VO2 Max - you should be getting tested and here's why

Updated: Sep 2, 2018

VO2 Max testing is one of the most commonly used benchmarks to determine and compare aerobic fitness levels. You should be getting tested and this brief article explains why.

The test measures the maximum amount of oxygen you are able to process during intense exercise and maximum efforts. After an initial test to identify your baseline level, further testing will identify changes in the amount of oxygen you are able to process. An increase generally indicates an improved level of fitness. VO2 Max testing is therefore an excellent way to evidence improved fitness levels and validate the effectiveness of your current training plan.

"But I've improved my 10km time since last year, so I'm definitely improving?" That could be true, but timed runs and race results may not be an accurate indicator of improvements as these are often affected by external factors such as temperature, surface, competitors and other variables. A VO2 Max test is performed under the same conditions each time. It is not impacted by these types of variables and therefore your result is a much more accurate way of evidencing improved fitness.

In most sports there are too many variables impacting the end result, think combat sports and team games. Participants in these sports do not have the luxury of simply timing their efforts to monitor their levels of fitness. In these types of sport it can be very difficult to gain insights into personal fitness levels based on the results of a training session, event or competition. This is where VO2 Max testing becomes even more important. It is worth remembering that a game of football ending 2-0, winning a boxing match, or simply having a 'good training session', are simply the result or outcome of a session or event. They do not give you any specific insight into your individual output / contribution during that session or event. A weaker opponent may have been the cause of your victory, your team mates may have performed optimally whilst covering up your under-performance, and so on.

The saying "You can't manage what you can't measure" certainly applies here. In most sports, fitness alone does not determine who wins, and technique clearly plays a key role. However, technique is not something that can be easily measured, unlike fitness which can very easily be measured through a VO2 Max test. Undergoing a VO2 Max test at various points throughout the year (pre-season, post-season and potentially mid-season) is one of the only ways to accurately monitor your individual or team fitness levels. Test results can identify whether individuals have maintained fitness levels during off-season and identify those who perhaps need to focus more on their conditioning. Testing can also be used to aid team selections by comparing and bench-marking players. You can't manage what you can measure, and therefore you can't properly monitor or optimise your training without measuring VO2 Max.

Any athletes and teams not currently undergoing this type of testing are most likely not training and performing optimally. However, the ones that begin to undergo testing will be the ones that excel in the coming years. Fit-Report centres are making this type of testing more accessible to local athletes, teams and clubs, where historically they have only been used by elite sporting individuals.

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