Evaluation of true maximal oxygen uptake based on a novel set of standardized criteria

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Apr;34(2):115-23. doi: 10.1139/H08-146.


In this study, criteria are used to identify whether a subject has elicited maximal oxygen uptake. We evaluated the validity of traditional maximal oxygen uptake criteria and propose a novel set of criteria. Twenty athletes completed a maximal oxygen uptake test, consisting of an incremental phase and a subsequent supramaximal phase to exhaustion (verification phase). Traditional and novel maximal oxygen uptake criteria were evaluated. Novel criteria were: oxygen uptake plateau defined as the difference between modelled and actual maximal oxygen uptake >50% of the regression slope of the individual oxygen uptake-workrate relationship; as in the first criterion, but for maximal verification oxygen uptake; and a difference of <or=4 beats.min-1 between maximal heart rate values in the 2 phases. Satisfying the traditional oxygen uptake plateau criterion was largely an artefact of the between-subject variation in the oxygen uptake-workrate relationship. Secondary criteria, supposedly an indicator of maximal effort, were often satisfied long before volitional exhaustion, even at intensities as low as 61% maximal oxygen uptake. No significant mean differences were observed between the incremental and verification phases for oxygen uptake (t = 0.4; p = 0.7) or heart rate (t = 0.8; p = 0.5). The novel oxygen uptake plateau criterion, maximal oxygen uptake verification criterion, and maximal heart rate verification criterion were satisfied by 17, 18, and 18 subjects, respectively. The small individual absolute differences in oxygen uptake between incremental and verification phases observed in most subjects provided additional confidence that maximal oxygen uptake was elicited. Current maximal oxygen uptake criteria were not valid and novel criteria should be further explored.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / standards*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Running