What Should My VO₂ Max Be? Ultimate Guide to VO₂ Max
Like muscular endurance, aerobic capacity, and lactate threshold, VO₂ is an important measurement in sports. VO₂ (also known as your oxygen uptake) is the amount of oxygen your body can absorb during exercise. So knowing how you can increase your VO₂ can be beneficial whether you are running, cycling, playing team sports, or competing in a triathlon. All can benefit from an improvement in your VO₂ max.
However, since we know it is beneficial, what should my VO₂ Max be? In this article, we discuss how your VO₂ Max is measured, How to improve your VO₂ Max score, and What is a good VO₂ Max by age. So, continue reading to learn more about VO₂ max.
What is Vo2 Max?
Many people have heard the phrase VO₂ max before. However, most people struggle to understand what it means. VO₂ max is classed as the maximum rate or amount of oxygen that your body can use during any kind of active activity or exercise.
Generally, the greater your VO₂ max is, the more oxygen your body can absorb and use more effectively. It is also able to increase ATP energy which powers your cells and releases carbon dioxide (CO₂) during exhaling.
The higher your VO₂ max is, the more oxygen can be consumed by the body. This generates a higher amount of ATP energy, which means your body can better manage aerobic sports like running, cycling, swimming, and triathlon.
VO₂ max testing is widely used in sports to help set benchmarks in fitness levels and oxygen uptake. This is regularly tested among athletes to track whether their training is converting to increased performance.
How is Your Vo2 Max Measured?
Most if not all VO₂ max tests are conducted in a sports lab or by a medical facility. However, recently watches have been able to estimate your VO₂ max. Even though they aren’t 100% correct, they do allow you to get an insight into what might be your VO₂ max score.
VO₂ max has three primary components measure and they are:
Lung and Heart Capacity – The more oxygen your lungs can take in, the more heart can pump oxygenated blood around. This is what gives you a higher VO₂ max score.
The efficiency of the muscles – The more your muscles can make use of the oxygen in your blood, the higher your VO₂ max will be.
Capillary delivery – The more oxygen that can reach your muscles through the circulatory system, the greater your score is.
So how is your VO₂ max measured?
To measure someone’s VO₂ max, they are either placed on a bike, rowing machine, or treadmill. They are then asked to wear a mask that is connected to a machine that collects the volume of oxygen they inhale and exhale.
Most of the time you can book a VO₂ max test at a sports medicine facility. However, it does come at a hefty price tag. So, luckily for those that don’t have the money to spend, there are some tools available to help estimate it.
A couple of these tools are:
Garmin – Some Garmin watches provide VO₂ max readings. This is done by an algorithm that estimates your VO₂ from the data you upload. For more information about how they measure it, read our post here.
Online Calculator – While not the most accurate tool, calculators can estimate your VO₂ max score by data studied for years. This generally creates an algorithm to calculate a person’s VO₂ max.
However, if you do want accurate results, book in at a sports medicine facility and get tested with more accurate results.
Alternative to Lab Testing – Submaximal Tests
Another alternative to a lab test is a Submaximal test. These types of tests are more accurate than a Garmin watch or calculator. However, they don’t provide the same level of data and control as a laboratory test. A couple of tests that are routinely used are the beep test and the 2.4km run test.
However, if your current fitness level does not allow you to do the above tests, you could do a cooper 1.5-mile run-walk test instead.
What is a Good Vo2 Max By Age?
If you are wondering what is a good VO₂ max score by age is, we have compiled some data below. These tables show you how your measurement would compare with other people in the same age bracket.
Female Chart (ml/kg/min)
Male Chart (ml/kg/min)
How to Improve Vo2 Max Score?
Since now you have an idea of what VO₂ max is, you may be wondering how to improve your VO₂ max score?
Since you need to increase the amount of blood your heart can pump, and the amount of oxygen to your muscles you need to exercise at a high intensity.
Training at high intensity is the easiest and most efficient way of increasing your VO₂ max. Working at a higher intensity will help strengthen your heart muscles and help increase the volume of blood being pumped through it.
A recent study in 2013 also found that VO₂ max was greatly improved with high-intensity training over continuous aerobic training. However, aerobic training can still help increase your VO₂ although not as fast or as much.
Another way to get to improve your score is to combine interval and continuous aerobic training. Incorporating both together and not just one form of training can greatly improve your score. This is where another study found that the largest increase in vo2 max came after a 10-week training plan, which consisted of 6 workouts each week.
However, if you aren’t already fit or currently training it is wise not to combine the two together directly. Start by focusing on your aerobic fitness and then gradually introduce some high-intensity workouts once a week. Then after a few months move to two times a week.