Using ramp-incremental V̇O 2 responses for constant-intensity exercise selection

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018 Sep;43(9):882-892. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2017-0826. Epub 2018 Mar 23.


Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, the view that oxygen uptake (V̇O2) increases linearly with exercise intensity (e.g., power output, speed) until reaching its maximum persists within the exercise physiology literature. This viewpoint implies that the V̇O2 response at any constant intensity is predictable from a ramp-incremental exercise test. However, the V̇O2 versus task-specific exercise intensity relationship constructed from ramp-incremental versus constant-intensity exercise are not equivalent preventing the use of V̇O2 responses from 1 domain to predict those of the other. Still, this "linear" translational framework continues to be adopted as the guiding principle for aerobic exercise prescription and there remains in the sport science literature a lack of understanding of how to interpret V̇O2 responses to ramp-incremental exercise and how to use those data to assign task-specific constant-intensity exercise. The objectives of this paper are to (i) review the factors that disassociate the V̇O2 versus exercise intensity relationship between ramp-incremental and constant-intensity exercise paradigms; (ii) identify when it is appropriate (or not) to use ramp V̇O2 responses to accurately assign constant-intensity exercise; and (iii) illustrate the technical and theoretical challenges with prescribing constant-intensity exercise solely on information acquired from ramp-incremental tests. Actual V̇O2 data collected during cycling exercise and V̇O2 kinetics modelling are presented to exemplify these concepts. Possible solutions to overcome these challenges are also presented to inform on appropriate intensity selection for individual-specific aerobic exercise prescription in both research and practical settings.

Keywords: V̇O2 kinetics; aerobic; aérobie; cinétique du V̇O2; consommation d’oxygène; critical power; endurance; exercice d’intensité croissante; exercise intensity; exercise prescription; exercise thresholds; graded exercise; intensité d’exercice; oxygen uptake; prescription d’exercice; puissance critique; seuils aérobies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / methods*
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*


  • Lactic Acid