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Establishing maximal oxygen uptake in young people during a ramp cycle test to exhaustion
  1. A R Barker1,2,
  2. C A Williams1,2,
  3. A M Jones1,
  4. N Armstrong2
  1. 1Bioenergetics and Human Performance Research Group, School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  2. 2Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre, School of Sport and Health Sciences, St Luke's Campus, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alan R Barker, School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX1 2LU, UK; A.R.Barker{at}


Objectives This study tested the hypotheses that (1) secondary criteria (respiratory exchange ratio (RER), heart rate, blood [lactate]) traditionally used to verify the determination of maximum oxygen uptake (V̇O2max) in children can result in the acceptance of a ‘submaximal’ V̇O2max or falsely reject a ‘true’ V̇O2max and (2) the V̇O2peak recorded during a ramp test in children is comparable to the V̇O2peak achieved during supramaximal testing.

Methods Thirteen children (9–10 years) completed a ramp cycle test to exhaustion to determine their V̇O2peak. After 15 min of recovery, the participants performed a supramaximal cycle test to exhaustion at 105% of their ramp test peak power.

Results Compared with the V̇O2peak during the ramp test, a significantly lower V̇O2 was recorded at a RER of 1.00 (1.293 litre/min (SD 0.265) vs 1.681 litre/min (SD 0.295), p<0.001, n=12), at a heart rate of 195 beats/min (1.556 litre/min (SD 0.265) vs 1.721 litre/min (SD 0.318), p<0.001, n=10) and at 85% of age-predicted maximum (1.345 litre/min (SD 0.228) vs 1.690 litre/min (SD 0.284), p<0.001, n=13). Supramaximal testing yielded a V̇O2peak that was not significantly different from the ramp test (1.615 litre/min (SD 0.307) vs 1.690 litre/min (SD 0.284), p=0.090, respectively).

Conclusions The use of secondary criteria to verify a maximal effort in young people during ramp cycling exercise may result in the acceptance of a submaximal V̇O2max. As supramaximal testing elicits a V̇O2peak similar to the ramp protocol, thus satisfying the plateau criterion, the use of such tests is recommended as the appropriate method of confirming a ‘true’ V̇O2max with children.

Keywords Children, Aerobic Fitness, Fitness Testing, Supramaximal Exercise.

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  • Ethics approval This study was granted ethics approval from the School of Sport and Health Sciences Ethics Committee, University of Exeter.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.