How to Improve Your Vo2 Max

How to Improve Your Vo2 Max

Vo2 max is your body’s maximum oxygen capacity or how efficiently your body uses the oxygen it takes in. For athletes, improving Vo2 max can make a huge difference in their performance, so it’s important to do specific types of training for Vo2 max. The most effective exercise for improving Vo2 max is interval training. However, there are other forms of exercise that may be beneficial and you can also make lifestyle changes to boost your results.

Method 1 of 3:
Doing Interval Training

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1
Warm up for at least 5 minutes. Always begin your workouts with 5 to 15 minutes of light to moderate exercise. Do an easier version of the exercise you will be doing for the workout, such as running, swimming, or cycling. [1] X Research source Marching in place or walking at a comfortable pace are great ways to warm up your body for any workout. If you’re going to be swimming laps, then you could warm up with 5 minutes of treading water or a slow-paced breaststroke.
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2
Exercise for 4 minutes at 90 to 95% of your maximum effort. After you have warmed up, begin your intervals by doing your preferred form of exercise, such as running, swimming, or biking. Time yourself exercising at 90 to 95% of your maximum capacity for 4 minutes. This should feel difficult, but not painful or uncomfortable. Calculate your target heart rate and then check your pulse after your first interval for more certainty that you are in the 90 to 95% range. [2] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source If you find it easy to hold a conversation while you are doing the interval, then work harder. Increase your speed or add resistance, such as by increasing the incline on a treadmill or riding your bike up a hill. If you’re doing an exercise where you cannot add resistance, such as swimming or dancing, then pick up the pace until you are working at 90 to 95%.
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3
Rest actively by exercising at a moderate pace for 3 minutes. After 4 minutes, slow back down to a moderate pace and allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal. You can simply do an easier version of the exercise you just did, such as biking at a moderate pace on a flat surface, swimming at a slower pace, or walking. [3] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source If you are still recovering after 3 minutes, then wait for 4 minutes to start the next interval.
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4
Repeat the 4-minute interval with active rest 3 more times. After you finish the first interval, do another 4 minute interval at 90 to 95% of your maximum capacity followed by a 3 minute period of active rest. Exercise at a moderate pace while you do the 3 minutes of active rest. Then, repeat the process twice more. [4] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source If you struggled to sustain 4 minutes of high-intensity exercise, only do 2 or 3 minutes of high-intensity exercise instead.
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5
Cool down and stretch for the last 5 to 10 minutes. After you finish your intervals, return to a light pace again for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, stretch the muscles you worked during your interval training session. [5] X Research source For example, if you did running intervals, then stretch your legs, such as by doing the runner’s stretch, quad stretch, and calf stretches.
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6
Do 1 to 2 sessions per week to see improvement in your Vo2 max. Your Vo2 max won’t improve overnight, but if you incorporate these interval training sessions into your weekly workout routine, you may see an improvement in your Vo2 max within a month. However, if you’re already very fit, then it might take longer to see an improvement in your Vo2 max. [6] X Research source

Tip: Keep in mind that Vo2 max training sessions are challenging, so they’re not meant to be done every day. Do less intense workouts in between your Vo2 max sessions.[7] X Research source

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Method 2 of 3:
Trying Other Workouts

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1
Aim for 35 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise 3 to 4 days per week. One simple way to improve your Vo2 max is to exercise regularly. Participate in your sport or preferred form of exercise 3 to 4 days per week and your Vo2 max will likely improve over time. [8] X Research source For example, if you are a runner, then run on 3 or 4 days per week. If you’re a cyclist, then ride your bike on 3 or 4 days of the week.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 8.jpeg
2
Incorporate strength-training sessions into your weekly routine. Building muscle through regular strength-training sessions may help to boost your Vo2 max. [9] X Research source Aim for two 20 minute strength-training sessions that work all of the muscles in your body 8 to 12 times each. [10] X Trustworthy Source MedlinePlus Collection of medical information sourced from the US National Library of Medicine Go to source For example, you could lift weights or do bodyweight exercises, such as pushups, situps, and squats.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 9.jpeg
3
Do half mile runs using your personal best time as a goal. If you’re a runner, you can use your personal best time for running the mile as an interval target. Divide the time in half and run at 85 to 90% of your max capacity for that amount of time. Then, rest for an equal amount of time and repeat. Do this interval a total of 3 to 4 times for a great Vo2 workout. [11] X Research source For example, if your personal best mile time is 8 minutes and 30 seconds, then half of that would be 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Run for 4 minutes and 15 seconds at 85 to 90% of your max, then rest for 4 minutes and 15 seconds to complete 1 interval.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 10.jpeg
4
Try running or cycling uphill to improve Vo2 max while training muscles. Uphill training is a great way to target less commonly used muscle groups while also improving your Vo2 max. Run or ride your bike outside on a hill, set a treadmill to a 1% or higher incline, or increase the resistance on a stationary bike. Do a 35 to 45 minute workout 1 to 2 times per week to work your Vo2 max. [12] X Research source You could also add resistance on an elliptical walker to add intensity.

