I guess that lots of you have stumbled across V02 Max testing before, but not many of you will have experienced one before.

V02 Max testing is one of the most common tests performed to determine the maximal amount of oxygen uptake or consumption a person can consume in one minute. Results from this test are taken and used to establish a baseline level of fitness and determine training zones. This allows athletes and coaches to get the most out of their sessions and is an excellent way of tracking and monitoring progress.

How is the test performed?

V02 Max test is commonly performed in a sports performance lab by a trained sports professional – like a sports scientist. A treadmill or stationary bike is frequently used, and you will be fitted with a face mask that is connected to a special machine that will measure your exhaled gases when you breath, under exercise conditions. This equipment analyses your respiratory rate and volume alongside oxygen concentration and carbon dioxide (inhaled and emitted air). You will also be given a heart monitor to strap around your chest to monitor heart rate throughout.

You will begin with a warm-up for around 15-20 minutes, depending on how much you want to warm up. Once ready to go, you will start by running a series of 3-minute runs, which will increase in pace (speed) every minute to determine a lactic profile and threshold.  Once lactate concentration reaches 4mmol or increases by 50% this part of the test is completed. The point at which this occurs defines the speed of which the second stage of the test will be set at, and it is this part of the test which determines V02 max scores.  Following each 3-minute effort, runners are shown a Borg scale which rates perceived exhaustion. The athlete is asked to perceive their own level of fatigue.


After 10-15 minutes of recovery, the second stage of the test should begin. During this stage, a mask and heart rate monitor are worn once again. However, this time, the athlete is required to run at speed determined by the first stage of the test (when 4mmol lactate has been recorded) in 1-minute increments. After every 60 seconds, the treadmill incline increases by 1%. After each minute the athlete is once again shown a Borg scale and asked to rate perceived fatigue again. Only when the athlete has reached overall exhaustion, is the test completed. You will then be given a test score and a written report to explain the results of the test. This type of data is extremely important for both the athlete and coach to determine training metrics and fitness levels. The training may be adjusted depending on the test outcome.

VO2 Max Values

VO2 Max Norms for Men
Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior
13-19 Under 35.0 35.0-38.3 38.4-45.1 45.2-50.9 51.0-55.9 Over 55.9
20-29 Under 33.0 33.0-36.4 36.5-42.4 42.5-46.4 46.5-52.4 Over 52.4
30-39 Under 31.5 31.5-35.4 35.5-40.9 41.0-44.9 45.0-49.4 Over 49.4
40-49 Under 30.2 30.2-33.5 33.6-38.9 39.0-43.7 43.8-48.0 Over 48.0
50-59 Under 26.1 26.1-30.9 31.0-35.7 35.8-40.9 41.0-45.3 Over 45.3
60+ Under 20.5 20.5-26.0 26.1-32.2 32.3-36.4 36.5-44.2 Over 44.2


VO2 Max Norms for Women
Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior
13-19 Under 25.0 25.0-30.9 31.0-34.9 35.0-38.9 39.0-41.9 Over 41.9
20-29 Under 23.6 23.6-28.9 29.0-32.9 33.0-36.9 37.0-41.0 Over 41.0
30-39 Under 22.8 22.8-26.9 27.0-31.4 31.5-35.6 35.7-40.0 Over 40.0
40-49 Under 21.0 21.0-24.4 24.5-28.9 29.0-32.8 32.9-36.9 Over 36.9
50-59 Under 20.2 20.2-22.7 22.8-26.9 27.0-31.4 31.5-35.7 Over 35.7
60+ Under 17.5 17.5-20.1 20.2-24.4 24.5-30.2 30.3-31.4 Over 31.4


Factors That Influence VO2 Max Values

The average sedentary male will achieve a VO2 max of approximately 35 to 40 mL/kg/min, and the average sedentary female will score a VO2 max of between 27 and 30 mL/kg/min.

These scores can improve with training but may be limited by certain factors. There are a number of factors that will affect VO2 max scores:

  • Age: VO2 generally peaks by age 20 and declines by almost 30 per cent by age 65.
  • Gender: Elite female athletes typical have higher VO2 max values than Elite me, However, when values are adjusted based on body size, blood volume, and haemoglobin content, men will have a higher VO2 max by approximately 20%.
  • Altitude: Less air at altitude will generally have a five per cent decrease in VO2 max results for every 5,000 feet gained in altitude.

Despite many factors affecting V02, it is a great tool to enhance your training and running performance. If you are someone who is looking to improve and is serious about training, taking this test will undoubtedly provide you with the information you need to do this.   


