Thoughts on VO2max testing



ccrnnr9

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I was curious as to what the educated "crowd's" opinion on VO2max testing for training benefit is. I see a lot of bike shops having coaches come in to their shops and perform tests. While I like the idea of having the information it is hard for me to come up with a lot of good reasons to have these tests performed (especially at the cost of the test). For one, the increase in availability of power meters on bikes and the ability of riders to perform in house tests ala 20minute field test seems to me to make the need to do true testing less and less. There are a few benefits that I hear people loosely throw around, one being that by doing a test and seeing a graph of the Vo2 on the x-axis and VCO2 on the y-Axis, one can know if he/she has done enough base based on RQ and the workload. I find this to be a bit of a stretch but would be interested to hear the opinion of those with more than 3 years of undergraduate study in ex phys (in other words one you guys who really knows what you are talking about and not still having to open up that text book for a refresh every 10minutes :p ). Any opinions are welcome.

As a side note, I do like the idea of having numbers just for the sake of having numbers but with the price of testing being so high I don't know that I see too much of a benefit unless you have access to an ex phys and can do it for free (such as I can). Then again, I have been known to be wrong frequently.
~Nick
 

robkit

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Arguably the most important metric is threshold power which I think of roughly vo2max power x % of max heart rate I can maintain in a TT effort. For that reason I was very curious to have a V02max test because it's what I see as the limiting number.

The testing wont improve you per se, but for me I just found it motivational in the same way that I found a bike computer motivational the first time I got one, likewise a HRM and an SRM. The more clearly you know where you are in numbers, the more readily you can tap into the common addiction to beat and improve those numbers.

You may also be lucky and record a big number, which for many would be even more motivational. That is to say if you feel like you've got superior athletic potential, you're more likely to make a commitment to using it.
 

beerco

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I'm no ex-phys but I see little value in a VO2max test for the reasons you state. The info you get from the test is difficult to use change your training plan.

With a powermeter, you can actually do performance tests and actively use it to guide your training. Wanna know if you've done enough base? Use PMC.

Finally, you could take the test and find you've got a tiny VO2max - do you really want to know that?
 

ccrnnr9

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robkit said:
Arguably the most important metric is threshold power which I think of roughly vo2max power x % of max heart rate I can maintain in a TT effort. For that reason I was very curious to have a V02max test because it's what I see as the limiting number.
Not to play devil's advocate (well actually I guess to play devil's advocate :p ) but I think your understanding of VO2max compared to threshold may be a little wrong. Would you mind explaining what you mean by vo2max power being roughly a % of max HR you can maintain for a TT effort. Unless this is a short TT effort, your VO2max power is likely to be much higher than TT power (which would be your threshold power if we are talking aboout longer efforts, i.e. 40k TT).

I guess the biggest area I have a problem with VO2max testing is that even if you do shorter events such as kilo or pursuit on the track, training levels are still based off of threshold power. Also, there have been a number of athletes with pretty low VO2max numbers who have performed at outstanding levels (frank shorter winning gold in the olympic marathon) because of extremely high LT.

Maybe I am answering my own question here but I am curious as to whether there is something I am over looking.
~Nick
 

robkit

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Sorry if my sentence was a bit garbled (and I would add that I'm no expert).

I think of vo2max power in terms of power I would be putting out at heart rate 100% of max, whatever that might be, call it "X". And then threshold watts as power at whatever % of max I can average in a TT effort.

My point is that because, at least as far as I have experienced, that threshold percentage seems to get stuck at a certain ceiling, say 90% for example, then it follows that Vo2max is the the most imporant measurement because threshold would power would always be 90% of "X". And you can probably continue to lift that X a long time after your threshold heart rate.
 

ric_stern/RST

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ccrnnr9 said:
I was curious as to what the educated "crowd's" opinion on VO2max testing for training benefit is.

hopefully, i'm qualified enough to respond... ;)

