What governs skeletal muscle VO2max? New evidence

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jan;32(1):100-7. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200001000-00016.


Recent investigations into the determinants of skeletal muscle maximal oxygen consumption (VO2) have provided further evidence regarding the role of O2 supply and demand in governing exercise metabolism. Specifically, four studies utilizing both animal and human exercise models are highlighted here: 1) the role of the diffusive O2 component was examined in the exercising canine gastrocnemius muscle by a rightward shift in the O2 dissociation curve while maintaining O2 delivery constant; 2) the role of peripheral and central components was examined by studying the human quadriceps muscle, already recognized to have a very high mass specific O2 delivery, under conditions of increased (hyperoxia) and reduced O2 availability (hypoxia); 3) the role of intracellular PO2 in the progressive increase in lactate efflux from skeletal muscle from submaximal to maximal effort; and finally 4) the role of intracellular PO2 itself as a determinant of maximal mitochondrial O2 consumption. In summary, these investigations illustrate 1) the importance of the diffusion gradient from blood to muscle cell; 2) illustrate that even in functionally isolated trained skeletal muscle the highest recorded metabolic rates can be increased by increasing O2 supply; 3) that a constant intracellular PO2 during graded exercise is therefore unrelated to increasing lactate efflux; and 4) that only in hyperoxia does trained human skeletal muscle approaching very high mitochondrial metabolic limits, as shown by a disproportionate increase in intracellular PO2 for the recorded change in VO2max.

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobic Threshold / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Diffusion
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dogs
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*


  • Lactic Acid
  • Oxygen