What is Maximal Oxygen Uptake?

definition of terms


Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) refers to the maximum rate that oxygen can be consumed during intense exercise. It measures aerobic fitness and endurance capacity.


  • VO2 max indicates the efficiency of the lungs, heart and cardiovascular system in delivering oxygen to working muscles.
  • Higher VO2 max values correspond to greater endurance performance. It’s measured in milliliters of oxygen per kg of bodyweight per minute.
  • Athletes use VO2 max to gauge fitness gains from training and determine intensities for workouts based on percentage of VO2 max speed or heart rate.
  • VO2 max is increased by doing high intensity interval and tempo training. Genetics impact natural VO2 max levels.


  • A VO2 max of 45 ml/kg/min is considered excellent for a young athlete.
  • Improving VO2 max from 40 to 50 ml/kg/min after a period of sprint intervals.

Related Terms

  • Aerobic capacity, cardiovascular endurance, anaerobic threshold, lactate threshold

Common Questions

  • How can I estimate my VO2 max? Use pace calculators, heart rate data, or run tests based on your training intensities.
  • Is higher always better? Within reason, but extremely high VO2 max levels beyond natural potential have limited benefits.

Do Not Confuse With

  • Cardiac output – The amount of blood the heart can pump per minute. Related but different.
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