VO2max test (ramp test)

8.Ramp-testAim of Session

To determine/monitor your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max)


Session description

Following a 5 minute period of baseline pedalling, this test involves a gradual increase in intensity at fixed time points. Typically, the intensity is increased by 25W every minute.




The maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) is a common term which represents the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use every minute. This is normally measured in litres per minute (l/min) or expressed relative to an individual’s body mass in millilitres per kilogram, per minute (ml/kg/min). VO2max is considered as the upper limit for exercise, with exercise at this intensity only sustained for up to 5-minutes. Assessment of VO2max is thought to be a good indicator of endurance performance, justifying its assessment in a lab setting.

Like with the assessment of lactate threshold, this test involves a gradual increase in intensity at fixed time points. In this test, the intensity is increased by 25W every minute. While a threshold test requires 3-minute stages for the blood lactate response to stabilise, the change in ventilation is normally stable after about 45-seconds of each stage. Therefore, the measurements taken at the end of each 1-minute stage are truly representative of your energy requirements at each intensity.

The image file for this session displayed above shows a typical response during this type of test. As the exercise intensity increases the heart rate increases in parallel. On this graph we would also plot the oxygen uptake against the exercise intensity. If you have reached your absolute max, we would expect the oxygen uptake to level off in the final minutes of the test. This occurs because your body simply cannot utilise any more oxygen. Other indicators that you have reached VO2max would include; a max heart rate being attained, an extremely high level of blood lactate and the final stages should be perceived as very hard exercise.

Application for the Rider

As this is a max test, it is important that a) you are fully recovered from previous sessions and b) that you are ready to give it everything....and then a little bit more. Throughout the test we will be giving lots of encouragement to help you squeeze that little bit extra out. All you need to do is keep a steady cadence for as long as possible. The test will be terminated when you can no longer hold that cadence, or simply when you have nothing left.

Practicalities and tips!

Lab testing can be a daunting prospect - for the first time athlete, but also sometimes more so for the second time around (as you have 'scores' you want to beat!). Prepare for the testing visit like you would a race - rest the day before, fuel well and be sure to get a good night's sleep. All these factors help the scientist control the testing conditions, making your results more valid to feed into your training. For more information on the VO2max / ramp testing, watch the video in our resources section.

You may find it beneficial to focus on a fixed point in the room and ignore everything else that is going on. This technique is not for everyone and you might be motivated by watching you power readings and wanting to squeeze a little bit more out. The important thing is to leave everything in the lab. Don’t go home thinking you had one more minute left!

Evaluation of the session

Your coach will provide you with a full lab test report - in that document you will also be able to compare your results with normative data (from other cyclists) as well as your progression if you have performed this test previously.