Testing Aerobic Capacity

Study Questions
  • Define the following terms: maximal oxygen consumption, ventilatory threshold, lactate threshold.
  • Identify and explain the concept of contraindications when supervising a test of aerobic capacity.
  • Describe the ways in which the measurement of maximal oxygen consumption can be useful when working with an athlete.
  • When might it be inadvisable to undertake a maximal test of aerobic capacity and what alternatives are available?
  • Discuss the differences between various measures of aerobic capacity and which are more or less valid.
  • Explain the criteria for determining whether VO2max was attained during a graded exercise test.
Key Chapters

Bourdon, P. (2012) Blood Lactate Transition Thresholds: Concepts and Controversies. In: Tanner, R.& Gore, C.J., ed, Physiological Tests for Elite Athletes (2nd Ed), Australian Sports Commission. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics: 77-102.[amazon]

Jones, A.M. and DiMenna, F.J. (2011) Cardiovascular Assessment and Aerobic Training Prescription. In Cardinale,M., Newton,R., Nosaka,K. Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principles and Practical Applications. Oxford; Wiley-Blackwell [google books][companion website]

Jones, A.M., Vanhatalo, A.T. and Doust, J.H. (2009) Aerobic Exercise Performance. In Eston, R. & Reilly, T. (Ed.) (2009). Kinanthropometry and exercise physiology laboratory manual. Vol. 2: Physiology. (3rd Ed). London, Routledge [chapter 10: Aerobic exercise performance]

Morris, D. (2012) Lactate Threshold. In Miller, T. (Ed.)(2012) NSCA's Guide to Tests and Assessments. Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics: 125-145

Winter, E., Jones, A.M., Davison, R.C.R., Bromley, P.D., Mercer, T.H. (Eds.) (2007). Sport and exercise physiology testing guidelines. Vol 2: Exercise and Clinical Testing. British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences guide: London, Routledge.[google books][full text]

Recommended Journal Articles

Faude, O., Kindermann, W., Meyer, T (2009) Lactate Threshold Concepts: How Valid are They? Sports Medicine Vol.39, No.6, 469-490 [abstract][full text]

Ferguson, B. S., Rogatzki, M. J., Goodwin, M. L., Kane, D. A., Rightmire, Z., & Gladden, L. B. (2018). Lactate metabolism: historical context, prior misinterpretations, and current understanding. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 1-38. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-017-3795-6

Haugen, T., Paulsen, G., Seiler, S., & Sandbakk, Ø. (2018). New Records in Human Power. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13(6), 678-686. https://journals.humankinetics.com/doi/full/10.1123/ijspp.2017-0441 

Jones, A. M. (2006) The physiology of the world record holder for the women's marathon. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching Vol.1, 101-116 [full text]

Midgley, A.W., McNaughton, L.R., Polman, R., & Marchant, D. (2007) Criteria for determination of maximal oxygen uptake: a brief critique and recommendations for future research. Sports Medicine, Vol.37, No.12,1019-1028. [abstract]

Further Reading

Achten, J. and Jeukendrup, A. E. (2003) Heart rate monitoring: applications and limitations. Sports Medicine. Vol. 33, No. 7: 517–538. [Online] [full text]

Astrand, P-O (1972) Work Tests with the bicycle ergometer. Varberg, Sweden: Monark Crescent AB [full text]

Bacon, A. P., Carter, R. E., Ogle, E. A., & Joyner, M. J. (2013). VO2max Trainability and High Intensity Interval Training in Humans: A Meta-Analysis. PloS One, 8(9), e73182.[full text]

Bangsbo,J. Iaia, F.M. and Krustrup, P. (2008) The Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test A Useful Tool for Evaluation of Physical Performance in Intermittent Sports Sports Med 38 (1); 37-51 [full text]

Bassett, D. R., & Howley, E.T.(2000). Limiting factors for maximum oxygen uptake and determinants of endurance performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 32(1): 70–84 [full text]

