Ohh yes. VO2 Max. They say you are born with it. They say you really can't change it much. Well, what is VO2 Max? Why is it important for endurance athletes? Can I train to obtain a higher VO2 Max?
Remember when you were young and some kids could run fast for miles and miles? You knew you didn't stand a chance racing them. They just seemed to have another level of cardiorespiratory fitness. You just had to go at your own pace. It's likely those fast-running kids had a higher VO2 Max1.
Wikipedia: The measurement of V̇O2 max in the laboratory provides a quantitative value of endurance fitness for comparison of individual training effects and between people in endurance training. Maximal oxygen consumption reflects cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance capacity in exercise performance.
What's VO2 Max? How To Calculate Your VO2 Max
Verywellfit: VO2 max is measured in milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight (mL/kg/min). It is based on the premise that the more oxygen athletes consume during high-level exercise, the more the body will generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy in cells. ATP is often referred to as the "molecular unit of currency" of intracellular energy
The VO2 Max test measures how much oxygen your body uses during physical activity. This helps determine how hard you should push yourself to achieve optimal results. Interestingly, heart rate is not necessarily correlated.
Runners World: When the test was examined against laboratory trials, in which the subjects’ oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output were measured using a mask and accurate instruments
You can calculate your VO2 Max by multiplying your VO2 max by your body weight in kilograms. For example, if you weigh 70kg, your VO2 Max would be 70 x 3.5 = 231ml/min.
VO2 Max = VO2 max x Body Weight (in kg)
If you weigh 70kg, then your VO2 Max is 70 x 7 = 490ml/min.
This calculation assumes that you're exercising at a moderate pace (i.e., not sprinting). If you're running faster than this, you'll need to adjust your calculations accordingly.
In a nutshell, VO2 Max is “The maximum rate of Oxygen (O2) consumption by the body during exercise.”The more oxygen your body absorbs per minute, the higher your VO2 Max.
Oxygen is like gasoline on a fire. The more oxygen you distribute to your muscles, the more your muscles can continue to provide power output.
Measuring your VO2 Max requires specialized instruments. Some devices offer VO2 Max estimated calculations.
Marathon Handbook: After comparing the Garmin VO2 max estimates with each runner’s laboratory values, results demonstrated that Garmin’s VO2 max estimation was 95% correct, with a margin of error of less than 3.5ml/kg/min
Can I Train and Improve VO2 Max?
VO2 Max is largely “genetically gifted” by your parents.
“So it’s safe to say that Tour de France competitors are both born and made.”
To become a top-end marathon runner, a Tour De France winner, or the Ironman World Champion you will need a high VO2 Max and superior aerobic fitness. In other words, to be among the very best endurance sports athletes, VO2 Max is a prerequisite.
The latest studies show VO2 Max is trainable..to a point. We can train and improve our VO2. Those who start from the couch to elite athletes can see a dramatic change in oxygen economy and utilization.
From a good athlete, to an Elite athlete the oxygen uptake or VO2 Max improvements are likely to be small.
Healthline: Everyone — no matter their athletic ability — should try to increase their cardiorespiratory endurance. According toresearch, a higher VO₂ max is associated with a lower risk of death.
It is a measure of your aerobic capacity, and physical fitness and is influenced by genetics and age.
To improve your VO2 max, you can try the following tips:
Engage in regular aerobic training such as running, cycling, or swimming.
Vary your workouts to include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and long, steady-state endurance exercise.
Increase the intensity of your training workouts gradually, rather than trying to do too much too soon.
Incorporate strength training into your fitness routine, as it can help improve your VO2 max and make you a more efficient runner or cyclist.
Maintain a fit-level weight and body composition
You will still need to put in hard work and train for years to reach your full athletic potential.
"Some of us get to compete among the best in the world, the rest of us get to watch." -Cameron Hoffman
Professional Athletes VO2 Max Numbers
It's difficult to come up with a comprehensive list of Professional Athletes and their cardiorespiratory or VO2 Max numbers. Most keep physiological testing a secret. We may never know what the real number is.
Garmin.com: On average, men have higher VO2 max values than women. So for a man and woman with the same VO2 max, the woman will have a better fitness level compared to her peer group.
A top female endurance athlete will almost certainly have a much higher VO2 max than the average male. However, she will likely have a lower VO2 max compared to a top male endurance athlete.
Who Has the Highest VO2 Max?
Forbes Health Dr. Goldberg says,“Testing your VO2 max is best used by elite athletes to know if they will have what it takes to compete at a certain level.”
Some of this information is tough to obtain. Professional/Elite athletes don't often offer or promote their personal physiological and cardiovascular fitness attributes.
Two incredible American athletes come to mind who had some of the highest VO2 Max numbers ever recorded, Three-time Tour De France winner, Greg Lemond (92.5) and running phenomenon, Steve Prefontaine (84.4).
18 year old from Lillehammer, Norway. The test was conducted in Sept 2012 at the University College of Lillehammer by physiologist Joar Hansen. (from an article onprocycling)
Espen Harald Bjerke
Norwegian cross country skier
This score was achieved in 2005 (7.3 liter/min, 76 kg body weight), listed in an article onwww.fasterskier.com.
Norwegian cross country skier
This score is commonly quoted, though another source has him recording a best of 90 ml/kg/min.
Australian Olympic track cyclist. From testing done at the South Australian Institute of Sport in 1991. (see comment below)
Kurt Asle Arvesen
a Norwegian professional road bicycle racer for Team Sky. Figure taken from an article published on www.syklingensverden.com, said to be from 1997 (link no longer available).
US professional cyclist
Women's Highest VO2 Max List
1984 Olympic Marathon Champion
Oliveira is a Brazilian National Team road cyclist and climbing specialist. This result was recorded during testing with Felicia Gomez at Pinnacle Training Systems in Fresno, California on Jan 21, 2012. (with thanks to Nathan Parks, Jan 2012)