The purpose of the maximal oxygen uptake test (V02max) is to measure “aerobic power”.  Aerobic power is synonymous with several other terms such as cardiovascular and cardio-respiratory endurance.

Normally, V02max is higher for men than for women, in younger compared to older athletes, and in conditioned than untrained people.  The maximum value that you are capable of attaining is highly influenced by your genetic make-up.  However, the good news is that endurance training will normally improve your V02max!

If you are well trained however, it is unlikely that you will increase your V02max over the course of a year.  However, your performance in endurance activities, in particular, can be enhanced by undertaking specific training which will allow you to work at a higher percentage of your V02max during your chosen activity.

Many researchers suggest V02max is probably the best single physiological indicator of a person’s capacity for maintaining high endurance-type activity.  High V02max values are associated with success in cycling performance of greater than 4 minutes duration.  High V02maxvalues are also needed for many athletic activities to ensure that the necessary training can be completed.

Traditionally, no other single test has been used as frequently to indicate a person’s aptitude for success in events requiring maximum efforts longer than three minutes.  In addition, when combined with some anaerobic tests, it helps indicate success for events lasting 1½ – 3 minutes.

The ability to consume oxygen is important for the metabolic function of the body cells.  Cell activity is dependent upon oxygen because the cell derives its energy from adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is produced mainly byaerobic metabolism.  The maximal consumption of oxygen is dependent not only on the cell’s ability to extract and use oxygen, but also on the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory system to transport oxygen to the cell.

Maximum oxygen uptake can be expressed either in “absolute terms” (litres per minute; L/min) or in relation to your body weight (millilitres per minute per kilogram of weight; ml/kg/min) the latter means of expression is preferred for types of cycling events in which your body weight is repeatedly lifted, such as in training and racing over hilly parcours.  In more weight-supported types of cycling like flat time trialling and cycle races, the absolute values are considered more relevant.