Belcher, C. P. and Pemberton, C. L. (2012) The Use of the Blood Lactate Curve to Develop Training Intensity Guidelines for the Sports of Track and Field and Cross-Country. International Journal of Exercise Science. Vol. 5, No. 2: 148–159. [fulltext]

Beltrami, F. G., Froyd, C., Mauger, A. R., Metcalfe, A. J., Marino, F. and Noakes, T. D. (2012) Conventional testing methods produce submaximal values of maximum oxygen consumption. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol. 46, No. 1: 23–29. [Online]. Available from: doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090306[full text]

Bentley, D J., Newell, J. & Bishop, D. (2007) Incremental Exercise Test Design and Analysis: Implications for Performance Diagnostics in Endurance Athletes Sports Medicine, Vol 37, No.7, 575-586 [abstract]

Billat V., Dalmay F., Antonini M.T., et al. (1994) A method for determining the maximal steady state of blood lactate concentration from two levels of submaximal exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 69: 196-202 [full text]

Billat, V. L., Sirvent, P., Py, G., Koralsztein, J. P., & Mercier, J. (2003). The concept of maximal lactate steady state. Sports Medicine, 33(6), 407-426.

Borg, G. A., & Noble, B. J. (1974). Perceived exertion. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 2(1), 131-154. [full text]

Burnley, M. and Jones, A.M. (2007) Oxygen uptake kinetics as a determinant of sports performance, European Journal of Sport Science, Vol. 7, No. 2, 63 – 79 [full text]

Brink-Elfegoun, T., Kaijser, L., Gustafsson, T. and Ekblom, B. (2007) Maximal oxygen uptake is not limited by a central nervous system governor. Journal of Applied Physiology. Vol. 102, No. 2: 781–786. [Online]. Available from: doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00566.2006 [full text]

Bruce, RA, Kusumi, F, and Hosmer, D. (1973) Maximal oxygen intake and nomographic assessment of functional aerobic impairment in cardiovascular disease. Am. Heart J. 85: 546-562[abstract]

Bosquet, L., Leger, L. & Legros, P. (2002) Methods to determine aerobic endurance Sports Med 32(11): 675-700 [full text]

Cairns, S. P. (2006). Lactic acid and exercise performance. Sports Medicine, 36(4), 279-291.

Carey, D.G., Raymond,R.L., Duoos B.A. (2002) Intra- and inter-observer reliability in selection of the heart rate deflection point during incremental exercise: comparison to a computer-generated deflection point Journal of Sports Science and Medicine  1, 115-121 [full text]

Carey, D. (2002) Assessment of the accuracy of the Conconi test in determining gas analysis anaerobic threshold. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 16(4) 641-644 [abstract]

Castagna, C., Impellizzeri,F.M., Rampinini, E., D’Ottavio,S. Manzi, V. (2008)The Yo—Yo intermittent recovery test in basketball players Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 11, 202-208 [full text]

Christie, C. J.-A. and Ingram, B. (2001) Impact of training status on maximal oxygen uptake criteria attainment during running. South African Journal of Sports Medicine. Vol. 21, No. 1: 19–22. [full text]

Cooper, K.H. (1968) A means of assessing maximal oxygen intake. JAMA Vol. 203, 201-204 [abstract]

Conconi, F., Ferrari, M., Ziglio, P., Droghetti, P. and Codeca, L. (1982) Determination of the anaerobic threshold by a noninvasive field test in runners. Journal of Applied Physiology: Respiratory,Environmental and Exercise Physiology 52: 869- 873.

