6 Ways To Increase VO2 Max

V02 max is probably a topic that is talked about a lot in the endurance athlete community, and yet it has the potential to be one of the least beneficial measurements they can look at. Nevertheless, since triathletes (and endurance athletes in general) really have the inclination to converse about their VO 2 max, let us take a deep look into it. We will explain what VO2 max is, discuss why it is important (as well as when it is not, and which metrics are more meaningful), describe the changes to the body that leads to an increase in VO2 max, and finally how to increase VO2 max (as well as other related goals).

VO max

VO2 max stands for “The Highest Volume of Oxygen a Person Can Consume During Exercise.” This maximum amount of oxygen which can be utilized by your body while engaging in physical activity is represented as “V?O2 max”. This is an expression of the volume of oxygen that is taken in over a single minute for each kilogram of body weight.

The definition of VO2 max may be technical, however it is hard to understand what it is and why it is considered to be an excellent sign of physical fitness. To get a good idea of that, let’s talk about the aerobic and anaerobic energy processes that work together to fuel your muscles and provide the power they need.

A few essential contrasts between these two energy systems are important for this discussion: (1) The aerobic energy system necessitates oxygen to transform muscle glycogen into fuel, whereas the anaerobic system does not. Your aerobic energy system is able to supply energy for extended periods of time, whereas your anaerobic system is limited to providing any energy over a short time frame (generally lasting only a few minutes).

It is advantageous to comprehend when and why your physique relies on a certain energy system rather than another. The aerobic energy system is the primary source of fuel for your muscles due to its capacity to sustain you for longer. Your aerobic energy system will keep supplying the energy your muscles need, as long as your heart is able to circulate enough oxygen around them, and your aerobic energy system can keep pace with their usage.

The capability of the aerobic energy system to furnish fuel is dependent upon the amount of oxygen supplied to it by one’s cardiovascular system. When your muscles require additional power surpassing what your aerobic energy system can supply, the anaerobic energy system assumes the role, but your capacity to sustain such an effort is often only temporary.

The maximal oxygen uptake you are able to take in is the limit of oxygen that restricts the energy yield of your aerobic energy system. Given the fact that the aerobic energy system is utilized as the fundamental fuel source for all exercise that goes on for more than a couple of minutes (for instance, every triathlon and all triathlon prep endeavors), it appears to be a really important thing.

Why does VO max matter in a triathlon context

This is why VO 2 max is crucial for any endurance athlete: Your capacity to transport oxygen to your muscles will be higher if your VO 2 max is higher. An increased supply of oxygen to your muscles allows your aerobic energy system to generate more energy. Having lots of energy in your muscles makes them stronger so they can handle a physical activity for a longer period of time. This is essentially the purpose of any type of endurance sport.

It is impossible to work out your VO2 max or gauge how your body is utilizing oxygen during exercise, except when tests are done in a sports science or medicine facility. If you are unable to keep track of your oxygen usage in proportion to your maximum rate of oxygen consumption while exercising, the planning of a training program or a race cannot be carried out accurately. Have you ever seen an exercise session which recommends swimming/biking/running at an intensity equivalent to X% of your VO2 Max? No, it is impossible to accomplish that task without a laboratory. Your VO2 Max can be interesting to contemplate, however, it does not provide a clear course of action.

Strategies for improving your VO max

Before discussing the methods of improvement, let us establish expectations. Analysis shows that up to half of an individual’s capacity to raise their VO2 max during exercise is determined by their genes, so it cannot be modified via training. If you are not very fit, it is much easier to increment your VO2 max; if you are in good physical condition, then you may have already reached your physical threshold. Eventually, your VO2 max will decline with age, usually at a rate of around 2 per cent annually.

It is of great advantage to concentrate on strategies that will raise your VO2 max as well as enhance your speed/strength at the lactic acid threshold and your capability to keep that pace/force for longer periods. Metrics which can be measured and monitored more easily are just as valid indicators of your physical fitness, and they can still be improved by training even when you have achieved the highest achievable VO2 max.

Let’s discuss how to achieve greater speed, as that should be the goal of all of this.

A great way to enhance your stamina, VO2 max, lactic acid threshold levels and pace/power, and boost your aerobic fitness is performing a significant number of workouts within the aerobic training zone. Although it may not sound particularly enticing or thrilling, just about any trainer will tell you why stamina-focused workouts are so essential when it comes to exercise. Working out in your endurance range, also known as Zone 2, is an advantageous way to make your heart muscles stronger, step up your VO 2 max, and expand the endurance of your aerobic motor.

Another way to enhance your VO2 max, as well as your lactate threshold and related velocity/force, plus extend your performance of that intensity for longer stretches, is to engage in interval workouts. There are two distinct styles of interval workouts that promote all of these adaptations:

  • Intervals that are 1-5 minutes in duration and at effort levels just above threshold effort (RPE 8 / 99-102% of LTHR / 105-120% of FTP).
  • Intervals that are 5-20 minutes in duration and at effort levels at and just below threshold effort (RPE 6-7 / 93-99% of LTHR / 90-105% of FTP).

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to your VO 2 max, but bear in mind that your performance in a race doesn’t hinge on this measurement alone. Getting the most out of your endurance sport performance involves the ability to maintain a high rate of speed and energy output over an extended period. Increasing your VO 2 max and lactate threshold can help you achieve this goal. You can reach your goals by refining your mechanics of movement, your nutritional plan, how you measure your speed, and how you handle the psychological aspect. If it was all about the statistics, there would be no point in having the competition.