I see a lot of bike shops having coaches come in to their shops and perform tests. While I like the idea of having the information it is hard for me to come up with a lot of good reasons to have these tests performed (especially at the cost of the test). For one, the increase in availability of power meters on bikes and the ability of riders to perform in house tests ala 20minute field test seems to me to make the need to do true testing less and less. There are a few benefits that I hear people loosely throw around, one being that by doing a test and seeing a graph of the Vo2 on the x-axis and VCO2 on the y-Axis, one can know if he/she has done enough base based on RQ and the workload. I find this to be a bit of a stretch but would be interested to hear the opinion of those with more than 3 years of undergraduate study in ex phys (in other words one you guys who really knows what you are talking about and not still having to open up that text book for a refresh every 10minutes :p ). Any opinions are welcome.

i feel that some people do testing purely as a means of increasing their income (nothing wrong with that).

I believe that there is, sometimes a need to do formal testing. For e.g., as part of their selection process British Cycling requires that riders reach a certain minimal level in their 'MAP' score (i can't recall what they term it). It's a reference point for setting training levels (for us, and for British cycling) and it could be used for seeing the potential of an athlete (especially from a non-cycling background).

additionally, i find it a useful measure to help determine what sort of training maybe useful for an individual by comparing their FTP to their MAP score, and seeing where it sits on a scale.

Furthermore, while the MAP test could be carried out by anyone with a power meter (i.e., you can do the test yourself as long as you have a trainer and meter) some people don't test well without external motivation (e.g. a coach/tester shouting loudly at them!).

Other times it could be used meet a rider(s) you're coaching and for the rider to have a good (one-to-one) chat with the tester

other formal testing could be done at the same time (e.g. we offer skinfold measurements, lung function testing, and blood testing).

I don't understand how a good "base" (you mean base training, right?) can be determined by looking at RER or RQ...

Ric
 

ric_stern/RST

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ccrnnr9 said:
I guess the biggest area I have a problem with VO2max testing is that even if you do shorter events such as kilo

why would you base kilo (or 500m) training off FTP?

or pursuit on the track, training levels are still based off of threshold power.

i base training on MAP...

Also, there have been a number of athletes with pretty low VO2max numbers who have performed at outstanding levels (frank shorter winning gold in the olympic marathon) because of extremely high LT.

i think this is a bit of a myth/urban legend. VO2max _is_ the rate limiting mechanism in endurance exercise, and as such you can only exercise at certain %'s of it. If, Shorter, was significantly higher then it's more likely he underperformed during the VO2max test (rather than it being very high true %)

ric
 

ccrnnr9

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ric_stern/RST said:
why would you base kilo (or 500m) training off FTP?
I wouldn't. That is exactly what I was saying. It was kinda late when I posted so maybe I should have worded it differently. What I meant is that typically one would still use knowledge of FTP to design a training program. Obviously a training program for this kind of athlete would be significantly different than that for a road rider.

Thanks for the replies everyone. I guess I overlooked the usefulness of the testing for an initial consultation and as a "bar" for performance potential. Anyways, I would be curious I would be interested in hearing some more feedback.
~Nick
 

beerco

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ric_stern/RST said:
hopefully, i'm qualified enough to respond... ;)
I believe that there is, sometimes a need to do formal testing. For e.g., as part of their selection process British Cycling requires that riders reach a certain minimal level in their 'MAP' score
Ric

However, a MAP test is not a VO2 max test. VO2 max test results could certainly be used to recruit potential athletes, but I see little value in knowing ones max O2 uptake for the typical weekend warrior.

MAP tests can be run with a coach shouting at you while you're on the trainer and can give you a basis for training levels (per your old article at CN.com). However, power at VO2 max is not always measured when performing a VO2 max test. In fact, the only real measure required in a VO2 max test is....VO2 :D
 

ric_stern/RST

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beerco said:
However, a MAP test is not a VO2 max test. VO2 max test results could certainly be used to recruit potential athletes, but I see little value in knowing ones max O2 uptake for the typical weekend warrior.

