maximum breathing capacity - VO2 max

What is maximum breathing capacity – VO2 max?

The maximum respiratory capacity or VO2 max is a parameter that allows measuring the ability of the body to consume oxygen. VO2 max is calculated by measuring the volume of oxygen consumed, and the CO2 exhaled while running. Sports professionals use this number to calculate the increase in sports performance. Increasing the VO2 values ​​translates as an improvement in physical condition.

VO2 max depends on the number of red blood cells, muscle adaptation, and how much blood the heart can pump when running. Respiratory capacity is a dynamic parameter; it can be increased or decreased with specific exercises, training methods, and habits.

VO2 max values ​​- High, Low, and Normal

The test to determine VO2 max values ​​consists of running on a treadmill using a special mask until reaching the maximum pulse or red zone. VO2 values ​​vary from 20 to 60 depending on age, gender, and physical condition.

In the average person, typical VO2 max values ​​range from 30 to 45, the equivalent of running 5Km at moderate speed. The units of the maximum respiratory capacity are in mL/min / Kg.

Table of VO2 max values ​​for men

AgeVery lowLowNormalWellVery goodSuperior
13-19< 35.035.0-38.338.4-45.145.2-50.951.0-55.9> 55.9
20-29<33.033.0-36.436.5-42.442.5-46.446.5-52.4> 52.4
30-39< 31.531.5-35.435.5-40.941.0-44.945.0-49.4>49.4
50-59<26.126.1-30.931.0-35.735.8-40.941.0-45.3> 45.3
60+<20.520.5-26.026.1-32.232.3-36.436.5-44.2> 44.2

VO2 max chart for women

AgeVery lowLowNormalWellVery goodSuperior
13-19<25.025.0-30.931.0-34.935.0-38.939.0-41.9> 41.9
20-29<23.623.6-28.929.0-32.933.0-36.937.0-41.0> 41.0
30-39<22.822.8-26.927.0-31.431.5-35.635.7-40.0> 40.0
50-59<20.220.2-22.722.8-26.927.0-31.431.5-35.7> 35.7
60+<17.517.5-20.120.2-24.424.5-30.230.3-31.4> 31.4

The importance of VO2 max in running

Having high VO2 max values ​​means that the body can deliver more excellent oxygen to the muscles. In running, it translates as a more remarkable ability to run and increase the speed with less effort.

Maximum breathing capacity values ​​are directly associated with heart rate or heart rate. In high performance runners, it is one of the parameters that determine endurance improvement. An athlete, to improve distance covered, should consider increasing VO2max values.

How do you increase respiratory capacity? – Workouts and exercises

Respiratory capacity can be increased both with resistance training and with exercises that involve several muscle groups simultaneously. In addition, nutrition plays a fundamental role in enhancing your values. Tobacco and alcohol are two factors that work against the increase in VO2 max.

Effective Workouts and Exercises to Increase Maximum Breathing Capacity:

  1. Cardio
  2. HIIT (high intensity interval training)
  3. Basic multi-joint exercises
  4. Tabata method
  5. Calisthenics

1. Cardio

Cardio is the traditional workout to increase VO2 max. When doing cardio, the heart increases the beats significantly. The effectiveness of cardio on maximal breathing capacity is determined by the intensity and total duration of the workout. (1)

  1. HIIT

Studies confirm a significant increase in maximal breathing capacity when doing HIIT (3). Research affirms that in 2 months of adaptation, changes of up to 20% more are generated in the ability to transport oxygen in the blood.

3 Basic multi-joint exercises

Multi-joint core exercise workouts are capable of increasing VO2 max rates. The studies yielded better results compared to a traditional gym routine in combination with aerobic exercises. (4)

4.Tabata method

In the tabata method, there is no rest time. This allows the body to be maximized. This is one way to maximize lung capacity. Twenty minutes of Tabata is enough to increase VO2 max values. (5)

5. Calisthenics

Calisthenics is one of the methods to increase VO2 max for advanced athletes. Studies (6) confirm a more significant increase in respiratory capacity when exercises to work the leg muscles are included in the routine.

What do you need to know before doing the VO2 max test?

The VO2 max test is performed in a sports laboratory. The devices used are calibrated to determine an athlete’s maximum respiratory capacity accurately.

Usually, a treadmill or stationary bike is used. The frequency of breathing, the volume, and concentration of oxygen when inhaling, and the amount of carbon dioxide when exhaling are measured during the test. In addition, band heart rate monitors are often used to measure heart rate.

Tips before doing the VO2 max test:

  • Do not do any exercise 24 hours before the test.
  • Wear comfortable sportswear.
  • Avoid food, alcohol, and tobacco for 3 hours before the test.

Maximum respiratory capacity is reached when a transition from aerobic to anaerobic respiration is made. This is the crucial point to interrupt the test. It is essential to know that VO2 is not always correlated with lactic acid levels in the body; this parameter is used to determine other aspects of sports performance.

Sports professionals use VO2 max or maximum breathing capacity to measure an improvement in sports performance. The test consists of calculating the amount of oxygen that is inhaled, the CO2 that is exhaled, and the heart rate. Increasing VO2 is possible; it requires training and healthy habits. Determining maximum breathing capacity is of importance to fitness and athletic professionals

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