1. Exercise at a high intensity

The best way to improve your Vo2 max is to exercise at an intense level. Running instructors advise that you exercise at close to your most extreme heart rate.

Exercising at or near your maximum heart rate strengthens your heart muscles and increases its capacity to pump more blood with each beat. Your maximum heart rate can be estimated by taking away your age from 220.

2. Train in intervals

A 2013 overview of research found that interval training produces slightly better improvements to Vo2 max than sustained aerobic exercise. Interval training involves switching between brief periods of intense exercise and periods of pause.

3. Combine interval and continuous training

Including both an ongoing exercise regimen and periodical training in your fitness routine could be more productive than relying on just one of the two.

Many research projects which have seen the biggest improvement in Vo2 max have relied on a 10-week program with a total of six workout sessions throughout the week.

In the studies, individuals conducted periods of running followed by intervals of running on alternate days.

On cycle days, they pedalled a stationary bike for approximately 5 minutes at a hard level matching their Vo2 max, with 2 minutes of rest in between each push.

For the duration of the study, members had the challenge of running a set distance in increasing increments; first 30 minutes a day, then 35 minutes, and finally at least 40 minutes.

It is important to keep in mind that this program requires a good level of fitness, and is therefore not suitable for those who are not already active. In the trial of this regimen, the results were that there was still an uptick in Vo2 max levels by the last assessment; however, certain individuals stopped taking part due to the strenuous nature of the program.

4. Keep challenging yourself

When your efforts to increase your body’s capacity to take in and use oxygen begins, practically any sort of prolonged exercise is expected to result in a beneficial outcome. As your skills improve, your progress will become less noticeable and you’ll need to work at a more advanced level to keep increasing your competency.

You can make your workout more intense by exercising more frequently, spending more time working out, or moving faster during the activity.

5. Find Your 5K and 10K times

If you’re someone who likes running, having knowledge of what speed you can manage to run 5 kilometres and 10 kilometres could be beneficial. The speed you can sprint these two routes is approximately equivalent to the velocity you must go at to get to 90 to 95 per cent of your maximum heart rate.

6. Learn how to find your functional threshold power (FTP)

If you are a bicyclist, it may be beneficial to you to determine your functional threshold power (FTP). The maximum power that you can maintain for 60 minutes is your FTP. You can use it to figure out how strenuous you need to be while attempting to enhance your Vo2 max.

To determine your FTP, carry out a test on a bike that has a power meter installed. Following your warm-up, cycle as intensely as you can for 20 minutes. Take away 5 per cent from this power figure to get an estimation of your FTP.

Sample workouts

These are two ideas for constructing a Vo2 max session for jogging or cycling.

Running workout

  1. Start with a warm-up consisting of easy jogging and dynamic mobility.
  2. Run as far as you can in four minutes and record the distance.
  3. Rest for four minutes.
  4. Run the same distance 15 per cent slower for your remaining four reps.

For instance, the first interval distance should be one mile and for the other four, you should run it in 4 minutes and 36 seconds.

Cycling workout

  1. Start with a warm-up of 15 minutes of easy cycling.
  2. Ride at a harder pace for 15 minutes, but easy enough that you can still hold a conversation.
  3. Perform five intervals between 3 to 5 minutes in duration at an intensity that raises your heart rate to 90 to 95 per cent of your max.
  4. Finish with 10 minutes of easy cycling to cool down.

If you haven’t exercised recently, most likely your aerobic capacity should be improved within a period of four to six weeks when you become active again.

The more physical condition you are in, the more time it will require before you start to see an improvement in your Vo2 max. To persist in making advancement, you will have to make your exercises more challenging. To keep pushing yourself, you can raise the strength, length, or regularity of your exercises.

Supplements may be able to boost the efficacy of an effective exercise routine, however, they cannot be substituted for a nutritious diet.

Some commonly taken supplements for aerobic exercise include:

  • Beetroot juice. Beetroot juice is thought to have the potential to lower blood pressure and increase aerobic exercise performance. However, its effects on VO2 max aren’t clear at this time. A 2019 study
    published in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that 70 ml of beetroot juice given to 20 recreationally active participants didn’t affect the participants’ VO2 max.
  • Iron. Regular exercise depletes iron levels. Iron is needed for your red blood cells to transport oxygen. If you’re low in iron, taking an iron supplement may help improve your VO2 max. If you’re not low in iron, it’s unlikely to improve performance.
  • Beta-Alanine. Some research has found that beta-alanine may be effective at increasing your performance in exercises that last for between one and four minutes It’s not clear if it can help increase your Vo2 max. A 2018 study found that four weeks of beta-alanine supplementation didn’t significantly increase the Vo2 max of water polo players.
Measuring Vo2 Max

Vo2 max is most accurately measured in a lab. A Vo2 max test requires a person to don a mask to assess the level of oxygen inhaled and exhaled while doing physical exertion. You increase the difficulty of your work until you reach the point where you cannot go any further.

Usually, the testing process is done while you cycle on a static exercise bike or run on a treadmill. Other methods may be employed as an alternative to imitating activities related to sports.

Having a lab test to determine your Vo2 max may not be feasible if you’re not a professional athlete. You can get a good estimate of your VO2 level by measuring your race time for a specific distance. This calculator can estimate your Vo2 max based on a run that is longer than 1.5 kilometres (0.93 miles).

Certain brands of fitness watches may offer an appraisal of your Vo2 max that is determined by your pulse. The accuracy varies by company. A study conducted by the Finnish firm Firstbeat using their technology showed that it can accurately measure VO2 max with around 95% precision.


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