The effects of training and/or ageing upon maximal oxygen uptake ( VO(2max)) and heart rate values at rest (HR(rest)) and maximal exercise (HR(max)), respectively, suggest a relationship between VO(2max) and the HR(max)-to-HR(rest) ratio which may be of use for indirect testing of VO(2max). Fick principle calculations supplemented by literature data on maximum-to-rest ratios for stroke volume and the arterio-venous O(2) difference suggest that the conversion factor between mass-specific VO(2max) (ml.min(-1).kg(-1)) and HR(max).HR(rest)(-1) is approximately 15. In the study we experimentally examined this relationship and evaluated its potential for prediction of VO(2max). VO(2max) was measured in 46 well-trained men (age 21-51 years) during a treadmill protocol. A subgroup ( n=10) demonstrated that the proportionality factor between HR(max).HR(rest)(-1) and mass-specific VO(2max) was 15.3 (0.7) ml.min(-1).kg(-1). Using this value, VO(2max) in the remaining 36 individuals could be estimated with an SEE of 0.21 l.min(-1) or 2.7 ml.min(-1).kg(-1) (approximately 4.5%). This compares favourably with other common indirect tests. When replacing measured HR(max) with an age-predicted one, SEE was 0.37 l.min(-1) and 4.7 ml.min(-1).kg(-1) (approximately 7.8%), which is still comparable with other indirect tests. We conclude that the HR(max)-to-HR(rest) ratio may provide a tool for estimation of VO(2max) in well-trained men. The applicability of the test principle in relation to other groups will have to await direct validation. VO(2max) can be estimated indirectly from the measured HR(max)-to-HR(rest) ratio with an accuracy that compares favourably with that of other common indirect tests. The results also suggest that the test may be of use for VO(2max) estimation based on resting measurements alone.