VO2 Max - Maximum Oxygen Intake

20 January, 2020

VO2 Max - Maximum Oxygen Intake

(A contribution by the Triathlon Crew Cologne)

In this article, the guys from Triathlon Crew Cologne summarize the topic VO2max.

If you prefer to look than read, you can also watch their 3 explanatory videos on Youtube, which are only available in German. You can find the video links in the appropriate places in the text.

What is the VO2max?


The VO2max is the product of the cardiac output and the arterial-venous oxygen difference.

The cardiac output consists of two factors: Heart frequency x stroke volume. HR is the heart rate - the beats of the heart per minute. If you train very intensely, the heart rate (HR) increases. It is then e.g. at 180 beats per minute. SV is the stroke volume. It determines the amount of blood the heart can pump per heartbeat. Endurance athletes usually have a big heart and can therefore pump a large amount. Both combined determines the cardiac output (per minute).

Another factor of the VO2max is the arterial-venous oxygen difference. That sounds complicated at first. Actually it is very simply explained. We know from the past "Once upon a time ... life" that oxygen is transported through the arteries into the cells. The little red men do that - the blood cells. The “used blood” is then transported back to the heart or lungs through the veins.

If oxygen gets into the muscles and much of it can be absorbed and consumed, little can be transported back. The difference between the oxygen there and back is high.

So you have a high VO2max if the cardiac output and the oxygen difference are also high.

Increase VO2max with the right training - HIT & LIT

Source: Triathlon Crew Cologne

How exactly do you train your VO2max? We divide the training into two areas (please note that the training areas should be determined in a performance diagnosis):

High Intensity Training
Low Intensity Training, also called Fat-Max-Training
Exercise intensity:
90-100% of VO2max

Exercise intensity:
55-65% of VO2max

Exercise time in two different intervalls:

20-60 sec IE (intermitted exercise); Pause: 10-30 sec
3-8 min IE; Pause: half of the exercise time

Exercise time:

60-300 Min really easy-going (the latter only on your bike)

Click here for TCC DIY performance diagnostics

That means we have a bipolar training system made up of very intensive and very relaxed units. It is important that you absolutely avoid training in the middle. This often happens, for example, when you have a small battle with your training buddy. Especially the LIT trainings should be followed, even if it seems super lame. Somehow you try to train harder. But maybe you have already noticed that the really hard units are very difficult for you. No wonder if you really think about it. What you throw away in the easy units is missing for the hard ones.

How much HIT & LIT training is required? The right training intensity distribution.

So how do you properly divide the two training areas? How much HIT and how much LIT training should you do?

The golden rule here is the 80/20 rule. This means 80% LIT and 20% HIT. With real competitive athletes (e.g. Olympic level) there is even more of a 90/10 distribution.

We see it happens quite a bit in the low intensity workouts and less in the high ones. You can also see that in the medium intensities (not really easy and not really hard) there is almost nothing. In cycling this area is called "sweet spot". But it is not as optimal as it is always represented. We can only emphasize again and again: This type of training makes less sense to train the VO2max – in the topic Area VLamax we show you what it can be useful for.

That means you train in two very different training areas, which is why this type of training is also called bipolar training. Optimal to train the VO2max.


The VO2max is the product of cardiac output and the arterial-venous oxygen difference. The goal is to achieve the highest possible VO2max. And this can be achieved through appropriate training.

To train the VO2max you should divide your training into HIT and LIT. The load during HIT training is approx. 90-100% of its VO2max (this value can be determined via our DIY performance diagnostics) and you train at intervals. With LIT training, the load is 55-65% of VO2max and you train super relaxed. The distribution of LIT and HIT should be based on the 80/20 rule. Almost no training should take place between these two areas.