Tip: Try incorporating uphill work into your interval workouts for an extra boost to your Vo2 max! For example, you could alternate between running at your max capacity on a flat surface and an incline for your intervals.

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5
Take a HIIT exercise class or follow along with a video for more guidance. HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and you can find classes at your local gym or follow along with free videos online to do a HIIT workout. This type of training will help to boost your Vo2 max and it might be a fun change from your normal workout routine. [13] X Research source Try looking for HIIT videos online. You can find HIIT videos for any fitness level, so choose one that’s right for you.
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Method 3 of 3:
Boosting Your Results

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1
Follow a healthy diet to ensure that your body is well-fueled. Doing intense workouts requires quality fuel and you get that from the foods that you eat. Avoid junk food and processed foods as much as possible. Instead, fuel your body with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. [14] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source Aim for 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks daily to ensure that you always have fuel for your workouts. Avoid eating large meals right before a workout or within 2 hours of bedtime. Drink water throughout the day to stay well-hydrated.
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2
Sleep for at least 7 hours per night to have more energy. Being well-rested will also impact your Vo2 max, so make sleep a priority. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning to ensure that you are getting enough sleep. Some other good strategies for improving your sleep include: [15] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source Making your room dark, cool, and quiet. Avoiding screens within 30 minutes of bedtime, such as by shutting off your TV, phone, and laptop. Avoiding caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 14.jpeg
3
Lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight will have a negative effect on your Vo2 max level, so work on losing any excess weight you are carrying. Even losing 5 pounds (2.3 kg) can be a huge improvement for your Vo2 max. To lose weight, you will need to create a caloric deficit, such as by eating fewer calories than you burn. Some strategies that might help you lose weight include: [16] X Research source Identifying your basal metabolic rate and striving to eat 500 less calories daily. Tracking everything you eat using a food diary or app. Exercising regularly to boost the amount of calories you burn in a day.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 15.jpeg
4
Try taking a daily omega-3 supplement if you’re overweight. One study showed an improvement in the Vo2 max levels of overweight women who took a daily omega-3 supplement as part of a healthy diet and exercise regimen. This might not provide a benefit for everyone, but since omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health in general, it might be worth trying. [17] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to take an omega-3 supplement, or ask your doctor for a recommendation.

Tip Get your Vo2 max measured at a fitness lab for an accurate result. If this is not an option, try using a fitness watch to estimate your Vo2 max. Some fitness watches have this feature built in, but keep in mind that the result is unlikely to be as accurate as a fitness lab test.[18] X Research source

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Method 1 of 3:
Doing Interval Training

Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 1.jpeg
1
Warm up for at least 5 minutes. Always begin your workouts with 5 to 15 minutes of light to moderate exercise. Do an easier version of the exercise you will be doing for the workout, such as running, swimming, or cycling. [1] X Research source Marching in place or walking at a comfortable pace are great ways to warm up your body for any workout. If you’re going to be swimming laps, then you could warm up with 5 minutes of treading water or a slow-paced breaststroke.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 2.jpeg
2
Exercise for 4 minutes at 90 to 95% of your maximum effort. After you have warmed up, begin your intervals by doing your preferred form of exercise, such as running, swimming, or biking. Time yourself exercising at 90 to 95% of your maximum capacity for 4 minutes. This should feel difficult, but not painful or uncomfortable. Calculate your target heart rate and then check your pulse after your first interval for more certainty that you are in the 90 to 95% range. [2] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source If you find it easy to hold a conversation while you are doing the interval, then work harder. Increase your speed or add resistance, such as by increasing the incline on a treadmill or riding your bike up a hill. If you’re doing an exercise where you cannot add resistance, such as swimming or dancing, then pick up the pace until you are working at 90 to 95%.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 3.jpeg
3
Rest actively by exercising at a moderate pace for 3 minutes. After 4 minutes, slow back down to a moderate pace and allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal. You can simply do an easier version of the exercise you just did, such as biking at a moderate pace on a flat surface, swimming at a slower pace, or walking. [3] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source If you are still recovering after 3 minutes, then wait for 4 minutes to start the next interval.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 4.jpeg
4
Repeat the 4-minute interval with active rest 3 more times. After you finish the first interval, do another 4 minute interval at 90 to 95% of your maximum capacity followed by a 3 minute period of active rest. Exercise at a moderate pace while you do the 3 minutes of active rest. Then, repeat the process twice more. [4] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source If you struggled to sustain 4 minutes of high-intensity exercise, only do 2 or 3 minutes of high-intensity exercise instead.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 5.jpeg
5
Cool down and stretch for the last 5 to 10 minutes. After you finish your intervals, return to a light pace again for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, stretch the muscles you worked during your interval training session. [5] X Research source For example, if you did running intervals, then stretch your legs, such as by doing the runner’s stretch, quad stretch, and calf stretches.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 6.jpeg
6
Do 1 to 2 sessions per week to see improvement in your Vo2 max. Your Vo2 max won’t improve overnight, but if you incorporate these interval training sessions into your weekly workout routine, you may see an improvement in your Vo2 max within a month. However, if you’re already very fit, then it might take longer to see an improvement in your Vo2 max. [6] X Research source

