What's The Fastest Way To Improve VO2 Max

If you want to increase your VO2 max rapidly, one training method is more effective than others.

But is it better and the right method to use for overall VO2 max development?

EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman has your answer.

The One Endurance Training Method That Increases VO2 Max Fast

Good morning family of fast. Matt Mosman, the Chief Endurance Officer over at EndurElite. Pop quiz time.

What's the fastest legal way to increase your VO2 max? Is it:

(a) EPO

(b) Living at altitude

(c) HIIT training

(d) Steady-state cardio?

If you answered (c), you win because

HIIT training is the fastest way to improve your VO2 max quickly.

But actually, this is kind of a trick question, and a little bit of a deceiving answer, and we'll get into that part of this video here in a second.

But first, let's briefly describe what HIIT and VO2 are, and their relationship, and why HIIT increases VO2 max pretty rapidly.

What Does HIIT Stand For?

So, HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, and this has been a really, really hot fitness trend over the last, I don't know, three or four years.

What Is HIIT Training And Why Is It Good For VO2 Max?

But basically, HIIT training involves short super maximal efforts with short recovery time.

So busting your balls for like 30 to 100 seconds at 100% above effort or 90% up to 110% of maximal effort, if that's even possible, recovering and repeating, you know, anywhere from 5 to 20 times.

So, HIIT, you know, people like it a lot because it is effective, it's enjoyable.

Some people like it better than long, slow cardio. And like I said, it's very effective at increasing VO2 max rapidly.

Now, VO2 max from other videos, you know, is basically how efficiently your body can use oxygen during endurance exercise. And it's based on a lot of factors like:

  • mitochondrial density
  • capillary density
  • how much blood your heart can pump.

And VO2 max is really developed when you go beyond 90% of maximal heart rate and above.

What's The BEST Way To Increase VO2 Max?

So, it makes a lot of sense that HIIT training increases VO2 max pretty rapidly.

But as I said in the beginning of the video, this is a little bit of a deceiving question.

Instead of saying, you know, "What's the fastest way to increase VO2 max as an endurance athlete?", we should look at more, what is the best way to increase the VO2 max?

Because HIIT definitely has its downfalls and we'll cover that in a second.

So, the best way to increase VO2 max is to use all endurance training modalities.

This includes:

And then also the use of HIIT, which there's sometimes a little bit of confusion about, you know, HIIT and interval training.

The Difference Between HIIT And Interval Training

So, the main difference the way I see it is HIIT, again, is short efforts, super maximal efforts, short recovery, while interval training is a little bit longer effort, say two to three minutes at about 90% to 95% of maximal heart rate with a one-to-one work rest ratio.

So, let's just briefly describe each of these real quick and why it's important for overall or the best VO2 max development.

Using Long, Slow Distance To Improve VO2 Max

So, the long, slow, steady miles develops your aerobic capabilities.

It develops mitochondrial density, capillary density. It gets your muscles used to the demands you're gonna place on it, especially during longer races.

And to boot, I would always include the long, slow miles before I would incorporate any kind of HIIT training, just so you have a base to go off of and you don't hurt yourself or get overtrained right out of the gate if you're doing HIIT training exclusively.

Lactate Threshold Training

Then, we go on to lactate threshold which is done at about it, depending on the person, 80% to 88% of VO2 max.

And like the name implies, this helps you develop your lactate threshold or the point where lactate shows up in your blood that signals the switch to anaerobic glycolysis.

Now, if you can develop this out, you can operate at a higher intensity without fatiguing as quickly.


Then, you go on to repetition-type training which develops basically efficiency, whether you're running, biking, OCRing or whatever.

And then, you get to the HIIT training again.

So, really, it's all about a combination of all those things put together. That is the best way to develop VO2 max.

So, let me paint a little picture for you. Let's just take the example of a half marathon, but this can be applied again to longer cycling races, or longer OCR races, and things of that nature.

So, half marathon, if you were only doing HIIT training by itself, you know, those first couple miles, you might feel pretty good. But when you start getting up into the higher miles, you're gonna run out of gas.

You're gonna burn out and I could almost guarantee you, you know, going head-to-head with the person that just has done long, slow miles to prep for this half marathon, is gonna blow your doors off.

Because I mean, VO2 max, like I said, is only one part of the equation and HIIT training is so specific that, yeah, it does increase your VO2 max, but it doesn't address all those other things I just talked about as far as like, oxidative capabilities, lactate threshold, and all those things.

So, the main take-home point is yeah, absolutely. HIIT is one of the fastest ways to increase VO2 max, but it's not necessarily the best way in the overall training scheme of an endurance athlete when it comes to racing really well.

So, that is all I have for today, my endurance friends. If you have a buddy that's just absolutely sold on HIIT training and you think it's just the crème de la crème of endurance and training and that's all he needs, please share this video with them and then tell him he's wrong or she's wrong.

If you want other videos like this on endurance training, nutrition, supplementation, and other random musings, subscribe to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at www.EndurElite.com. Get social with us on Facebook and Instagram. And until next time family of fast, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.