Conconi, F., Grazzi, G., Casoni, I., Guglielmini, C., Borsetto, C., Ballarin, E., Mazzoni, G., Patracchini, M., Manfredini, F.(1996)The Conconi Test: Methodology After 12 Years of Application Int J Sports Med 17(7): 509-519 [abstract

Davis, J.A. (1985) Anaerobic threshold: review of the concept and directions for future research. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 6-18

Edwards, A. M., Clark, N. and Macfadyen, A. M. (2003) Lactate And Ventilatory Thresholds Reflect The Training Status Of Professional Soccer Players Where Maximum Aerobic Power Is Unchanged. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. Vol. 2: 23–29. [full text]

Ekblom, B. (2009) Counterpoint: maximal oxygen uptake is not limited by a central nervous system governor. Journal of Applied Physiology. Vol. 106, No. 1: 339–41; discussion 341–2. [Online]. Available from: doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.90844.2008a [full text]

Eston, R. & Reilly, T. (Ed.) (2009). Kinanthropometry and exercise physiology laboratory manual. Vol. 2: Physiology. (3rd Ed). London, Routledge [chapter 10: Aerobic exercise performance]

Fenstermaker, K.L., Plowman, S.A. and Looney, M.A. (1992) Validation of the Rockport Fitness Walking Test in females 65 years and older. Res Q Exerc Sport. Vol.63, No.3, 322-7 [abstract]

Gamelin FX, Coquart J, Ferrari N, et al (2006). Prediction of one hour running performance using constant duration tests. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20(4) 735-739 [full text]

Gladden,L.B. (2004) Lactate metabolism: a new paradigm for the third millennium. The Journal of Physiology, 558, 5-30.[full text]

Goodwin, M.L., Harris, J.E., Hernández,A., Gladden, L.B. (2007) Blood Lactate Measurements and Analysis during Exercise: A Guide for Clinicians J Diabetes Sci Technol. 1(4): 558–569. [full text]

Guellich, A. and Seiler, S. (2010) Lactate profile changes in relation to training characteristics in junior elite cyclists. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. Vol. 5, No. 3: 316–327. [Online] [full text]

Harnish, C. R., Swensen, T. C. and Pate. R. R. (2001) Methods for estimating the maximal lactate steady state in trained cyclists. Med.Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 33, No. 6, 1052–1055.[full text]

Harvey, J.A.(2011) A Review: Analyzing How Oxygen Uptake Kinetics Limit Exercise Performance. JEPonline 14(3):67-73 [full text]

Hellsten, Y., & Nyberg, M. (2015). Cardiovascular adaptations to exercise training. Comprehensive Physiology.6(1), 1-32.[abstract]

Heyward, V.H. (2010) Advanced fitness assessment and exercise prescription (6th Ed.) Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.[google books] [companion website][Step Test Protocols][Treadmill Protocols][Cycle Ergometer Protocols][lab briefing]

Hoffman,J (2006) Norms for Fitness, Performance and Health.Champaign IL: Human Kinetics [google books]

Howley,E.T., Bassett,D.R., Welch,H.G. (1995) Criteria for maximal oxygen uptake:review and commentary.Medecine & Science in Sports and Exercise 27(9)1292-1301 [full text]

Kalinski, M.I., Norkowski,H., Kerner,M.S. and Tkaczuk, W.G. (2002) Anaerobic Power Characteristics of Elite Athletes in National Level Team-Sport Games European Journal of Sport Science, 2(3) [full text

Janssen, P. (2001) Lactate Threshold Training. Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics [google books]

Jones, A. M. and Doust, J. H. (1996) A 1 % treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running. Journal of Sport Sciences. Vol. 14: 321–327. [full text]

Jones, A.M. and Burnley, M. (2009) Oxygen uptake kinetics: an underappreciated determinant of exercise performance. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 4(4), 524-32 [abstract]

Jones, A.M. & Doust, J.H. (1998) The validity of the lactate minimum test for determination of the maximal lactate steady state Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Vol.30, No.8, 1304-1313 [abstract]

Jones, A. & Carter, H. (2000) The Effect of Endurance Training on Parameters of Aerobic Fitness Sports Med 29 (6): 373-386

Kline, G.M., Porcari, J.P., Hintermeister, R., Freedson, P.S., Ward, A., McCarron, F., Ross, J. and Rippe, J.M. (1987) Estimation of a VO2max from a one-mile track walk, gender, age, and body weight. Med.Sci.Sport Exerc. Vol.19, No.3, 253-259 [full text]

