aerobic power

Aerobic Power - What It Is & How To Improve It

Aerobic Power

Aerobic power and aerobic capacity are important measurements to identifying one's cardiovascular fitness.

If you want to improve maximal oxygen uptake and V02 max, this article is for you.

What This Article Covers:

  • What Is Aerobic Power
  • What Is Maximal Aerobic Power
  • How Is Aerobic Power Measured?
  • How Is Aerobic Power Developed?
  • How Does Aerobic Power Differ From Aerobic Capacity?
  • What Is Aerobic Power vs. Anaerobic Power?
  • What sports use aerobic power?
  • How Does Aerobic Training Improve Aerobic Power?
  • Strategies to Increase Your Aerobic Capacity
  • Aerobic Power - Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Aerobic Power

Aerobic power measures the body's ability to power your muscles using oxygen from the heart and lungs.

Aerobic power is the maximum rate of oxygen usage during a specified period, usually during intense exercise, which uses large muscle groups for multiple minutes of exertion.

An easy way to understand aerobic power is first to understand power itself, which describes the amount of work performed in relation to time.

Aerobic power is thus the amount of work that can be done over a certain amount of time, using the aerobic system as the primary energy source.

What Is Maximal Aerobic Power

Maximal aerobic power, also known as maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), is an indicator of the functional capacity of the cardiorespiratory system.

Maximal aerobic power can be measured directly or estimated from physiological responses to submaximal or maximal exercise tests.

How Is Aerobic Power Measured?

Direct measurement of VO2max often requires expensive and sophisticated equipment, along with highly trained staff, making it difficult to find outside traditional exercise physiology laboratories.

Factors that can affect maximal aerobic power include age, conditioning status, the presence of disease, or medication regimen.

Typically, men have 10% to 20% greater VO2 max than women, related largely to greater muscle mass, higher hemoglobin concentration, and greater stroke volume.

Regular endurance exercise can increase VO2 max by 10% to 30%.

How Is Aerobic Power Developed?

There are a number of ways to develop aerobic power, including aerobic training, sprint interval training, and high-intensity interval training.

One study examined the effects of 2 weeks of aerobic training on aerobic power in sedentary people. This research found that aerobic exercise increased Maximal Aerobic Power per kilogram of body weight by 33% and maximal aerobic capacity by 51%.

This suggests that aerobic training can improve aerobic power but is more effective to increase aerobic capacity.

aerobic power aerobic capacity training

Another study from the Journal of Scandinavian Medicine & Science In Sport looked at the effects of sprint interval training on V02 max and found that strong evidence exists that sprint interval training can increase V02 max, partly due to peripheral adaptations in muscle.

The most effective way to improve aerobic capacity is by exercising a 90% or higher of one's v02 max. At a minimum, exercise at 60% of V02 max to improve aerobic power.

How Does Aerobic Power Differ From Aerobic Capacity?

Aerobic capacity measures an individual's maximum oxygen uptake per unit of time, such as the amount of oxygen measured in liters produced per minute.

On the other hand, aerobic power measures the oxygen uptake per unit of body weight, making aerobic power a more relevant performance metric.

Think of it this way: if two people have the same aerobic capacity (total amount of oxygen intake), but one weighs 50% more than the other, the heavier person will not perform similarly to the lighter person.

By measuring oxygen intake relative to body mass, aerobic power can identify the relative fitness level of individuals of varying sizes.

What Is Aerobic Power vs. Anaerobic Power?

Anaerobic power is the amount of work performed over time without utilizing oxygen as an energy source.

Anaerobic power is often measured with a Wingate cycling test lasting up to 30 seconds.

Anaerobic actions derive their energy from sources other than oxygen, including the ATP-CP, alactic-glycolytic, and lactic-glycolytic energy systems.

In contrast, aerobic power is the amount of work done over time using oxygen as the primary energy source.

What sports use aerobic power?

Aerobic power is used in sports that require high-intensity efforts over long periods of time.

Sports that require high aerobic power include long-distance running, cycling, swimming, rowing, and cross-country skiing.

These sports require sustained effort over long periods, making aerobic metabolism the primary source of energy production.

