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VO2 Max and Ways to Improve It

You probably heard it already a lot of times when athletes are talking about performance - VO2 Max. If you wanna improve your performance, sooner or later, you will stumble across that metric. In this article, we will discuss what that metric describes and how you can improve it.

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise and is also known as the gold standard for measuring cardiovascular fitness.

Of course, it's not the only thing that determines your success in sports. There are also other things like lactate threshold and muscular endurance that play an important role.

So now that we know what it is we also want to know how to increase it.

How to increase your VO2 Max

Here are some ways to improve your VO2 Max if you aim to increase your performance levels in sports.

1. Exercise at High Intensity

Increasing your VO2 Max can most effectively be done by training at high intensity which means for example running at 90-95% of your maximum heart rate. So here is the next term we need to have a look at.

How do you measure your maximum heart rate? You can approximate it by subtracting your age from 220.

2. Interval Training

Another way to improve your VO2 Max is to implement interval training in your workout routine. This is backed by a 2013 review of studies (1) which found that you can achieve slightly better results with interval training than continuous aerobic exercise.

Interval vs. Continous Aerobic Training

So let's have a look at the difference between those two. While interval training consists of short alternating periods of high-intensity activity (e.g. running fast for 1 minute, walking for 2 minutes), continuous aerobic training would be, for example, running for longer than 20 minutes at a steady intensity.

3. Combination of HIT and Continous Training

There are several studies (3) that have shown, the best way to improve VO2 Max might be a combination of high-intensity training and continuous training.

Integrating both continuous and interval training into your exercise regimen may yield better outcomes than focusing solely on one type.

Research indicates that programs combining these methods have led to significant improvements in VO2 max. These findings come from studies utilizing a rigorous 10-week training schedule with sessions six days a week.

In such studies, participants alternated between continuous running and interval training. On interval days, they completed six 5-minute intense sessions on a stationary bike, working near their VO2 max, with 2-minute rest periods in between.

On days allocated for continuous running, participants aimed to run the maximum distance they could for 30 minutes in the first week, 35 minutes in the second week, and at least 40 minutes in subsequent weeks.

It is important to note that this training program is highly demanding and generally suitable only for individuals who are already in good physical condition. In the pioneering study using this regimen, although participants saw ongoing increases in VO2 max, the intense nature of the workouts led to some participants withdrawing before its conclusion.

4. Continuously Raise the Bar

Initially, when you begin working on enhancing your VO2 max, almost any form of endurance training will likely yield benefits.

However, as your fitness level improves, the rate of improvement will diminish, necessitating more intense training to sustain progress.

To intensify your training, consider increasing the frequency of your workouts, extending the duration of each session, or boosting the intensity of your activities.

Consistency is key

We've delved into VO2 Max, a key indicator for cardiovascular fitness. While important, it's just one piece of the fitness puzzle, along with lactate thresholds and muscular endurance.

To boost your VO2 Max, start gradually and adjust your training as needed to avoid overtraining and injuries. Consistency is crucial, whether you're just starting out or pushing past a plateau.

Remember to challenge yourself, monitor your progress, and maintain momentum. Here's to reaching new heights in your fitness journey!

Tune in next time for more tips and inspiration. Stay strong and keep moving forward!


1.Micah Zuhl, Ph.D. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. "HIIT vs Continuous Endurance Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans."

2.Daniel Yetman, Healthline "6 Ways to Improve Your Vo2 Max"

3.Andrew P. Bacon, Rickey E. Carter, Eric A. Ogle, Michael J. Joyner, Plos One "VO2max Trainability and High Intensity Interval Training in Humans: A Meta-Analysis"

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