Predict an athlete’s VO2max with Cooper VO2max Test

The objective of the Cooper test is to predict an athlete’s VO2max.

Required resources

To undertake this test you will require:
  • 400 metre track – marked every 50m
  • Stopwatch
  • Assistant.

How to conduct the test

Cooper VO2max Test 

The test comprises of seeing how far an athlete can run/walk in 12 minutes. The assistant should record the total distance covered.

Performance assessment

Based on the distance covered an estimate of the athlete’s VO2max can be calculated as follows:
  • VO2max = (Distance covered in metres – 504.9) / 44.73
The athlete, a male football player, completes a total distance of 3400m in the 12 minutes.
VO2max     = (3400 – 504.9) / 44.73 = 64.72 ml/kg/min.


Analysis of the result is by comparing it with the results of previous tests. It is expected that, with appropriate training between each test, the analysis would indicate an improvement.
The result from the Cooper test can be used to:
  • predict future performance
  • indicate weaknesses
  • measure improvement
  • enable the coach to assess the success of his training programme
  • place the athlete in appropriate training group
  • motivate the athlete

Ideal VO2max scores for various sports
>75 ml/kg/min = Endurance Runners and Cyclists
65 ml/kg/min = Squash
60-65 ml/kg/min = Football (male)
55 ml/kg/min = Rugby
50 ml/kg/min = Volleyball (female)
50 ml/kg/min = Baseball (male)

Target group
This test is suitable for endurance athletes and players of endurance sports (eg football, rugby) but not for individuals where the test would be contraindicated.

The following factors may have an impact on the test result:

  • The ambient temperature, noise level and humidity
  • The amount of sleep the athlete had prior to testing
  • The athlete’s emotional state
  • Medication the athlete may be taking
  • The time of day
  • The athlete’s caffeine intake
  • The time since the athlete’s last meal
  • The test environment – surface (track, grass, road, gym)
  • The athlete’s prior test knowledge/experience
  • Accuracy of measurements (times, distances etc)
  • Is the athlete actually applying maximum effort in maximal tests
  • Inappropriate warm up
  • People present
  • The personality, knowledge and skill of the tester
  • Athlete’s level of motivation to give 100% effort.

There are published VO2max tables and the correlation to actual VO2max is high.

Mackenzie, Brian. 2005. 101 Perforamnce Evalution Test. Electric World Plc. London.

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