The critical power concept. A review

Sports Med. 1993 Oct;16(4):237-54. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199316040-00003.


The basis of the critical power concept is that there is a hyperbolic relationship between power output and the time that the power output can be sustained. The relationship can be described based on the results of a series of 3 to 7 or more timed all-out predicting trials. Theoretically, the power asymptote of the relationship, CP (critical power), can be sustained without fatigue; in fact, exhaustion occurs after about 30 to 60 minutes of exercise at CP. Nevertheless, CP is related to the fatigue threshold, the ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max), and it provides a measure of aerobic fitness. The second parameter of the relationship, AWC (anaerobic work capacity), is related to work performed in a 30-second Wingate test, work in intermittent high-intensity exercise, and oxygen deficit, and it provides a measure of anaerobic capacity. The accuracy of the parameter estimates may be enhanced by careful selection of the power outputs for the predicting trials and by performing a greater number of trials. These parameters provide fitness measures which are mode-specific, combine energy production and mechanical efficiency in 1 variable, and do not require the use of expensive equipment or invasive procedures. However, the attractiveness of the critical power concept diminishes if too many predicting trials are required for generation of parameter estimates with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobic Threshold / physiology
  • Exercise Test
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*