Big Mat's VO2 Max Test
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VO2 Max Test        |        Muscle Biopsy

VO2 Photos       |       Biopsy Photos       |       More Biopsy Photos



Mathew Marques
VO2 MAX Test

Gotta love having a Snorkel mask on for 30 minutes

I guess a good place to start is the reason why I have chosen to partake in what some may classify as a sadistic activity. I find it most interesting how bodies can cope with such high stresses, imposed by weather, others or even by oneself. It is my curiosity in this field which has led me to become rather intrigued by the limits of my own body. Yeah sure i can go out and ride a bike till i feel sick, and often there are times when this happens, but there is no real yardstick for comparison as everyone is different in bodyshape and other physical characteristics (i.e. lung capacity, Max HR and of course VO2 Max). This last point has led me to undertake a university study in which they would test my VO2 Max (put simply this is the amount of oxygen that your body can intake, utilise and expire as measured in ml/kg/min).

Although it is a highly genetically determined factor, VO2 Max can be used to compare athletes as it is per kilogram of body weight, thus standardising the results to a comparable level (note: increases of VO2 Max obtainable via training are only 10-30%). One can increase their own Lactic Acid Threshold (LT) by training at intervals and thus prolonging the time required to reach their peak, and i shall discuss this further in my written account of the tests. So as VO2 is a genetic predisposition, with little environmental influence, i went into the test hoping to pass the requirements of greater than or equal to 60 ml/kg/min so that i could continue in the study. So I trained my arse off before the study date to attempt to increase my LT by doing intervals, at 4 mins (95% MHR) and 3 mins rest (70% MHR). Hoping that this would help me out i went in to the test on the 31st of January 2001.

Once at Deakin University I was allowed to modify the stationary bike for my appropirate measurements and psych myself up for the oncoming Hell that is the "Incremental Test". It is named this because of the following format.
00-5 mins @ 50 Watts.
05-10 mins @ 100 Watts.
10-15 mins @ 150 Watts.
15-20 mins @ 200 Watts.
20-21 mins @ 225 Watts.
Then each additional minute the work load to continue is increased by 25 W.

So if you last 28 mins that translated to a power ouput of 400W when you gave up. Thats enough power to work five 51cm NEC televisions simultaneously! So I had spoken to a few poeple and they thought that I would reach around 350 W and die. I thought this would be a great result, mind you they underestimated my determination on the day.

So before the test, the doctor inserted a teflon catheter into my right arm so that the experimenters would be able to obtain blood samples during the Incremental Test. This did not hurt, and I thought it was rather interesting as it was just hanging out of my arm. So then I was fitted with the HR monitor, which is just a little black strap which sits around your chest (a non invasive measure). Then i was set to begin the test. One more thing before I explain the details of the actual test. On the same morning I spoke to a friend and he had done the test, and warned me not to have a visual of my HR whilst i was doing the test. He claimed that this made him stop short as he was worried about his MHR at the time. So keeping that in mind i proceeded with the test and no visual of my HR, as i knew I had only ever reached 203 BPM and thought this may distract me from trying any harder.

Of course the first 10 mins were dead simple, there was almost no resistance to keep me interested, but i knew that this would soon change. Even at 15 mins i was cycling comfortably and was keeping my cadence (pedal revolutions/minute) at around 80. This was surpirsing the lead experimenter as she expected me to pedal at a much higher cadence, but i knew what i was doing. Then when notified of 19 mins had passed, i calculated my assault on the pedalling world. I raised my cadence to a time trial pace, so thus lifting my pedal revolutions to 110/minute. Then i got the "a-ha i see what you are doing now!" from the lead expermienter and mentally braced myself for the hardest minutes of my life. The first few minutes were not too difficult as i believe that i kept it ticking over at a cadence of 110, but when i reached around 300 W (24 minute mark) i think i may have dropped a few revs. Whilst all this was going on i was still having blood taken, but that did not distract me as the snorkel mask i was wearing was filled with saliva by this point and the slurring of my own fluids were enough to keep my mind off any tiny distractions like the vampires in lab coats.

I reckon I knew I had hit 350 W, but was not sure if I had passed it. I just recall that the last three minutes were extremely hard, as i was in and out of the saddle to keep the cadence higher, as it is easier to spin a gear than it is to grind it. Ullrich I do not know how you do it. Maybe drugs, but back to the story at hand. Anyways i was sure that i had lasted longer than 26 minutes, i just knew it. I pushed and pushed until i had no more, and was virtually standing on the pedals. People were yelling and screaming for me to continue and this is what kept me going for the last few minutes alone. The power of others supporting you really is incredible. I just remember them yelling, "five more seconds Mathew! You can do it!" They really helped me along and for this I must thanks all those in the room for helping me achive a Power Output of just on 425 W. The reality is i was just 3 seconds short of 425 W, so this meant that i had lasted 27 minutes and 57 seconds. A lot better than the expected 350 W. I had also peaked at 63.5 ml/kg/min, but an average was taken to be at around 61.5 ml/kg/min. My MHR also peaked out at 205 BPM, and i held it above 200 BPM for the final two minutes. A break down of each minute by minute resut is just below.

