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The upper limit of aerobic power in humans


Data on the upper limit of aerobic power in humans are scarce. Thus, here we demonstrate extraordinarily high V′O2max and submaximal exercise performance in a young elite cross country skier (22 years, 170 cm, 63 kg; hemoglobin: 16.8 g/dL) who was evaluated before winning an Olympic gold medal. The test was performed during progressive roller-ski exercise on an outdoor uphill track (7–10% incline). The athlete demonstrated a V′O2max of 90.6 mL/min/kg (45 s average; 26 METs; 5.7 L/min). But even more impressive than V′O2max was his ability to exercise at a V′O2 of 65 mL/min/kg (71.4% V′O2max) at a lactate level of 1.6 mmol/L. At the self-selected maximal lactate steady state he consumed 78 mLO2/min/kg (85.7% V′O2max) with a corresponding lactate level of 4.4 mmol/L. These values rank among the highest ever demonstrated in human beings.

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Correspondence to Martin Burtscher.

Additional information

Communicated by Guido Ferretti.

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Burtscher, M., Nachbauer, W. & Wilber, R. The upper limit of aerobic power in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 111, 2625–2628 (2011).

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  • Maximum oxygen uptake
  • Exercise
  • Upper limits
  • Endurance capacity
  • Elite athletes