MAP tests can be run with a coach shouting at you while you're on the trainer and can give you a basis for training levels (per your old article at CN.com). However, power at VO2 max is not always measured when performing a VO2 max test. In fact, the only real measure required in a VO2 max test is....VO2 :D

You're right, and just as i was about to press submit realised my faux pas! I should have reworded, but lack of time and mainly thinking about how i run such tests meant i didn't.

:eek:

ric
 

Piotr

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ric_stern/RST said:
i think this is a bit of a myth/urban legend. VO2max _is_ the rate limiting mechanism in endurance exercise, and as such you can only exercise at certain %'s of it. If, Shorter, was significantly higher then it's more likely he underperformed during the VO2max test (rather than it being very high true %)

ric
John Stenner, the late US National TT Champion was said to have a VO2max in the low 40's. I found it here:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/letters/2001/feb12letters.shtml#chapman

I'm not sure about the reliability of this source.
 

ric_stern/RST

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Piotr said:
John Stenner, the late US National TT Champion was said to have a VO2max in the low 40's. I found it here:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/letters/2001/feb12letters.shtml#chapman

I'm not sure about the reliability of this source.

without even looking at the link, i'll put money on that it's complete rubbish. unless
1) he was national TT champ of sedentary people
2) it was something like an age group champ in the 80+ age range
3) he was tested after having had a year off and couldn't be assed in the test
4) he stopped during the test after a few pedal revs and pretended he was all out

VO2max is the rate limiting mechanism

Ric
 

ccrnnr9

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ric_stern/RST said:
without even looking at the link, i'll put money on that it's complete rubbish. unless
1) he was national TT champ of sedentary people
2) it was something like an age group champ in the 80+ age range
3) he was tested after having had a year off and couldn't be assed in the test
4) he stopped during the test after a few pedal revs and pretended he was all out

VO2max is the rate limiting mechanism

Ric
I am curious as to why LT does not factor into this. If you could elaborate that would be appreciated.
~Nick
 

ric_stern/RST

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ccrnnr9 said:
I am curious as to why LT does not factor into this. If you could elaborate that would be appreciated.
~Nick

i'm not certain i understand your question? Is this what you're asking:

what i'm saying is that LT can only exist between an upper and lower limit % in healthy humans. If your VO2max is so low (as in 40 mL/kg/min) then no matter what % of that, that you can operate at (at e.g. LT or FT), it (the power at that variable) will be so low, that you couldn't possibly be a winner of a TT (except for the caveats i mentioned in my previous post).

ric
 

ccrnnr9

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ric_stern/RST said:
i'm not certain i understand your question? Is this what you're asking:

what i'm saying is that LT can only exist between an upper and lower limit % in healthy humans. If your VO2max is so low (as in 40 mL/kg/min) then no matter what % of that, that you can operate at (at e.g. LT or FT), it (the power at that variable) will be so low, that you couldn't possibly be a winner of a TT (except for the caveats i mentioned in my previous post).

ric
Yes that answers my question. My only response to that would be that if one has a high vo2max (relatively speaking) then LT will make a difference in performance, assuming vo2max isn't a limiter. I don't think you were asserting that LT is not important but I thought I would add that.
~Nick
 

ric_stern/RST

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ccrnnr9 said:
Yes that answers my question. My only response to that would be that if one has a high vo2max (relatively speaking) then LT will make a difference in performance, assuming vo2max isn't a limiter. I don't think you were asserting that LT is not important but I thought I would add that.
~Nick

You're correct. I was making my point, because of the suggestion that a national TT champ had a VO2max of 40 mL/kg/min (which isn't going to happen).

ric
 

Piotr

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ric_stern/RST said:
without even looking at the link, i'll put money on that it's complete rubbish. unless
1) he was national TT champ of sedentary people
2) it was something like an age group champ in the 80+ age range
3) he was tested after having had a year off and couldn't be assed in the test
4) he stopped during the test after a few pedal revs and pretended he was all out

VO2max is the rate limiting mechanism

Ric
Thanks for you thoughts on this. I was rather skeptical myself. FYI, Stenner was an elite time-trialist in the early 90's until his death in an accident in 1994.