Example VO2 Report

 Athlete:                        Kate Holt

Event:                          5000m

Date of Birth:               07/09/1992

Age:                             26 y

Abbreviations: Lactate concentration ([La]); oxygen uptake; lactate threshold (LT); lactate turnpoint (LTP); rating of perceived exertion (RPE); maximal oxygen uptake; speed

Testing Procedures: blood samples for [La] were taken every 3 minutes during incremental running exercise to ascertain LT and LTP. Finally, after a 10-minute recovery period, a test was administered, which started at 2 km/h below the final speed sustained during the lactate test and comprised 1% gradient increments every min until volitional exhaustion. This document includes the results of the testing, a simple explanation of what the results mean, your present state of fitness and recommendations for training. All data collected will be treated as highly confidential and will not be available in any form to anyone other than those involved.

Physiology of middle distance running: The majority of energy required to perform middle distance running is derived from the aerobic system. Therefore, it is not surprising that success in events like the 1500 m is determined through physiological parameters that relate to oxygen uptake; these being, the maximal rate of oxygen uptake (), the oxygen uptake required for a given submaximal running intensity (running economy) and the oxygen uptake that can be sustained without the accumulation of blood lactate (LT and LTP).    


  1. Anthropometric characteristics

Stature and body mass

Measurement April 16 Oct 16 Nov 2017  
Stature 165.5 cm 165.2 cm 165 cm  
Body mass 50.1 kg 51.1 kg 50.1 kg  


  1. Submaximal aerobic physiology (LT and LTP)

 There are two lactate thresholds used to interpret exercise performance, and they are represented here as the lactate threshold (LT) and the higher lactate turnpoint (LTP).

Lactate threshold (LT) is the first workload at which there is a sustained increase in blood lactate concentration above baseline levels. This marks the point at which exercise can be performed for a prolonged period (hours) and is really the lower marker for aerobic exercise training. Any work performed below this will be considered to be recovery training.

Lactate Turnpoint (LTP) is the workload at which there is a sudden and sustained secondary increase in blood lactate. The corresponding workload at lactate turnpoint can be held for 20 – 40 minutes and is often useful for predicting performance up to 10 km.

Running economy is the oxygen uptake required for given exercise intensity. It is a critical determinant in endurance running as the more economical runner can run faster over a given distance and longer at a constant speed because they require less oxygen to do so. A standard method of assessing an athlete’s running economy is to measure the oxygen uptake needed to run at 16 km/h and 1% gradient. The oxygen uptake at this speed in well-trained runners should average 52 ml/kg/min. Alternatively, running economy can be expressed in units of ml O2/kg/km, and irrespective of speed running economy should average 200 ml O2/kg/km.

I have presented the data from the incremental running test in table and graph format below.

Stage 1 2 3 4 5 6
Speed (km/h) 13 14 15 16 17 18
Speed (min/mile) 7:26 6:54 6:26 6:02 5:41 5:22
[La] (mmol/l) 1.0 1.4 2.1 2.3 3.8 7.2
HR (b/min) 149 156 172 174 183 187
(ml/kg/min) 44 46 50 53 54 56
Economy (ml O2/kg/km) 203 197 200 199 191


Date April 16 Oct 16 Nov 17  
LT (km/h) 15 15 14  
LT (min/mile) 6:26 6:26 6:54  
LTP (km/h) 16 17 17  
LTP (min/mile) 6:02 5:41 5:41  
HR at LT (b/min) 173 165 156  
HR at LTP (b/min) 178 180 183  
RPE at LT 8 8 7  
RPE at LTP 10 12 12  

  1. Maximal aerobic physiology

It has been estimated that middle distance running requires the energetic equivalent of 110 %. Therefore, remains an important measure of performance capacity in middle distance running. While, submaximal markers of endurance performance (such as running economy, LT and LTP) can compensate for a relatively poor amongst an elite group of athletes, entry to that group is dependent on you.

The speed was estimated by multiplying yous by 60 and divided by the average economy ascertained from the first 4 stages of the lactate test is useful for predicting performance during 1500 – 3000 m running and is suggested to be the ideal speed.


Date April 16 Oct 16 Nov 17   Comparative values (range)
(l/min) 3.29 3.61 3.14  
(ml/kg/min) 66 70 63   55 – 65
(km/h) 19.1 20.9 19.1  
Final speed/gradient 16 & 6 16 & 7 16 & 7  


  1. Blood lactate training zones

I have used your lactate data to provide you with some recommended training intensities, which you can use accordingly. The table below provides an outline of some training session types and running speed values that correspond to them.

Zone Description




Speed (min/mile) Heart rate (b/min) Perceived exertion Time spent in zone
T1 Easy < 14 < 6:54 < 156 Easy 2 – 1 h
T2 Moderate 14 – 16 6:52 – 6:02 156 – 174 Comfortable 90 –30 min
T3 Heavy 16 – 17 6:02 – 5:41 174 – 183 Uncomfortable  40 – 20 min
T4 Severe 17 – 18 5:41 – 5:22 183 – 187 Stressful 4-6 x 3 min