A New Technique to Overcome Cardio Plateaus?

class=”alignright size-full wp-image-2420″ title=”to run further, pump muscles” src=”http://www.daveywaveyfitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/to-run-further-pump-muscles.jpg” alt=”” width=”380″ height=”261″ />In the fitness universe, there’s a lot of jargon and technical terminology.

Like “VO2max,” a word you may have heard from a personal trainer or exercise guru. In a nutshell, VO2max is the maximum capacity of an exerciser’s body to transport and use oxygen during exercise – and it’s considered one of the best measures of cardiovascular ability.

Once the exerciser’s VO2max is reached, failure is imminent. It’s a plateau that can’t be overcome like hitting a brick wall.

Traditionally, experts thought that this plateau was caused by either the heart’s inability to pump any more blood, muscles being unable to extract any additional oxygen from the blood or the inability of the lungs to pull in more oxygen from the air.

Now, a new theory is being proposed: It’s not the heart, muscles or lungs that cause the VO2max plateau – but rather, the brain. The brain applies the brakes so that the body doesn’t reach absolute failure.

The theory is being supported by a whole slew of recent research, including an interesting study involving “decremental” tests to determine VO2max – with huge implications for regular exercisers. In the study, researchers first measured participants’ VO2max using the traditional treadmill test. In this test, the treadmill starts slow, but gradually increases in speed until the VO2max plateau is reached shortly before failure.

Next, the decremental test was performed on half of the participants. Researchers quickly vamped up the treadmill speed beyond the previous point of failure. After about a minute – and just before failure was reached – the treadmill was lowered by a kilometer per hour. This was repeated for the duration of the test.

Interestingly, the decremental test resulted in a higher VO2max.

For the participants that didn’t experience the decremental test, their VO2max remained unchanged in a subsequent traditional test. But, most notably, when the decremental participants returned to the treadmill for an additional traditional VO2max test, they maintained their new (and higher) VO2max.

It’s as though simply performing the decremental test reset the body’s VO2max – and cardiovascular ability – to a higher level. For those of us that exercise regularly, this is huge and exciting news.

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  1. It’s an interesting study, and it’s results ARE important for competition-level athletes who are truly pushing their bodies to their maximum level of performance.

    However, I don’t really see that it is important to anyone who is NOT a competition-level athlete. Specifically, if your goal is to exercise regularly to keep in shape, or even if you goal is just to get a hot body to get noticed in the beach, I don’t think your VO2max makes a scrap of difference.

    What matters is working out consistently, having a sensible diet that supports your goals, and making sure that your workouts push your strength continually and gradually over time.

    That’s what gets you in shape, that’s what gets you a “hot body”.

    In my opinion, things like VO2max go in the same dustbin as things knowing the weight of yor “1-rep max”. It simple doesn’t matter for most people’s fitness goals.

  2. This is similar to “muscle memory” right?

  3. so how do i duplicate this on your standard crappy gym elliptical? ive been doing intervals and seeing a lot of good progress with increased heart rate for longer periods across the duration of my 15 minutes on the machine.. but at some point i just seem to shut down and “max out?”.. is that the right term? idk.. ‘splain it to me luuuucy..

  4. christopher says:

    this might explain why those around me go up and down-as speed goes.its a bit aggravating as i concentrate plugging along.