VO2 MAX What Is It? How Do You Find It?

To start this off a little physiology lesson on what V02 max is. VO2 max is measured in ml/kg/min  (millimetres per kilogram per minute), it measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use per minute. This is not the max speed your body can run at, but the top speed where your body is still using oxygen within the muscles to help produce energy and not using stored energy.

Now how to find your VO2 max. What you will need is a treadmill, heart rate monitor, good running shoes, and someone to help record the information. Draw up a chart divided into Speed, Incline, Heart Rate (HR), and rate of perceived exertion (RPE). HR is not needed to find VO2 max, but it helps to see where your body is at, help you find your HR max once your are done and help you find out what your anaerobic threshold is if you know how to find it. RPE, which we will measure with the Borg Scale, a scale from 6-20, 6 being at rest, and 20 being I can no longer go on. (See Below) We will use this so you can learn how you feel at these different speeds, and also so the recorder knows how you are feeling.

Once you have all this set up, you can start running. Start the treadmill at around 2-3 mph with an incline of 1.5, this way your warm up is part of the test. Every minute the recorder will write down the incline, and speed the runner will tell the recorder what their HR is and also where they are on the RPE scale then increase the speed by 0.5 mph. Continue this process until feel you can no longer run, or feel that you can not run any faster. Now it is time to do some math!

There are two equations one for walking, and one for running. You can do this whole process with a faster oaced walking speed, instead of increasing speed you will just increase the incline every minute by 0.5. Walking is considered when there is always on foot on the ground, and running is considered when ever there a small flight phase, no feet on the ground.

Walking VO2= (S x 0.1) + (S x G x 1.8) + 3.5

Running VO2= (S x 0.2) + (S x G x 0.9) + 3.5

Where S= speed in m/min (metres per minute), and G= % grade (incline of the treadmill). To convert mph into m/min you times your speed by 26.8. If your treadmill is already in km/h then you need to divide it by 1000 and then multiple by 60.

Example: Finish Speed 8.5 mph, incline of 1.5% (0.015)

Convert 8.5 mph into m/min: 8.5 mph x 26.8= 227.8 m/min

Running VO2= (S x 0.2) + (S x G x 0.9) + 3.5

= ([227.8] x 0.2) + ([227.8] x [0.015] x 0.9) + 3.5

= (45.56)+(3.08)+3.5

= 52.18 ml/kg/min

There are many ways to find your VO2 max, this is just the easiest for the majority of the population since most gyms, and houses do not have a cycle ergometer. There you have it, how to find your VO2 max try it out!

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Steven Moore About Steven Moore

Passionate Personal Fitness Trainer, and NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist at Blitz Conditioning. Prone to spurts of random nonsense. [Read my full bio]


  1. Once one has it, what does one do with it?

    • Hi! After we learn our VO2 max the goal is to improve the number. As we exercise our bodies become more efficient at taking in oxygen so we can use this VO2 max as another gauge for our progress.

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