What does VO2 Max mean?

Let me try to divide it up logically.

V = Volume
O2 = Oxygen (Oxygen)
Max = maximalt

VO2 Max is known as your maximum oxygen absorbtion.

VO2 is used to measure how many milliliters of oxygen your body absorb when you breathe in a minute. VO2 Max is the maximum milliliters  of oxygen your body absorb expressed as volume per minute. VO2 Max can be displayed in two ways both of which express the VO2 Max:

  • Absolute VO2 Max: mL / min (milliliters of oxygen per minute)
  • Relative VO2 Max: mL / kg / min (milliliters of oxygen per kilo body weight per minute)

You can compare your relative VO2 Max to others' and see who has the best fitness level. But two riders with the same relative VO2 max may well have different strengths on the bike, if one has a higher Lactate Threshold level and therefore can work closer to his Max Pulse Rating without producing lactic acid!

Well-known professional cyclists who have had really high relative VO2 Max:

Greg LeMond, relative VO2 max 92
Miguel Indurain, relative VO2 max 88
Lance Armstrong, relative VO2 max 84

A really good relative VO2 max of an elite cyclist is about 75-80 and untrained adults is around 30-40. Just to compare, I can inform that a horse that is highly trained for competitions has a relative VO2 max at around 200 ml / kg / min.

What affect VO2 Max?

Altitude - eg. in the mountains there is less oxygen in the air
Age - the limit for how high you can get your VO2 Max, decreases with age
Sex - as the starting point is women's VO2 Max lower than men's
Training - with the right training you can increase your VO2 Max and your hence your fitness rating

Measurering of VO2 Max:

Like your max heart rate is different from the sport you do, your VO2 Max also vary after the sport you do.

Measuring in a test center, you get on a mask that detects the air you inward and exhale. There will be measured how much air you breathe and how much oxygen the air contains. In exhalation the oxygen that is left in the air is measured, so you know how much oxygen you have absorbed.

According to studies measurering VO2 Max by the Max Watt test with adaption of weight, age and fitness level compared with measurements in a test center, both methods has modest uncertainty of 3-8 %. It is good news because you might not have access to this advanced test equipment.




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