Tip: Keep in mind that Vo2 max training sessions are challenging, so they’re not meant to be done every day. Do less intense workouts in between your Vo2 max sessions.[7] X Research source

Advertisement

Method 2 of 3:
Trying Other Workouts

Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 7.jpeg
1
Aim for 35 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise 3 to 4 days per week. One simple way to improve your Vo2 max is to exercise regularly. Participate in your sport or preferred form of exercise 3 to 4 days per week and your Vo2 max will likely improve over time. [8] X Research source For example, if you are a runner, then run on 3 or 4 days per week. If you’re a cyclist, then ride your bike on 3 or 4 days of the week.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 8.jpeg
2
Incorporate strength-training sessions into your weekly routine. Building muscle through regular strength-training sessions may help to boost your Vo2 max. [9] X Research source Aim for two 20 minute strength-training sessions that work all of the muscles in your body 8 to 12 times each. [10] X Trustworthy Source MedlinePlus Collection of medical information sourced from the US National Library of Medicine Go to source For example, you could lift weights or do bodyweight exercises, such as pushups, situps, and squats.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 9.jpeg
3
Do half mile runs using your personal best time as a goal. If you’re a runner, you can use your personal best time for running the mile as an interval target. Divide the time in half and run at 85 to 90% of your max capacity for that amount of time. Then, rest for an equal amount of time and repeat. Do this interval a total of 3 to 4 times for a great Vo2 workout. [11] X Research source For example, if your personal best mile time is 8 minutes and 30 seconds, then half of that would be 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Run for 4 minutes and 15 seconds at 85 to 90% of your max, then rest for 4 minutes and 15 seconds to complete 1 interval.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 10.jpeg
4
Try running or cycling uphill to improve Vo2 max while training muscles. Uphill training is a great way to target less commonly used muscle groups while also improving your Vo2 max. Run or ride your bike outside on a hill, set a treadmill to a 1% or higher incline, or increase the resistance on a stationary bike. Do a 35 to 45 minute workout 1 to 2 times per week to work your Vo2 max. [12] X Research source You could also add resistance on an elliptical walker to add intensity.

Tip: Try incorporating uphill work into your interval workouts for an extra boost to your Vo2 max! For example, you could alternate between running at your max capacity on a flat surface and an incline for your intervals.

Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 11.jpeg
5
Take a HIIT exercise class or follow along with a video for more guidance. HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and you can find classes at your local gym or follow along with free videos online to do a HIIT workout. This type of training will help to boost your Vo2 max and it might be a fun change from your normal workout routine. [13] X Research source Try looking for HIIT videos online. You can find HIIT videos for any fitness level, so choose one that’s right for you.
Advertisement

Method 3 of 3:
Boosting Your Results

Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 12.jpeg
1
Follow a healthy diet to ensure that your body is well-fueled. Doing intense workouts requires quality fuel and you get that from the foods that you eat. Avoid junk food and processed foods as much as possible. Instead, fuel your body with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. [14] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source Aim for 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks daily to ensure that you always have fuel for your workouts. Avoid eating large meals right before a workout or within 2 hours of bedtime. Drink water throughout the day to stay well-hydrated.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 13.jpeg
2
Sleep for at least 7 hours per night to have more energy. Being well-rested will also impact your Vo2 max, so make sleep a priority. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning to ensure that you are getting enough sleep. Some other good strategies for improving your sleep include: [15] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source Making your room dark, cool, and quiet. Avoiding screens within 30 minutes of bedtime, such as by shutting off your TV, phone, and laptop. Avoiding caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 14.jpeg
3
Lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight will have a negative effect on your Vo2 max level, so work on losing any excess weight you are carrying. Even losing 5 pounds (2.3 kg) can be a huge improvement for your Vo2 max. To lose weight, you will need to create a caloric deficit, such as by eating fewer calories than you burn. Some strategies that might help you lose weight include: [16] X Research source Identifying your basal metabolic rate and striving to eat 500 less calories daily. Tracking everything you eat using a food diary or app. Exercising regularly to boost the amount of calories you burn in a day.
Image titled Improve Your Vo2 Max Step 15.jpeg
4
Try taking a daily omega-3 supplement if you’re overweight. One study showed an improvement in the Vo2 max levels of overweight women who took a daily omega-3 supplement as part of a healthy diet and exercise regimen. This might not provide a benefit for everyone, but since omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health in general, it might be worth trying. [17] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to take an omega-3 supplement, or ask your doctor for a recommendation.

Tip Get your Vo2 max measured at a fitness lab for an accurate result. If this is not an option, try using a fitness watch to estimate your Vo2 max. Some fitness watches have this feature built in, but keep in mind that the result is unlikely to be as accurate as a fitness lab test.[18] X Research source

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