The sustainability of VO2max: effect of decreasing the workload

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Feb;113(2):385-94. doi: 10.1007/s00421-012-2424-7. Epub 2012 Jul 3.


The study examined the maintenance of VO(2max) using VO(2max) as the controlling variable instead of power. Therefore, ten subjects performed three exhaustive cycling exercise bouts: (1) an incremental test to determine VO(2max) and the minimal power at VO(2max) (PVO(max)), (2) a constant-power test at PVO(max) and (3) a variable-power test (VPT) during which power was varied to control VO(2) at VO(2max). Stroke volume (SV) was measured by impedance in each test and the stroke volume reserve was calculated as the difference between the maximal and the average 5-s SV. Average power during VPT was significantly lower than PVO(max) (238 ± 79 vs. 305 ± 86 W; p < 0.0001). All subjects, regardless of their VO(2max) values and/or their ability to achieve a VO(2max) plateau during incremental test, were able to sustain VO(2max) for a significantly longer time during VPT compared to constant-power test (CPT) (958 ± 368 s vs. 136 ± 81 s; p < 0.0001). Time to exhaustion at VO(2max) during VPT was correlated with the power drop in the first quarter of the time to exhaustion at VO(2max) (r = 0.71; p < 0.02) and with the stroke volume reserve (r = 0.70, p = 0.02) but was not correlated with VO(2max). This protocol, using VO(2max) rather than power as the controlling variable, demonstrates that the maintenance of exercise at VO(2max) can exceed 15 min independent of the VO(2max) value, suggesting that the ability to sustain exercise at VO(2max) has different limiting factors than those related to the VO(2max) value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiac Output / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Workload