Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Calculate Your Own VO2Max

Peaks Coaching Group How to Calculate Your Own V02Max

As every cyclist and coach knows, training with power is the gold standard. What many do not know, however, is that it can tell us much more than just training zones. We can use the information gathered through field testing to calculate a cyclist’s VO2Max.  The beauty of this concept is that anyone can do it, and the calculation is very reliable and accurate.

In order to calculate your VO2Max, you need to measure two data points.

The first is your wattage, which you can get from your 20-minute field test. The key to the wattage measurement is to make sure the measurement occurs at steady state. The second data point is your weight in kilograms. Take these two pieces of information and just input them into the following equation developed and tested by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):

Relative VO2Max = [(10.8 x W)/M] + 7


W = watts
M = cyclist weight in kg
VO2Max = mL/(kg x min) (ACSM, 2010)

To put this into perspective, let’s assume you’re a 75.9 kg (167 lb) time trialist. In your last 20 minute FTP field test, your coach calculated your FTP as 300 watts. Now that we have those two numbers, use the above equation to calculate your VO2Max.

VO2Max = [(10.8 x 300w)/75.9] + 7
                = 49.7 mL/(kg x min)
Your VO2Max is a powerful piece of information. You can use this data to quantify your fitness level or compare yourself to other cyclists. The advantage to calculating your VO2Max with this equation is that you don’t need the expensive laboratory testing. Most of us can’t afford to spend money to have our VO2Max tested. This calculation is admittedly only an approximation and contains error, but it is very close to what would be measured in the laboratory. 

Now you have a way to know your VO2Max. Go forth and find out what it is.

Chris Myers is a USA Cycling Level 2 coach, a USA Triathlon Level 1 coach, a USA Swimming Level 2 coach, a certified nutritionist, and a Peaks Coaching Group elite coach. He and his fellow PCG coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes. He can be contacted directly or


  1. It is mL / (kg x min) instead of mL / (mg x min).

  2. So is your derivation form using FTP wattage? Rather than MAP?
    If this FTP derivation is < MAP derivation, that's headroom right?

  3. You have to remember, FTP, MAP, and VO2 are completely different from each other.

    Remember, Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coggan defined FTP as "power at LT as determined in this manner is often significantly below what athletes and coaches tend to think of as a "threshold". A more convenient and possibly more accurate way of determining your functional threshold power is therefore to simply rely on data collected using your power meter in the field."

    VO2Max is the upper limit of any athlete's physical ability. It is the total of a person's aerobic and anaerobic capabilities. Your FTP can help define your LT in reference to your VO2. Anything below LT is aerobic; any work above LT is anaerobic.

  4. Hmmm ... why use power@FTP to calculate Vo2_MAX?
    Key word being MAX vs. simply Vo2@FTP?

    Wouldn't using 4-6MMP be more appropriate??


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  6. I ran this through for an athlete and found it to be some way out - FTP - 240W, therefore calculated VO2max is 48.4ml/kg/min where in the lab it is 57 so error quite high here. What is the 90 or 95% confidence interval for this calculation or standard error of the estimate?

    1. This VO2 estimate is to be used very cautiously. This calculation was designed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as a field estimate. It was created to give a beginner athlete an idea of his/her VO2. With the advent of lab testing becoming cheaper and wearable electronics, we have better ways to get this estimate. Since you have a lab verified result, you should use this for all calculations for training zones and performance analysis.

      Master/Elite Coach Chris Myers

    2. This formula seems to assume mechanical efficiency as 25% and VO2max utilisation at LT power as 90% which are quite high values. Too high for most of the riders so I think this formula will likely underestimate VO2max.

    3. Hi @Unknown,
      Essentially, yes, that is correct. Please note that this article was written in 2013, before we had technology that could measure VO2 while we are out riding. The equation was created by the Academy of Sports Medicine for the general population, so yes it would underestimate VO2 for cyclists. This article was originally written to give athletes an “idea” of what their VO2 is.