the ramp test! also, **67.3!!** well done, Fraser!

  12. According to my Polar Vantage my vo2 max is higher than Fraser's (70). Assuming that is accurate (and i realise that's a big one) what else is it that makes me so much slower in a race?

  13. Your VO2 MAX is simply something to distract from the fact you don't have good running genes because you're white.

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