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How to boost VO2max

by Carl Brewer last modified 2006-07-03 23:24

Boosting VO2max

By Owen Anderson.

Competitive endurance cyclists are always searching for ways to boost their aerobic capacities (V02max) but are seldom quite sure about which workouts will produce the greatest effect.

Now, new research carried out at Odense University in Denmark demonstrates that some very simple, moderately intense training sessions will do the job.

In the Danish study, eight cyclists rode their exercise cycles at an intensity of 80-90% V02max (88-95 per cent of maximal heart rate, 260-300 Watts) for 30 minutes per workout, three times per week. Eight other athletes performed interval workouts, which consisted of 10 seconds of all-out exertion at a stratospheric intensity of 880-1025 Watts, alternated with 50 seconds of rest. In the latter case, there were 20 work intervals per training session and three workouts per week.

After just five weeks, the athletes who had ridden steadily at 80-90% V02max for 30 minutes per work-out achieved an extremely useful 6-per cent increase in V02max, from 53 to 56 ml/kg/min, while the interval group failed to bolster V02max. This was true even though the interval group had consumed about twice as much total energy per workout.

The interval group did gain one advantage over the continuous exercisers, however; they were better at doing interval workouts! During a test completed at the end of the five-week study, the interval exercisers were able to carry out 26 intervals at a high power output, while the continuous people could only manage 12. Of course, the interval athletes possessed higher 'anaerobic' capacities, as well.

The Danish study is especially interesting because it reinforces the notion that a fairly modest training session - 30 minutes at 80-90% V02max - can be a potent evoker of improved aerobic capacity in a fairly short period of time. It also reminds endurance athletes that super-high intensities and fast-tilt interval sessions aren't always necessary to bolster V02max; in fact, if the intensity is very high and the interval is fairly short, such efforts may not raise aerobic capability at all.

In addition to the '30 minutes at 80-90% V02max' session, another workout is a proven V02max-booster: exercising for five-minute intervals at the maximum intensity which you could sustain in a race for 15-20 minutes. As your V02max goes up, your basic endurance will also increase, and your race times should improve significantly. ('Training Specificity In Relation to Intermittent Exercise Performance, ' Biochemistry of Exercise Ninth International Conference Abstracts, #19, p. 18, 1994 )

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