VO2 Max Training - What, Why and How....

The faster you run, the harder you breathe. Also, the longer you run, the harder you breathe. And if you sustain a fast running speed long enough, you will eventually find yourself breathing as hard as you can. Exercise scientists have a special term for breathing as hard as you can: VO2max.
Whatever you choose to call it, running at this intensity level is rather painful. If you do it right, though, it is extremely beneficial. In fact, minute for minute, VO2max training boosts running fitness more than any other type of run training.
Before I give you some tips on how to do VO2max training, let me first explain the physiological rationale behind it.


  • VO2max is a measure of the maximum rate at which an athlete's body is able to consume oxygen when performing a specific activity, adjusted for body weight.
  • In running, it is usually determined through a procedure known as an incremental exercise test, in which the athlete breathes into a tube that collects and measures exhaled gases while running on a treadmill whose belt speed and/or gradient is increased incrementally until the athlete reaches exhaustion. The maximum rate of oxygen consumption recorded in this test is the runner's current VO2max.
  • A high VO2max is important because it is closely correlated with distance-running performance. Research has shown that VO2max accounts for roughly 70 percent of the variation in race performances among individual runners.  Thus, if you are able to run a 5K one minute faster than I can, it is likely that your VO2max is higher than mine by an amount that is sufficient to account for 42 seconds of that minute.  
  • There are two major factors that contribute to a high VO2max. One is a strong oxygen transport system, which includes a powerful heart, hemoglobin-packed blood, high blood volume, high capillary density in the muscles, and high mitochondrial density within the muscle cells.
  • The other is speed, or the capacity to contract a large number of muscle fibers simultaneously, as the more muscle tissue is active at any given moment, the more oxygen the muscles demand.
  • Both of these physiological factors are determined largely by genetic makeup but are also affected by training. And it so happens that the type of training that appears to be most effective in increasing VO2max is training at an intensity level that elicits VO2max--or, in other words, at an intensity level that has you breathing as hard as you can.
  • There is actually no single intensity that elicits VO2max; instead there is a range of intensities that will do the job.  This is because oxygen consumption tends to climb at any given intensity as it is sustained. Hence there is more than one way to hit 100 percent VO2max in training.
  • The quickest way to elicit VO2max is to run for about six minutes at the fastest pace you can sustain for that duration. So you could do a VO2max workout that consisted of a 10-minute warm-up, a six-minute time trial, and a 10-minute cool-down.
  • But this is not the best way to go about VO2max training, because you're exhausted after that six-minute effort. It is better to do several shorter efforts at the same or a slightly higher intensity separated by recovery periods, as this enables the athlete to spend more total time at 100-percent VO2max before reaching exhaustion. Another option is to dial the intensity back just a bit and perform several longer intervals.
Here are three examples of effective VO2max workout formats:

30/30 AND 60/60 INTERVALS  

A good way to introduce VO2max training into your program is with 30/30 and 60/60 intervals. Created by French exercise physiologist Veronique Billat, these workouts are effective fitness builders that are well tolerated by runners at a modest fitness level.
Start with 30/30 intervals. After warming up with at least 10 minutes of easy jogging, run 30 seconds hard, at the fastest pace you could hold for about six minutes in a race. Then slow to an easy jog for 30 seconds. Continue alternating fast and slow 30-second segments until you have completed at least 12 and as many as 20 of each.
Increase the number of 30/30 intervals you complete each time you do this workout, and then switch to 60/60 intervals. Start with at least six of these and build up to as many as 10.


Shorter hill intervals of 20 to 90 seconds are great for developing power, strength and speed. Slightly longer intervals of two to three minutes are great for VO2max development. To do a hill intervals workout, warm up with at least 10 minutes of easy jogging. Then run hard uphill for two to three minutes (choose your duration before you start), jog back down to your starting point and repeat.
If your fitness level is modest, start with a set of 4 x 2:00 or 3 x 3:00. Very fit runners can do as much as 10 x 2:00 or 7 x 3:00. Pace yourself so that you neither slow down through the workout due to early fatigue nor finish the workout feeling you could do more.


