Workout Tips

How to Improve Your VO2 Max

Increase your VO2 max to recover faster and hit the iron harder.

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Man Taking VO2 Max Test
Science Photo Library / Getty

Chances are, you’ve heard “VO2 max” before—maybe you read it on the internet or heard it during the ramblings of a professional bro scientist. But what exactly is a VO2 max? Can it help you reach your goals? And should you even care about it? Get all the breathy details at right in our VO2 max master class.

What It Is

A measure of the amount of oxygen that’s used during exercise—it’s measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute, per kilogram of body weight. It’s evaluated through prolonged and intense incremental exercise tests, done on a treadmill or bike, that are taken to failure.

How It Works

It’s simple: The more oxygen that you have available to you during exercise, the better you’ll perform and the faster you’ll recover from activity. Also, according to John Sardos, a strength coach for the Army West Point men’s hockey team, your VO2 max indicates the type of athlete you are. A high VO2 max means you may be better suited for endurance sports, while a lower one could mean you’re more apt for explosive sports.

How to Improve It

Cardiovascular interval training once or twice a week can enhance your VO2 max and enable you to recover more quickly between your strength-training sets. Try the protocol below.

The VO2 Max Enhancer

  1. Set a treadmill to near maximal speed. Sprint for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
  2. Cut the speed in half and continue to run for 1½ to 2 minutes. Repeat for 10 minutes.
  3. Once you get to 10 minutes of work done, work to 20. Once you hit that, aim to cut time from your slow runs.
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