VO2 max - What is maximal respiratory capacity and how does it increase? Table of values

VO2 max - What is maximal respiratory capacity and how does it increase? Table of values

VO2 max - What is maximal respiratory capacity and how does it increase? Table of values
VO2 max - What is maximal respiratory capacity and how does it increase? Table of values

What is the maximum breathing capacity - VO2 max?

Maximum respiratory capacity or VO2 max is a parameter that allows the body's ability to consume oxygen to be measured. VO2 max is calculated by measuring the volume of oxygen consumed and CO2 exhaled during operation. Sports professionals use this number as a way to calculate the increase in sports performance. An increase in VO2 values ​​translates as an improvement in physical condition.

VO2 max depends on the number of red blood cells, muscle adaptation and how much blood the heart can pump when running. Breathing capacity is a dynamic parameter, ie it can be increased or decreased with specific exercises, training methods and habits.

Maximum values ​​of VO2 - high, low and normal

The test for determining the maximum values ​​of VO2 consists in running on a treadmill using a special mask until reaching the maximum pulse or red zone. VO2 values ​​range from 20 to 60 depending on age, gender and physical condition.

In the average person, normal VO2 max values ​​range from 30 to 45; running equivalent of 5Km at moderate speed. The units of maximum respiratory capacity are in mL / min / Kg.

Table of maximum VO2 values ​​for men

Age Very low Under Normal good Very good Higher
13-19 <35.0 35.0-38.3 38.4-45.1 45.2-50.9 51.0-55.9 > 55.9
20-29 <33.0 33.0-36.4 36.5-42.4 42.5-46.4 46.5-52.4 > 52.4
30-39 <31.5 31.5-35.4 35.5-40.9 41.0-44.9 45.0-49.4 > 49.4
40-49 <30.2 30.2-33.5 33.6-38.9 39.0-43.7 43.8-48.0 > 48.0
50-59 <26.1 26.1-30.9 31.0-35.7 35.8-40.9 41.0-45.3 > 45.3
60+ <20.5 20.5-26.0 26.1-32.2 32.3-36.4 36.5-44.2 > 44.2

VO2 max diagram for women

Age Very low Under Normal good Very good Higher
13-19 <25.0 25.0-30.9 31.0-34.9 35.0-38.9 39.0-41.9 > 41.9
20-29 <23.6 23.6-28.9 29.0-32.9 33.0-36.9 37.0-41.0 > 41.0
30-39 <22.8 22.8-26.9 27.0-31.4 31.5-35.6 35.7-40.0 > 40.0
40-49 <21.0 21.0-24.4 24.5-28.9 29.0-32.8 32.9-36.9 > 36.9
50-59 <20.2 20.2-22.7 22.8-26.9 27.0-31.4 31.5-35.7 > 35.7
60+ <17.5 17.5-20.1 20.2-24.4 24.5-30.2 30.3-31.4 > 31.4

The value of VO2 max when running

The presence of high values ​​of VO2 max means that the body is able to deliver more oxygen to the muscles. When running, it translates as greater ability to run and increase speed with less effort.

Maximum respiratory capacity values ​​are directly related to  heart rate or heart rate  . For high-performance runners, this is one of the parameters that determine the improvement of endurance. An athlete should consider increasing VO2max values ​​in order to improve distance traveled.

How to increase respiratory capacity? - Training and exercises

Breathing capacity can be increased with both resistance training and exercises that involve several muscle groups simultaneously. In addition, nutrition plays a key role in improving one's values. Tobacco and alcohol are two factors that act against the increase in VO2 max.

Effective workouts and exercises to increase maximum breathing capacity:

1. Cardio


Cardio is the traditional workout to increase VO2 max. When you do cardio, the heart significantly increases the heart rate. The effectiveness of cardio on maximum respiratory capacity is determined by the intensity and total duration of training. (1)



Studies confirm a significant increase in maximal respiratory capacity when performing HIIT  (3)  . Studies confirm that changes in up to 20% more in the ability to transport oxygen in the blood are generated in 2 months of adaptation.

3. Basic multi-joint exercises

Basic multi-joint exercises

Exercises with a lot of joint exercises are able to increase maximum VO2 levels. The studies gave better results compared to the traditional fitness routine in combination with aerobic exercise. (4)

4. The Tabata method


In the tabata method, there is no time to rest. This allows the body to be maximized. This is one way to maximize lung capacity. 20 minutes of tab is sufficient to increase the maximum VO2 values. (5)

5. Callistics


Calisthenics is one of the methods to increase VO2 max for advanced athletes. Studies (6) confirm a greater increase in respiratory capacity when leg muscle exercises are included in the routine.

What you need to know before doing the VO2 max test?

The VO2 max test is performed in a sports laboratory. The devices used are calibrated to accurately determine the athlete's maximum respiratory capacity.

A treadmill or stationary bike is usually used. During the test, the respiration rate, the volume and concentration of oxygen on inhalation and the amount of carbon dioxide on exhalation are measured. In addition,  frequency band heart rate monitors  are used to measure heart rate.

Tips before doing the VO2 max test:

  • Do not do any exercises 24 hours before the test.
  • Wear comfortable sportswear.
  • Avoid food, alcohol and tobacco for 3 hours before the test.

Maximum respiratory capacity is achieved by switching from aerobic to anaerobic respiration. This is the key break point for the test. It is important to know that VO2 is not always correlated with lactic acid levels   in the body; this parameter is used to determine other aspects of sporting performance.

The maximum or maximum respiratory capacity of VO2 is a figure used by sports professionals to measure improvement in athletic performance. The test consists of calculating the amount of oxygen that is inhaled, the CO2 that is exhaled and the heart rate. Increasing VO2 is possible, it requires training and healthy habits. Determining maximum respiratory capacity is important for fitness and athletic professionals.


  1. VO2 Max testing in athletes. Source
  3. HIIT, practical applications. Source
  4. Resistance training with single vs. Multi-joint exercises with equal total volume of load: Effects on body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength. Source
  5. Tabata Protocol: Overview of its application, variations and results. Source
  6. Oxygen consumption during calisthenic exercises in women with coronary artery disease. Source