Duncan, G. E., Howley, E. T., & Johnson, B. N. (1996). Applicability of VO2max Criteria. Medicine and Science in Exercise and Sports, 28(5), Supplement abstract 717.

A continuous and discontinuous stepped treadmill test was performed on 10 males to determine if the criteria for VO2max attainment were consistent between the two protocols. It was found that weight relative and absolute VO2max values, maximum pulmonary ventilation, and ratings of perceived exertion were similar between both protocols. Heart rate was higher on the continuous task. Maximum respiratory exchange ratio (RER) and blood lactate were higher on the discontinuous task. VO2max measurement normally involves achieving a plateau of measurements. Such a plateau was achieved by 50% of Ss on the continuous task and 60% on the discontinuous task.

Implication. The reliable measurement of VO2max is dependent upon the protocol used. While it is recognized that VO2max differs between different activities, the recognition that the values achieved on one activity (e.g., treadmill running at a constant speed) will also vary depending upon the protocol used. The physiological dynamics, including HR, blood lactate, and RER are different between tasks. Thus, it is important to test for VO2max using several protocols on the same activity and to consider other response criteria to establish the reliability of the performance. Single instances of VO2max measurement, particularly when the plateau criterion is not achieved should not be viewed as reliable or accurate assessments.

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