Beyond The Basics, Exploring VO2 Max!

Jun 13th 2023 — Robbie Ferri
When it comes to fitness, there are a lot of terms to understand, and one you might have come across on your cycling journey is VO2 Max. It is a term that is commonly used when it comes to testing, and professionals live for a high number.

We often get asked questions about VO2 max, and it can be difficult to understand the value of knowing yours. In this article, we want to tell you everything you need to know about VO2 Max and how you can use it. Here’s what we're going to discuss:

  • What is VO2 Max?
  • How Is VO2 Max Measured?
  • Is VO2 Max Important?
  • How Do I Improve My VO2 Max?

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 Max is also known as your Maximal Oxygen Uptake. It’s a measurement of the amount of oxygen you can use during intensive exercise. A lot of people use it as an indication of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic capacity.

Oxygen is a vital part of the breathing process and is needed to fuel the body. Without it, we would struggle to literally do anything. When it comes to exercise, the more oxygen we can get, the further we can push ourselves, and the better we are able to perform.

Cyclists are known to have VO2 Max scores which are literally off the scale compared to estimates of the regular population. The higher your VO2 Max score, the better you can hold high-intensity exercise. In real-world terms, it means the longer you can power up that climb or the stronger the last few minutes of that TT you're riding.

How Is VO2 Max Measured?

VO2 Max is measured in ml/kg/min and then converted to METS. It looks like this: 1 MET is equivalent to 3.5 mL 02 / kg x minutes. This means millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. Basically, it means the amount of oxygen a person intakes and utilizes during high-intensity exercise.


What’s a VO2 Max test?

You've probably seen adverts or read articles and seen a picture of athletes wearing clear masks on treadmills and exercise bikes. This is more than likely a picture of someone doing a VO2 Max test.

A standard VO2 Max test (Spiroergometry) lasts around 8 to 12 minutes. The intensity continually ramps higher and higher until the participant reaches full exhaustion or the test ends. The mask is designed to measure the oxygen, and the testee will also wear a heart rate monitor, and physiological responses such as blood pressure, ECG and respiratory gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide levels).are also recorded. Cyclists from pro peloton usually undergo Spiroergometry after pre-season preparation or when needed. Factors like injury or upcoming races are important to consider, so the frequency can vary. If you want to discover the level of your VO2 Max we recommend visiting a local sport clinic or gym who can help you not just with the measurement, but also with an explanation and personalized tips for improvements.


What’s a good VO2 Max result?

A good VO2 Max result depends on many things, such as age and fitness level. Here’s a good example of some average values for men and women from 20 to 79 years old. These charts and data came from Healthline.

Male VO2max_blogpost4.png

Female VO2max_blogpost5.png

The results above are focused on 'ordinary' people. When you get results from pro cyclists, they are much higher. A World Tour Pro cyclist will be between 75 and 90 METS. This means they can take in a phenomenal amount of oxygen and utilize it properly.

Is VO2 Max important?

Many often ask us if VO2 Max is important for a cyclist. Well, it definitely is, and even in daily life, is valuable data to know. Here’s why you might want to learn your VO2 Max:

A strong indication of health and fitness

Generally, the higher your VO2 Max is, the better your health and fitness level will be. A higher VO2 Max is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Another common thing for people with a high VO2 Max is they have a much lower risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes.

A reliable measure of endurance performance

Cyclists with a high VO2 Max can generally perform much better than cyclists with a low VO2 Max. They have the ability to work at higher capacities and also hold it for much longer. It’s a test often done on cyclists who might be trying out for a professional team or to see if their training is working.

How Do I Improve My VO2 Max?

To increase VO2 max, you should incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and aerobic interval training (AIT) into your weekly routine. Here are a few examples of training sessions that target VO2 max improvement:

  • HIIT:
    ○ Warm-up: 10 minutes of easy cycling to gradually increase heart rate.
    ○ Main workout: 8 sets of 20 seconds all-out cycling sprints followed by 10 seconds of rest (total of 4 minutes).
    ○ Cool down: 5-10 minutes of easy cycling to gradually lower heart rate.

  • AIT:
    ○ Warm-up: 10 minutes of easy cycling to gradually increase heart rate.
    ○ Main workout: 4 sets of 4 minutes at high intensity (around 85-90% of maximum heart rate) followed by 3 minutes of active recovery at low intensity (around 50-60% of maximum heart rate).
    ○ Cool down: 10 minutes of easy cycling to gradually lower heart rate.

Training sessions for VO2 Max are not always easy to perform while riding outside, due to many aspects like route profile, traffic, time etc. It's easier and more effective to do them on a turbo trainer on ROUVY. Our two favorites are the VO2 Max Booster and the VO2 Max Maximiser (found in the Workouts section of the ROUVY app) .


These short and sharp sessions take you to high levels of intensity, which are still sustainable. If you want to boost your VO2 Max, then these are where you will want to start.

A Final Note

As cyclists, we're constantly looking for ways to improve our performance and push our limits. VO2 max is a crucial parameter for helping cyclists to do this, providing scientific insights into aerobic capacity and endurance potential. By understanding its significance and incorporating targeted training strategies, you can optimize your cycling performance and take your riding to new levels. Remember the key factors to unlocking VO2 max potential are consistency, personalized training and progressive overload. Keep going!

Workouts in particular are an ideal way of building your cycling strength and endurance and ROUVY has a wide selection for you to try on your indoor trainer. Good luck!

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