TR RAMP Test & VO2 Max

If one had the ability to perform gas exchange analysis while performing the TR ramp test would this be a suitable protocol for an accurate VO2 Max score? Or would you suggest a different protocol other than TR’s 6% increase every minute?

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I think that while they may seem similar, they measure different things and therefore may not necessarily blend very well. When doing a VO2Max test, with gas exchange analysis, you’re increasing the workload for the athlete while monitoring their respiratory exchange ratio and completing the test when that ratio gets to 1.0, or thereabouts.

Many times, athletes are not riding to exhaustion in a VO2Max test, whereas in the Ramp Test they are. Also, the Ramp Test’s steps are every minute, whereas a VO2Max testing will typically have ramps lasting 2mins and moving to 1min as the athlete gets closer to 1.0. Ideally, there’s a bit of desire to have some steady state in each ramp before bumping to the next, especially in the aerobic zones.

All that being said, you could use a 1min ramp test and measure RER, but I think you may get to VO2Max too quickly and miss out on some granularity in the athlete’s response. Just my 2 cents.

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@Oblewis I think potentially there may be some confusion?

When doing a max VO2 test it is done to failure and is not dependent on the RQ or respiratory exchange. Typically RQ is looked at (and a couple of other measures) for finding Anerobic threshold and typically is around 1.

If someone quit a VO2 max test when RQ reaches 1 they most certainly would not necessarily have reached anything other than anaerobic threshold. Doing a test in this manner and looking for an RQ of 1 takes much longer and more gradual steps as there is typically a small bump in RQ before things settle in.

A lot of times this test is then continued to try and find max VO2 but usually it is not quite as accurate because the steps have taken too long (finding anaerobic threshold is much more granular than VO2 max) and exhaustion sets in. In both cases we typically put the athlete back on the bike or treadmill after a short break and ramp the treadmill speed or the watts on the bike up to the next level and put the athlete back to work and see if they have truly gotten to their VO2 max.


@Enduraprep there is a different protocol that is very highly correlated with finding VO2 max and that entails 2.5 min ramps with an increase of 25 watts. In research this has been found to have an R value of .98 so while not perfect is highly correlated with VO2 max

Here is a link to a good explanation of the test and how to do it by @GPLama
How to do a Step Test // Finding your FTP fast with Zwift - YouTube
Here is a further link showing how to do the math to figure it out also with @GPLama
HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR VO2MAX: Serious Cycling by Numbers - YouTube

Thanks for the reply. So are you saying you could run the TR protocol to find FTP and within the same session have the athlete test again with the different VO2 Max protocol and get good results?

Lawrence Cronk

Triathlon & Endurance Coaching

Social Media: @enduraprep


@Enduraprep sorry if that’s what you thought I was suggesting. You had asked if the TR protocol would be good for determining vO2 max if one had the capability of measuring using a gas analyzer. I don’t know if there has been much research on the TR protocol in that regard but do know that the protocol I suggested has had lots of research done with it and it is highly accurate. I have never seen anything in the literature using the exact protocol TR uses so can’t comment whether it would be as accurate. My sense is that it would be pretty close however.

When doing VO2 max tests in general, we use a second “test” which is simply increasing the load after a couple of minutes of recovery (speed or angle on the treadmill and an increase in watts on the bike) and restart the test at that point simply to see if the athlete quit early before they had reached their max VO2 max. Typically in trained athletes this is rarely the case but in subjects not accustomed to testing it does happen. This however wouldn’t work if one isn’t using a metabolic cart to measure gas exchange though.

Hope that clears things up?

OK thanks. The product info from the gas exchange equipment manufacturer (Korr Medical) suggest a 1-2 minute ramp, reaching exhaustion in under 20 minutes (much the same as the TR protocol). So my idea was to use the TR protocol with the gas exchange equipment together so I could obtain an FTP prediction from TR and pull aerobic and anaerobic heart rate points as well as VO2 max from the gas exchange software. Can you see any issues with this approach?

