Four different patterns of increasing work rate (ramp and 1-min, 2-min, and 3-min steps) to maximum tolerance were studied in eight normal male subjects during cycle ergometer exercise testing to determine the effect of the work rate protocol on the parameters of aerobic function. The overall rate of work rate increase was kept constant. Measurements included VO2max, anaerobic threshold (AT), and the O2 uptake increase with respect to work rate increase (delta VO2/delta WR). VO2, VCO2, VE, respiratory exchange ratio (R), PETCO2, and PETO2 were calculated breath-by-breath. No significant difference was found in VO2max, AT, AT/VO2max, and delta VO2/delta WR among the four work rate protocols. Other measurements such as total work, maximal work rate, VCO2, VE, R, HR, O2 pulse, and the VO2 at which VE increases disproportionately to VCO2 (ventilatory compensation point) were also similar among the four protocols. Both the ramp and 1-min step work rate tests had no step pattern in either VO2 or VCO2, and the step pattern for the 2-min and 3-min step tests was attenuated or disappeared at work rates above AT. We conclude that the parameters of aerobic function, and other physiological responses at maximum work rate, were independent of the pattern of work rate increase, provided that the overall rate of work rate increase was the same.