00-05 mins @ 050 Watts    HR 103    VO2 14.7
05-10 mins @ 100 Watts    HR 119    VO2 21.9
10-15 mins @ 150 Watts    HR 135    VO2 29.3
15-20 mins @ 200 Watts    HR 160    VO2 38.3
20-21 mins @ 225 Watts    HR 171    VO2 41.3
21-22 mins @ 250 Watts    HR 181    VO2 46.3
22-23 mins @ 275 Watts    HR 185    VO2 47.1
23-24 mins @ 300 Watts    HR 189    VO2 50.3
24-25 mins @ 325 Watts    HR 194    VO2 55.3
25-26 mins @ 350 Watts    HR 198    VO2 55.1
26-27 mins @ 375 Watts    HR 204    VO2 60.8
27-28 mins @ 400 Watts    HR 204    VO2 55.1
28-29 mins @ 425 Watts    HR 205    VO2 n/a

Later I also found out that my LT was 78% of my VO2 Max. I was told this was a good result, and not just by the examiner. Also by the individual who thought I'd score 350 W. In lamens terms LT translates to the point where there is a sharp increase in the lactic acid content in my blood plasma, which roughly equates to the point at which my systems change from aerobic to anaerobic. This value was when my HR reached 185 BPM. This makes a hell of a lot of sense to myself as I constantly race at a high HR, which rarely drops below 180 BPM. So there it is, my vital statistics for my cycling performance. You can now view the pics below of the actual event.

Pics of the VO2 MAX Test



Mathew Marques
Muscle Biopsy Procedure

Hey, even if there is no pain it doesnt stop your leg from jiggling

As a continuance of the first test, the study required the participant to undertaken several muscle biopsies for the experimenter to search for "IMP, TCAI and glycogen during prolonged exercise to fatigue." For anyone who is not aware, a biopsy is when then remove a part of your tissue, and in this case it was to be some muscle tissue in my left leg. Not a big deal some say, well so did I, and I think I wasn't too far off the mark as it was quite an interesting experience.

So the deal was that I turn up a day before the biopsy and cycle for 100 minutes and then do some sprint efforts until I was completely knackered. No big deal right? Well after this two hour stint I was then required to eat a diet which was high in FAT. THe diet is outlined below:


2250 kcal
39g CHO (6.5%), 142g protein, 174g fat.

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs - 5 eggs, milk and 2 slices of cheese
Glass of low cal cordial.

Lunch: 6 'sandwiches' made with cheese, ham (6 slices), and 6 pieces of cheese
2 stalks of celery
Glass of low cal cordial

Dinner: 5 large boiled frankfurts + 2 Dsp tomato sauce
Salad made with one tomato, lettuce, 2-3 stalks of celery and mayo
1 small canteloupe + 2 Tbs cream

Water ad libitum.

Sounds like a lot? I can tell you that I was stuffing my face at any opportunity that day, whilst at work, in order to complete the set eating regime which I had to finish by 8pm that evening. The hot dogs were alright, but I tell you that lunch was pretty funkified. It was like SPAM. Can't wait (being sincere) to the high carbohydrate diet which includes pasta!

The testing began after the teflon catheter had been implanted in my left arm (for blood samples) and an initial biopsy had been done. The procedure for the biopsy was initialised by the local anaesthtising of my left leg, half way up my thigh. Then as there were to be three biopsies during the day, three small incisions of around 5 mm were carried out in a vertical line to my leg. The first biopsy was taken before the test and did it feel strange. As my skin had been anaesthetised and muscles do not have pain receptors, my brain knew someone or something was fiddling around in my leg, howevere as i had no pain response it felt rather strange. That is why when the initial biopsy was taken it felt similar to someone tickling your ribs really hard, but that is was happening inside your leg!

So the 100 minute ride plus the sprint exerts directly afterwards, compounded with the dodgie high fat diet made for an interesting cocktail of future events. So I expected to feel shitty for the trial, but ended cycling for quite a while. The second biopsy came at 15 minutes into the exercise, same deal, except i just leant off the bike and a catcher held me whilst the two docs did their stuff. Then i cycled some more. Watched videos during my time on the bike, and occasionaly had the scuba mask on, and that was alright. Towards the end I felt so so stuffed though. By that stage I have not eaten for around 15 hours, and the food I had ingested was fatty, not exactly the best energy for your muscles.

I truthfully say that i have had fewer tiring experiences on the bike (comes close to when I had low glucose levels during a team time trial at the univerity games and my HR kept dropping). I was exhausted, and the final biopsy came as a relief (see photos). Then I proceeded to eat everything in sight. A mars bar, bread rolls, lots of sports drink, toast when I got home. What an experience. My leg is still sore, but it just feels like a corked thigh, nothing more. I even went for a 60 kms ride the following day and i was fine, felt pretty strong too. Hopefully you have endured and enjoyed the tale of my scientific lab rat status. I do these things for my pleasure and everyone else's amusement.

Pics of the muscle biopsies


My stats vs. Miguel Indurain's. No comparison.


Miguel Indurain

 TDF Winning Years  1991,'92,'93,'94,'95  n/a
 Weight (kg)   79   71.5
 Height (cm)   187   185
 Resting Heart Rate   28 bpm   38 bpm
 Maximum Heart Rate   195 bpm   205 bpm
 Lung Capacity   7.8 litres   ? litres
 VO2 Max   64   61.5
 Incremental Power Output   ? Watts   425 Watts


Photo Gallery of the VO2 MAX Test

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Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques   



Photo Gallery of the muscle biopsy procedure

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Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques   

Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques   



More muscle biopsy procedure photos

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Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques   

Mathew Marques    Mathew Marques


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page last updated on 08/06/01