The maximal accumulated oxygen deficit method: a valid and reliable measure of anaerobic capacity?

Sports Med. 2010 Apr 1;40(4):285-302. doi: 10.2165/11530390-000000000-00000.


The maximal accumulated oxygen deficit (MAOD) method has been extensively, but unfortunately not very methodically, used; the procedure used to determine the MAOD varies considerably. Therefore, this review evaluates the effect of different numbers and durations of submaximal exercise bouts on the linear power output (PO)-oxygen uptake ((.)VO2) relationship and thus the MAOD. Changing the number and duration of the submaximal exercise bouts substantially influences the calculated MAOD when relatively long submaximal exercise bouts are used and no fixed value of the y-intercept is forced into the linear regression line. This is most likely due to non-linearity of the PO-(.)VO2 relationship for exercise intensities above the lactate threshold (LT). Non-linearity of the PO-(.)VO2 relationship is probably caused by the development of a slow component in (.)VO2 during submaximal exercise at intensities above the LT. Thus, it is important to standardize the number, duration and intensity of submaximal exercise bouts necessary to establish the PO-(.)VO2 relationship. Beyond changing the number and duration of the submaximal exercise bouts, the effect of different supramaximal exercise bouts on the calculated MAOD has been investigated. While it has become clear that different exercise protocols result in relatively similar values of the MAOD, a closer look at individual data suggests that it may be important to choose an exercise protocol that is representative of the athlete's event. The validity of the MAOD method was studied by different authors comparing the MAOD with metabolic measurements of anaerobic adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. The main limitation with the metabolic measurements of anaerobic ATP production from muscle biopsy data is that the active muscle mass is unknown, which makes it hard to accurately study the validity of the MAOD method. From the studies that evaluated the reliability of the MAOD method it is clear that the MAOD method may not be a reliable measure of anaerobic capacity. From these findings it can be concluded that the MAOD method may have limitations as a valid and reliable measure of anaerobic capacity and needs to be further improved. We suggest the use of 10 x 4 minute submaximal exercise bouts and a fixed value of the y-intercept for the construction of the linear PO-(.)VO2 relationship, after which the MAOD can be determined during a supramaximal exercise protocol specific for the athlete's event. This method will lead to a more robust PO-(.)VO2 relationship and will therefore result in more valid and reliable results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobic Threshold / physiology*
  • Athletic Performance / physiology
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Sensitivity and Specificity