Lactate intervals are the toughest kind of VO2max training. Make sure you build up a fairly high level of fitness with 30/30, 60/60 and hill intervals before you move on to lactate intervals.
It is best to do this type of workout on the track. Warm up with at least 10 minutes of easy jogging and then run hard for 800 (two laps on a full-size running track) to 1200 meters (three laps on a full-size running track) around the track. Now reduce your pace to an easy jog for 400 meters.
Run shorter intervals (800m) in your first lactate intervals workout of a given training cycle and then move upward. Do a total of about 5000m of fast running in these workouts (6-7 x 800m, 5 x 1000m, 4 x 1200m). Again, try to run the fastest pace that you can sustain through the last interval without slowing down.
It cannot be denied: VO2max training is hard. That's why most runners do very little of it. But you're not like most runners, are you? Take advantage of your superior mental toughness and make a commitment to VO2max training. You will find the rewards to be well worth a little heavy breathing.

Higher Power Workout Motivation! - Bar Brothers

5 Smarter Ways to Do Cardio and Increase Your VO2 Max

Cardio often comes up as a buzzword in the fitness industry, demonized by anyone looking to gain muscle. Doing aerobic work is seen as a step backwards as opposed to adding in another lifting session. In reality, some sort of cardio training is necessary in any program. However, the duration and intensity of the sessions should be dictated by training goals and aspirations. Someone looking to increase their powerlifting total has far different demands than the weekend warrior looking to attempt their first marathon. No matter the goal, there are smarter and more efficient ways to work your cardiovascular system without compromising your entire weekend.
Many guys in the gym lack specificity within their cardio program. When it comes to lifting weights, they have detailed notes of sets, reps, personal records, and arm growth progressions. For cardio, they slough off the numbers and progressions in favor of 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity. Your cardio training should be approached with the same precision and details as a well-executed weight training program. By paying closer attention to intensity levels and duration, gym-goers can reap the benefits of an intense session without wasting away their day slogging miles on the treadmill.
1) Track Your Heart Rate
Doing cardio without a heart rate monitor is akin to driving your car without a speedometer. You may have a general idea of how hard you’re working out, but without a heart rate strap, it’s hard to put a number to your intensity. A heart rate monitor allows you to track changes in your cardio and make your workouts more structured. Rather than just hopping on a piece of equipment and chugging along, you now have an idea of just how hard you should be working. The right heart rate monitor can tell you when to go harder and when to cut your workout short.
2) Focus on Heart Rate Recovery
Just like a high-performance car that can stop on a dime, a heart that is in shape can slow down quicker after a hard bout of effort. This heart rate drop after an intense interval can be used to gauge fitness level. Rather than just focusing on how your body reacts during an intense interval, track how quickly your heart rate drops one and two minutes post-exercise. Aim for a drop of at least 10 beats at the minute mark and 20 beats or more at the two-minute mark.
3) Build Cardiac Strength
Similar to a sports car that can go from 0-60 mph in a matter of seconds, a highly conditioned cardiac system can quickly adapt to any exercise intensity. Intervals are a terrific way to work on cardiac strength. Set a treadmill for a quick pace, one that will leave you gassed after 20-30 seconds. Watch your heart rate rise. When you hit 85-90% of your estimated peak heart rate, slow down to a light walking pace to allow yourself time to recover. Walk until your heart rate drops down below 60% of your peak heart rate value and repeat. By driving your heart rate up high, you’ll focus on building cardiac strength. 
4) Train Your Threshold
Your anaerobic threshold refers to the heart rate at which you no longer can bring in enough oxygen to support the exercise intensity. For simplicity sake, it marks an intensity that’s tough to maintain for an extended period of time. It usually appears around 85% of your max heart rate. Rather than focusing on the exact numbers, estimate it with the talk test. At your anaerobic threshold, you should be able to mutter 3-4 words before taking another breath. If you’re rambling on and on without trouble, increase the intensity. Working out at your anaerobic threshold helps to increase your work capacity – that is how long you’re able to sustain hard work. A higher work capacity will improve your cardio, but also be useful when performing intense circuits on the weight room floor.
5) Do Easy Steady-State for Fat Loss and General Conditioning
Although steady-state or low-level aerobic cardio often gets trashed in favor of high-intensity sprint intervals, slower cardio still deserves a place in your program. Although it may not be the most effective manner of raising your capacity for running and biking, it can be useful for recovery days and as an addition to a solid routine to increase activity without overtraining. By working out at a moderate heart rate (around 65-70%), you can increase blood flow to working muscles without causing an intense training stimulus, perfect for a day in between hard lifting sessions. Although it shouldn’t be the main staple of your program, incorporate one to two days of easier cardio in your program either as a starting point for harder work or a break from hard workouts to ease your mind and body. 
Source: http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-tips/5-smarter-ways-do-cardio/slide/5