How Does Aerobic Training Improve Aerobic Power?

Aerobic training improves aerobic power by increasing the body's ability to use oxygen to produce energy. This is achieved by increasing the size and number of mitochondria, which are the cell's powerhouses responsible for producing energy, and by improving the delivery of oxygen to the muscles.

Regular aerobic training also increases the efficiency of the systems related to cardiovascular fitness, including the heart, lungs, and blood vessels, which helps to deliver more oxygen efficiently to the muscles.

Strategies to Increase Your Aerobic Capacity

Aerobic Training Principles

To increase your aerobic capacity, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts, while also incorporating different types of aerobic exercise.

Running, cycling, and swimming are all useful training methods to improve aerobic abilities.

Also, ensure you are taking enough days off so that your body can recover and you can train consistently throughout the entire year without getting injured.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of aerobic exercise that involves short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by periods of rest or low-intensity activity.

High intensity training has been shown to be an effective way to improve aerobic power and endurance, as it increases the body's ability to use oxygen and produce energy.

HIIT is a great addition to an aerobic focused training program, as it gives your body a different stimulus and can help improve overall fitness and performance levels.

Cross-Training

Cross-training involves incorporating different types of exercise into your training routine, such as cycling, swimming, or strength training.

Cross-training can help to improve aerobic power by challenging the body in different ways and preventing boredom or burnout from doing the same type of exercise repeatedly.

Developing the body holistically is more effective than only doing one form of training.

Proper Nutrition and Hydration

Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for improving aerobic power. The body needs a steady supply of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to fuel aerobic metabolism and support muscle growth and repair.

Staying hydrated is also crucial for optimal performance and recovery, as dehydration can lead to fatigue and decreased aerobic power.

Aerobic Power - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to measure aerobic power?

VO2 max testing is considered the gold standard for measuring aerobic power, as it provides a direct measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during exercise.

However, submaximal exercise testing and field tests, such as the Cooper test, can also be used to estimate aerobic power.

How long does it take to improve aerobic power?

The time it takes to improve aerobic power depends on several factors, such as the frequency and intensity of training, the individual's starting fitness level, and genetics. Not all people adapt to training at the same rate.

With consistent and progressive training, improvements in aerobic power can be seen in as little as a few weeks.

Can aerobic exercise be done every day?

Aerobic exercise can be done every day, but it is important to incorporate rest and recovery days into your training schedule to prevent injury and burnout.

It is also essential to vary the intensity and type of exercise to avoid overuse injuries and promote overall fitness.

To get the best results, incorporate both aerobic and anaerobic training, high intensity and low intensity training, and strength training into your workout routine.

References:

  • deJong, Adam M.A., FACSM. Maximal Aerobic Power: An Important Clinical and Research Measurement. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal 15(6):p 43-45, November/December 2011. | DOI: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e3182343299
  • Ekblom B. (1986). Factors determining maximal aerobic power. Acta physiologica Scandinavica. Supplementum556, 15–19.
  • Lortie, G., Simoneau, J. A., Hamel, P., Boulay, M. R., Landry, F., & Bouchard, C. (1984). Responses of maximal aerobic power and capacity to aerobic training. International journal of sports medicine5(5), 232–236. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2008-1025911
  • Sloth, M., Sloth, D., Overgaard, K., & Dalgas, U. (2013). Effects of sprint interval training on VO2max and aerobic exercise performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports23(6), e341–e352. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12092
  • Boulay, M. R., Lortie, G., Simoneau, J. A., Hamel, P., Leblanc, C., & Bouchard, C. (1985). Specificity of aerobic and anaerobic work capacities and powers. International journal of sports medicine, 6(6), 325–328. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2008-1025864
  • Ramos E, Guttierrez-Teissoonniere S, Conde JG, Baez-Cordova JA, Guzman-Villar B, Lopategui-Corsino E, Frontera WR. Anaerobic power and muscle strength in human immunodeficiency virus-positive preadolescents. PM R. 2012 Mar;4(3):171-5. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2011.11.009. Epub 2012 Feb 23. PMID: 22364955; PMCID: PMC3805494.
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