Maud, P.J. & Foster C. (Eds)(2006) Physiological Assessment of Human Fitness (2nd Ed.). Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics [google books]

Mauger, A. R., & Sculthorpe, N. (2012). A new VO2max protocol allowing self-pacing in maximal incremental exercise. Br J Sports Med, 46(1), 59-63. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2011-090006

Mcardle, W.D., Katch, F.I., Pechar, G.S., et al (1972) Reliability and interrelationships between maximal oxygen intake, physical work capacity and step-test scores in college women Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 4, 182-186 [abstract]

Mcgehee, J.C., Tanner, C.J., & Houmard, J.A. (2005) A comparison of  methods for estimating the lactate threshold.Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19(3), 553–558 [full text]

Midgley, A. W., McNaughton, L. R. and Jones, A. M. (2007) Training to enhance the physiological determinants of long-distance running performance: can valid recommendations be given to runners and coaches based on current scientific knowledge? Sports Medicine. Vol. 37, No. 10: 857–880. [abstract]

Morrow, J.R., Jackson, A.W., Disch, J.G., Mood, D.P. (2010) Measurement and evaluation in human performance (4th ed) Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics [google books]

Newell, J., Higgins, D., Madden, N., Cruickshank, J., Einbeck, J., McMillan, K., & McDonald, R. (2007). Software for calculating blood lactate endurance markers. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25(12), 1403-1409.[full text]

Noakes, T. D. and Marino, F. E. (2009) Point: maximal oxygen uptake is limited by a central nervous system governor. Journal of Applied Physiology. Vol. 106, No. 1: 338–9; discussion 341. [Online]. Available from: doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.90844.2008 [full text]

Noonan, V. and Dean, E. (2000) Submaximal Exercise Testing: Clinical Application and Interpretation Physical Therapy Vol. 80, No. 8 . 782-807 [full text]

Norton,K., Norton, L., & Sadgrove, D. (2010) Position statement on physical activity and exercise intensity terminology Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 13: 496–502 [full text]

Pyne, D. B., Lee, H. and Swanwick. K.M. (2001) Monitoring the lactate threshold in world-ranked swimmers. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc.,33(2) 291–297 [full text].

Ramsbottom, R., Brewer, J., Williams, C. (1988) A progressive shuttle run test to estimate maximal oxygen uptake. Br J Sports Med Vol. 22, 141-144 [abstract]

Reiman, M.P. & Manske, R.C. (2009) Functional Testing in Human Performance. Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics [google books]

Scharhag-Rosenberger, F., Meyer, T., Walitzek, S. and W. Kindermann. (2009) Time Course of Changes in Endurance Capacity: A 1-yr Training Study. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 41, No. 5, 1130–1137,  [full text]

Svedahl, K., and MacIntosh, B.R. (2003). Anaerobic threshold: The concept and methods of measurement. Can. J. Appl. Physiol. Vol.28, No.2, 299-323. [full text]

Vachon, J. A., Bassett, D.R., and Clarke, S. (1999) Validity of the heart rate deflection point as a predictor of lactate threshold during running. J. Appl. Physiol. 87(1): 452-459 [full text]

Yeh, M.P., Gardner, R.M., Adams, T.D., Yanowitz, F.G., Crapo, R.O. (1983) "Anaerobic threshold": problems of determination and validation. J Appl Physiol. Vol. 55, No.4,1178-86

Further Links

A non-exercise method for predicting VO2max
A wikipedia article on the Multi-Stage Fitness Test
The Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Levels from www.topendsports.com 
Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing [click here]
Dalleck, L.C. and Kravitz, L. (n.d.) Optimize Aerobic Endurance [online] - a primer for initial understanding of VT, LT, AT 
How to determine Anaerobic Threshold - An article from www.sports-fitness-advisor.com
Lacate Threshold Analysis software [click here] - see Newell et al (2007) above for more on this