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Fitness Tests: How to Estimate Your VO2max Score

There are many fitness tests out there to estimate your VO2max, and choosing the right one for you is the first step. There are many things to consider, such as your age, fitness level, equipment, time and your general surroundings. Whether you are inside, by yourself, with a timer, or at a gym with a buddy and a treadmill, there is a fitness test for you.

Treadmill Tests

Two treadmill tests that are commonly used are the Balke Protocol and the Bruce Protocol. Both tests involve a subject on the treadmill with increasing speed, grade or both. These tests are effective in estimating VO2max without using too much time, effort or equipment. Using these tests, the subject walks or runs, and factors including grade and speed are changed. With the Balke test the grade is changed every minute with a constant speed until the subject can no longer perform. The final time is recorded and then put into an equation to estimate VO2 max.

The equation for the Balke test is VO2max= 1.444(time)+14.99 for men and VO2max=1.38(time)+5.22 for women. Using the Bruce test, the speed and grade are changed in stages until the subject is exhausted. The final time is taken and used in an equation to estimate VO2max. The equation for the Bruce test is VO2max=14.76-1.379(time)+0.451(time2)-0.012(time3) for men and VO2max=4.38(time)-3.90 for women.

Cycle Ergometer

Another maximal test to estimate VO2max is the Cycle Ergometer test. The Astrand Cycle Ergometer Maximal Test Protocol involves either a friction-type cycle ergometer or an electrically braked ergometer. The subject sits on the cycle and goes to a rhythm while the work load is increased until the subject can no longer keep pace. This test is widely used to assess cardiorespiratory fitness, and works well for subjects who would rather not run on a treadmill. 

Bench Stepping Test

The bench stepping test involves stepping up and down on a bench to a cadence. The variable changed is either the height of the bench or the speed of the cadence. The subject steps up and down until they can no longer keep pace with the cadence and are fatigued. This test is not an ideal mode of exercise for maximum exercise testing, but it requires little equipment, space and training.

Submaximal Tests

The tests described above are designed for maximal exercise testing, but in most protocols, there is a modified or different test designed for submaximal effort. This means that the subject will take the test for a certain amount of time, but does not reach complete max, or fatigue. Then, information gathered from a submaximal test is then used in equations to estimate maximal effort and VO2max. Maximal tests, of course, are more desirable and accurate, but are not always convenient or desirable for the subject. 

Fitness testing is a reliable way to estimate your VO2max score. These tests are highly developed and have been used by professionals worldwide. Using your resources, you can easily choose and perform the test that is right for you.

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