Who Has a Higher VO2 Max?

I remember Poliquin saying on some article that his Anaerobic athletes had a higher VO2 max than his aerobic athletes. Recently I had an argument with someone about the issue. Can anyone help me with a link to some research that might prove Poliquin’s claim?

  1. Let’s remove Poliquin and his particular athletes from the equation for two reasons: that has nothing to do with the general question, and we have no specific information on those athletes.

  2. VO2 max is often given as the absolute figure, in liters per minute. This is considered to be mostly genetic. An individual with larger lungs and heart with more pumping capacity will tend to have a larger value. Naturally larger individuals tend to be in that category.

  3. As elite endurance athletes tend to be naturally smaller individuals, as the sports select for such, while so-called anaerobic athletes tend to be naturally larger individuals as their sports select for such, not surprisingly the latter athletes may have larger lungs and more pumping capacity and with that, higher VO2 max.

The highest Vo2max’s ever recorded are from elite aerobic athletes. Some XC skier had a Vo2max of 92ml/kg.

So, it depends on if you’re meausring relative or absolute. An absolute Vo2max means nothing without its relation to bodyweight.

Large animals have larger absolute Vo2max. This is just a given. You could probably find a few bodybuilder types, who typically do a lot of high volume training, with high absolute Vo2max’s…but they wouldn’t do so well on a 5k run test due to their weight. That is why relative Vo2max is a better predictor of endurance performance.

Give me 1000 people. Those with higher relative Vo2max’s will tend to perform better at a test of aerobic endurance. Now, it’s not a good individual predictor as you can have athletes with a very small difference in Vo2max but a large difference in performance or vice versa.

Poliquin is jerking you around with HIS statistics. Smart dude. Great coach. Maybe the BEST strength coach on the planet…but he’s still got to sell you something so sometimes he gets a little facetious. Sort of like his “I can put 20lbs of muscle on you while you drop 20lbs of fat in 2.3 weeks!” comments.

Take all the pro athletes in the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB and let them race a 5k. The lighter guys will win. Now let them race trained elite runners. The elite runners will win. The elite runners have higher relative Vo2max. Absolute doesn’t really mean anything as far as performance is concerned.


Thanks guys, you really explained it well.

Anaerobic athletes DO NOT have higher VO2max scores compared to conventional endurance athletes.

HOWEVER, anaerobic training is an extremely efficient way to increase your VO2max, and is often performed by endurance athletes as a means of boosting said VO2max.

As an addition to the info, VO2max is also dependent on the ability of the musculature to utilize available oxygen, so having big lungs and a good heart may not be enough. Mitochondrial volume, mitochondrial protein volume content, oxidative and glycolytic enzyme levels, are also important factors to consider.

Traditional aerobic training tends to be appropriate for peripheral adaptation, whereas recent research shows that high intensity interval work is very good for both central and peripheral adaptation.

Poliquin is simply abusing science and distorting the facts for whatever reason.

There are countless pieces of evidence for this; search for PUBMED on google, and type in whatever you want to search for, and you will have abstract access to these types of articles.

I remember watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel about Lance Armstrong and how/why he achieved what he did in the Tour De France. One part of the programme was dedicated to VO2max’s, and that Lance had the highest VO2max ever recorded in history. This was several years ago mind you, so I don’t know if it still stands.


Good read ?

Past a certain point in terms of VO2 however, it ceases to be the best predictor of endurance performance. A lot of the Soviet data on their endurance athletes used to show a decline in VO2 max as the track season progressed, yet times continued to quicken. A lot of people look to anaerobic threshold as a percentage of Vo2 max as the key predictor of endurance performance.

I think central mechanisms are also overrated as the limiting factor to endurance performance. One of Alwyn Cosgrove’s posts about Lance Armstrong running the New York Marathon illustrates it well. If you put a conservative estimate of Armstrong’s VO2 max alongside elite marathon runners, he should have come in at around 2 hours 20, et his eventual time was past the 3 hour mark. You could argue the big discrepancy between his predicted and actual performance arose from a lack of adaptation at the peripheral level e.g. all his years of cycling had lead to adaptation of the musculature employed during cycling NOT running.