A Quick Word on VO2 Max

Updated: Jun 23, 2019

Aerobic capacity and V02 Max are hot topics right now. I want to explain some basic concepts in less than 500 words to help you start to get your mind around these two topics.


Keep in mind they are very complex mechanisms, but you need to understand the basic premises first. And if you are still intrigued you can dive into the nuances.

In short if your aerobic capacity is improved your performance in that task should also improve.

But the V02 data should only be considered specifically for that task. So if I take a V02 max while running that V02 test data should only be applied to running.


The one exception to this being recovery. Increases in V02 will always improve recovery. We don't often view recovery as a task, but it is.


There are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating your aerobic capacity and V02.


Aerobic capacity can be discussed in general and specific terms. For example, if I just do a bunch of running work I can increase my aerobic capacity in running (specific) and my ability to recover from any stimulus (general).


If I want to have capacity for a specific use I would need to train my aerobic capacity for the specific task.


For example-- If I run to develop my aerobic capacity for 12-weeks then I try to implement my changes in a different skill, the transfer may be lost. Typically the more complex the skill the less transfer.


Lets say I want to try and do 50 dead lifts at 250 lbs and 50 box jumps as fast as possible after my 12- week running program. The transfer is going to be pretty insignificant for the task performed because the stimulus for the dead lift comes from external resistance and the jumping is motor program that has not been trained in at least 12 weeks.


Yes the athlete will have an "easier" time with the workout after doing a 12 week program VS if they attempted this task after doing nothing.


Think about this-- if I were to test my v02 max in both of these scenarios ( running vs dl workout) the data would be extremely different, despite my conditioning level remaining the same.


I would probably have a good score for the Vo2 max test where I ran, and a poor score on my deadlift box jump workout.


Did my aerobic capacity change vs test one and test 2?


No-- the physiological changes still occurred from my training, but the testing stimulus changed.

Don't worry not all is lost. Even in a scenario where I am untrained for the task-- as long as I have been doing some training that stimulates my aerobic capacity I will still have an increased ability to rest and recover. Once a stimulus is gone the heart and lungs can get back to delivering large volumes of blood to the peripheral tissues. A greater V02 max indicates better efficiency THIS IS A GOOD THING.


Even tho V02 max is task dependent the residual effects are still in play. This is why we have our Olympic lifters do conditioning. It helps them recover more efficiently from a weightlifting training session. We refer to this as general physical preparation or GPP.

We want the majority of work to be performed in zones one and two. This allows for optimal substrate (fat or carb) utilization and limits the amount of stress put on the body. We save our stressful training for the task we care most about.


I hope this is starting to make sense. I would love to continue the conversation and I would love it if you would email me so we can talk about this more!


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