Lawrence Cronk
Triathlon & Endurance Coaching

Twitter & Instagram: @enduraprep
Facebook: Enduraprep

@Enduraprep Ahhh I gotcha now. For what you are trying to do I don’t think that should be a problem. You will likely be able to tell if you have reached their Max VO2 by looking at their respiratory exchange if it flattens out but you could definitely use the protocol of putting the athlete back on the bike after 2 to 3 min rest and start ramping up again to see if you indeed gott their max VO2.

This would be seen as separate from the ramp test to determine FTP and just to confirmed VO2max only.

Also it may be difficult to see a definitive spot to choose for anaerobic threshold and therefore anaerobic threshold hr though. This usually requires a little bit longer ramps or things to settle in. That’s typically why lactate threshold and VO2 max are not done in the same test.

You would be able to “ballpark it” though. If you do then I would suggest setting up the software to take readings every 10 seconds or so if it allows it. One minute ramps will still be tough to get the proper hr as it can go through the zone and miss it all in a one minute period of time via the hr not having settled at that point and still be in the process of ramping up.

Thanks for your responses really helpful! I’ve run the gas exchange and TR ramp test together on a handful of people and the results have looked OK so far. The software highlights HR thresholds throughout the ramp but you can manipulate their suggested zones if you see something different from the graphs. Just wanted to ask a few opinions as unless the TR guys have tried the test with gas exchange I doubt anyone else has yet. Thanks again!

Hi @Enduraprep. First off, our test is aimed at estimating FTP, so I’m not sure it would be the best protocol for an actual gas exchange analysis. Secondly, and here’s the catch, any effort above your maximal steady-state power (or what we attempt to estimate with any FTP assessment) will eventually elicit VO2max.

What I mean is, when you ride above FTP you’re involving very endurance-limited resources while battling escalating anaerobic byproducts and your oxygen uptake will climb, climb, climb in order to meet the work demand, process the excess lactate, and compensate for the declining anaerobic contribution. Unless you do it ridiculously quickly, perhaps by going all-out for a handful of minutes, any stepped protocol will get you there sooner or later.

Think of riding at 105% FTP for 15 minutes vs 120% FTP for 5 minutes. Both will push most riders to the brink of their aerobic uptake or beyond, but saying your power at VO2max is 105% FTP or 120% FTP is not a true measure of your power at your peak aerobic uptake, it’s just a measure of your power when your peak uptake was achieved at x-watts. So while you may be able to land on a solid measure of (leg-driven) VO2max (peak, technically) and see how much O2 is being utilized, associating a particular power output with it is protocol-dependent.

So much like FTP assessment, it comes down to picking a protocol and adhering to that same protocol every time. After all, what we’re really trying to measure is improvement, not simply the highest number attainable (unless you’re just concerned with comparisons and bragging rights).

So I’d defer to an exercise lab’s reputation. Some are chock full of knowledgeable exercise scientists, some are less than reliable. Find one you trust and ask for an explanation of why they use that particular protocol. I’ve done LT and VO2max tests where the power was escalated too rapidly and ones that drag the steps out too long or abbreviate them excessively (both can give misleading pVO2max numbers), so I’d ask around if you have the good fortune of options and informed opinions.


I’ll follow up on @chad’s post a bit…

Endurance exercise falls into a number of intensity domains:

  1. Moderate: this is exercise that is below estimated LT/VT where oxygen uptake achieves a steady state.
  2. Heavy: this is between LT/VT and Critical Power (FTP for ease, although technically not the same thing). During this intensity, oxygen uptake shows a slow-component increase but will achieve a steady state. Lactate shows a steady state as well.
    3.Severe: this is above critical power, but below VO2max, oxygen consumption does not achieve a steady state and projects towards VO2max. If the workrate is just above CP then you will achieve VO2max, and as PO increases towards maximal aerobic power (the lowest PO that obtains VO2max), VO2max will be observed.
  3. Extreme: PO’s are typically too high for a duration long enough to achieve VO2max and exercise is stopped before VO2max is achieved.

