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Grant Lamkin

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What Is VO2 Max Testing?

GettyImages-915799224VO2 max testing, or graded exercise testing, is a treadmill run or cycle to volitional fatigue—or pretty much going until you must stop. The test will tell us how many liters of oxygen you are able to take in and use for cellular respiration.

Physiologically, people use oxygen for a variety of things. The main purpose is for the oxygen to get into the cells’ mitochondria so that it can be used to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main energy source in the body. People use ATP to do pretty much everything: move our muscles, think, and even digest food. So the more oxygen you can take in and convert to energy, the longer and faster you can run due to this surplus of energy you are making at the cellular level.

What the Test Is Like

The test starts at a low speed and no incline on the treadmill. Then every so often the treadmill gets a little faster and a little higher. The increases are almost unnoticed and most start out walking. On the other hand, on the cycle, the resistance gets a little harder occasionally and the participant is expected to maintain the same rotations per minute (RPM). With both tests, the person is expected to go until they feel they must stop, when their workload is too great to maintain or their legs become too fatigued to continue.

What the Test Measures

While exercising, you will be hooked up to different devices to monitor your vitals such as a heart rate monitor and a ventilator of sorts. Some tests will also measure blood pressure and rate of perceived exertion. Trainers can use the information from these devices to generate a customized endurance program for you to push you to increase your VO2 max, and in turn, your overall endurance. VO2 max testing is a great way to know where you are currently at in your endurance training. It is comparable to doing repetition max testing on weights in strength training.

How the Results Can Shape Your Training

Trainers can utilize the data from a VO2 max test to make a program customized to your physiology. From a VO2 max test we can see what your heart rate maximum is exactly, and using these numbers we can get more accurate training zones for you. The ventilator gives a variety of useful data such as your aerobic threshold, or the point when you really start to breathe hard. This is the point where a person really starts to hate running, so knowing this point can help us stay below that more often, making the training more enjoyable while still receiving the benefits. Knowing different heart rate zones can help prevent overtraining and help push you to your fullest capacity, causing your body to adapt and consume more oxygen.

The measurements of blood pressure and perceived exertion are more common in a clinical setting to ensure normal responses to exercise, so they are not always necessary in healthy populations. The trainer can use rate of perceived exertion, however, to know how a person feels at certain running speeds. If someone feels that they are working very hard at a faster speed, the trainer may stay below that speed more often to make the runner more comfortable; and if a certain speed feels very easy, the trainer may ramp up the pace.

VO2 Max Testing at NIFS

Korr CardioCoach metabolic system VO2 max testing is offered here at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport. Connect with a trainer at the track desk if you have any interest or questions. VO2 max testing is a great way to gauge your endurance level going into marathon training, and a great way to pace yourself in a race by knowing where you are at physiologically at different workloads. Knowing your VO2 max as a runner is like how a powerlifter knows what the maximum amount of weight they can bench is. If you don’t have a benchmark going into a competition, you run the risk of over- or under-shooting and not performing as well. You don’t necessarily have to partake in a full VO2 max test if you are concerned about going to volitional fatigue. There are submaximal tests and estimation equations that can be utilized to get a rough estimate of your VO2 max. See a NIFS staff member with any questions you have pertaining to a VO2 max test or to schedule your test today.

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This blog was written by Grant Lamkin, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: personal training heart rate energy programs vo2 max oxygen fitness assessment testing

What Is Your Target Maximal Heart Rate for Training?

GettyImages-1310475310While training your cardiovascular system, it is important to understand how much you are stressing and overloading the system. Just like with your musculoskeletal system, there is a maximum rate your heart can achieve. The best way to discover this number is to undergo a maximal aerobic capacity test, but it isn’t necessarily practical or safe for all populations.

Calculating Your Maximal Heart Rate

A much easier way to determine your personal maximal heart rate is to use a predicted value. For the general population you can simply subtract your age from 220 and that would equal your age-predicted heart rate.

220 – (Age) = Age-predicted maximal heart rate (APMHR)

Now that you know your predicted maximal heart rate, you can figure out where your heart rate should be when exercising aerobically. The ranges are as follows:

  • Very light: <30%
  • Light: 30–39%
  • Moderate: 40–59%
  • Vigorous: 60–89%
  • Near maximal: >90%
  • APMHR x (desired percentage lower end) = Lower target heart rate

APMHR x (desired percentage upper end) = Upper target heart rate

Choosing the Right Range

So what do these ranges mean?

  • If you are new to the gym, you probably want to start more in the very light to light range. This can prevent burnout and reduce the risk of injury. Starting lower and progressing the duration of the workout, the number of times you exercise per week, or the intensity is a great way to ease yourself into exercise.
  • If you are looking to gain some cardiovascular fitness and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, you want to shoot for the moderate range. This will stress your system enough to see the benefits associated with cardiovascular training such as a lower resting heart rate.
  • Finally, if you are looking to set a new personal best mile time or are training for the Mini-Marathon, having a few training days in the vigorous range to near maximal can really help overload your cardiovascular and reap the benefits.

Ask Your NIFS HFS

If you want to learn more about heart rate ranges, come to the Track Desk and ask one of our Health Fitness Specialists.

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This blog was written by Grant Lamkin, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio injury prevention cardiovascular heart rate aerobic Mini-Marathon Training Program

Skip the Abdominal Crunch and Try These Core Strength Exercises

Screen Shot 2021-09-07 at 4.16.27 PMWe all know that core stability and strength is an important factor in exercise, athletics, and even daily living. Being able to properly brace and stiffen the core is an important skill in preventing lower-back injuries when attempting certain movement patterns that occur every day. The abdominal crunch, which people often think of as a core exercise, is actually not a movement we see in our day-to-day lives. Try and think of a time you have had to mimic the abdominal crunch under a heavy load: it simply does not occur.

More often than not, we need to be stronger in the core in a more upright or natural standing posture. The abdominal crunch is now being found to stress the low-back area, can cause discomfort by compressing your back joints, and can even lead to injury after a while.

So you are probably wondering, how do I strengthen my core in an upright position? The answer is through anti-movement patterns. These could be anti-rotational, anti-flexion/extension, or anytime you are forcing your body to resist being moved from a normal posture. These patterns can be accomplished in an isometric hold or a dynamic pattern with bands, kettlebells, or weights.

Anti-rotational Exercise: The Paloff Press

An example of an anti-rotational exercise would be the Paloff press, shown here:

The goal is to press the handle from your belly button slowly and in a controlled manner so that the core has to work to not let your body turn.

Anti-Flexion or Extension Exercise: The Plank

An example of an anti-flexion or extension would be a plank, as shown here:

The goal is to keep your hips down and really engage the core area by pulling your belly button in. You can add weights to your back or increase the time you do these to make them more challenging!

Strengthening Exercise: The Kettlebell March

An example of strengthening the core in that normal standing position would be a kettlebell march, where you can either do two kettlebells in the front squat position or one held out in front. Both are shown here:

Marching slowly and controlled is the key for this exercise. While doing this, all the muscles in your core fire to prevent you from falling any direction while you balance on one leg.

HubSpot Video

See a NIFS Health Fitness Specialist to learn how you can start strengthening your core in a neutral position to assist with your exercises and your day-to-day life. See these links for more information:

ACSM core PowerPoint: http://forms.acsm.org/TPC/PDFs/23%20Best.pdf

PT Dr. Aaron Horschig: “The Big Three”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_e4I-brfqs

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This blog was written by Grant Lamkin, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: injury prevention videos core strength core exercises lower back pain anti-rotational anti-flexion