When doing VO2max testing it is possible to use this discrete bouts of exercise to achieve VO2max. For example we could do 5 min bouts at PO’s above your known CP and measure your gas exchange. We would have to do a few with increase PO’s (could be on the same day or on different days), but eventually we would start to see similar maximal values. However, if we jump too high and go into the sever domain you will stop exercising before VO2max is achieved.

This essentially how the first VO2max testing was done by A.V. Hill in the 1920’s. Increasing velocity around a track, while collecting gas in a weather balloon (Douglas bag) at the end of each lap) - rest - go faster - repeat. Quite an ingenious experiment and helped him win a Nobel Prize.

When testing VO2max in our lab we use a few different approaches.

  1. ramp incremental tests- These are typically done using a computer controlled bike (smart trainer) with 20-25W/min increases in PO (so, approximately 0.4W/s increases). We collect gas exchange data (both VO2 and VCO2) and are then able to estimate aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. Advantages are the we can assess thresholds non-invasively with VO2, VCO2 and Ventilation and the tests tend to be fairly quick. Disadvantage is that there is some oxygen uptake kinetics issues that need to be considered and that we can’t take lactate measures as we never hit a steady state

  2. step incremental tests- These are typically done with 3-5 min stages of 25-30W increases. At the end of a 3 min stage we take a blood lactate measure as well as the continuous gas exchange data. 3 minutes is chosen as most healthy individuals will attain a steady state in most physiological parameters by 3 minutes. We are thus looking at steady state responses to a particular PO. Advantages of this test are that we can evaluate lactate thresholds and can also make some efficiency calculations. Drawbacks are that they take much longer. Typically we switch to 1 min stages after we’re sure we have passed lactate threshold (no need to prolong the test).

In either case, gas exchange data is collected and a variety of different measures are used to analyze thresholds and attainment of VO2max. I would caution only using RER (can’t really call it RQ as we’re measuring at the mouth and not at the cell and these values dissociate, which is why we can use RER to infer threshold and/or max (typically >1.1)).

I would think that the TR protocol for assessing FTP, while designed more for the FTP measure, could work to assess VO2max with gas exchange. But I haven’t collected any gas exchange data yet with this protocol - I keep avoiding it! It does have 1 min stages, and ‘individualized’ increases in PO. I think the focus is on intensities at and below FTP, but you could get away with it.

One thing I would caution is using devices that measure only oxygen uptake - that don’t measure CO2 (Fitmate for example) as they don’t allow you to make gas exchange inferences about thresholds… unless, as Chad mentioned, you’re only concerned with maximal numbers and bragging rights!

If any of you are up near Kelowna British Columbia, I’d be happy to take you through some of our testing procedures.


Fantastic responses, really helpful!

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Sever = High?

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See edits…

But Sever= Severe

Severe = Extreme

(wrote the post over 2 sittings and didn’t proof-read… terrible prof!)


Question guys- see screenshot from my next ramp test.

Not that I think I will but how does it work if I can go beyond 20 mins? Will it keep ramping up? Until my power drops or what?

Also - is there any reason to adjust ftp manually to closer to that I now expect it to be? Eg say 10 or 15 Watts more or just leave it as it was at start of my last plan.

It will continue until you pop. Don’t worry about that :stuck_out_tongue:

They have it set to auto expand as needed. Pedal until you can’t any more, then you are done.

The test will show and offer the new FPT, then allow you to switch to a cool-down.

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Thanks @mcneese.chad
I think I did see it somewhere - how much does each 30 secs beyond 20 add to ftp? Anyone recall seeing that?

Depends on your FTP. For an FTP of 300, each 30 seconds beyond 20:00 gets you about 6.75w

Last test 234…

Roughly 5w for each 30 seconds beyond 20mins.

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