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Billat (1999), a professor of Sport Sciences at the University of Lille, has shown that in a four week period it is possible to improve an athlete’s lactate threshold, VO2 max and running economy. To understand Billat’s work we need to be aware of two new variables – vVO2 max and tlimvVO2 max.
VO2 max on its own is a poor predictor of performance but using the velocity (vVO2 max) and duration (tlimvVO2 max) that an athlete can operate at their VO2 max will provide a better indication of performance. Billat (1999) conduct a four week trial with a group of athletes. The athletes had 6 training sessions a week – 4 easy sessions, one vVO2 max session and one lactate threshold workout.
At the end of the trial vVO2 max increased by 3% and running economy increased by 6%.
Why the improvements?
Running at vVO2 max increases leg muscle strength and power, and enhanced strength tends to improve economy (muscle cells are stronger, fewer needed to run at a particular pace, thus the energy expenditure is lower). vVO2 max effort boosts neuromuscular responsiveness and coordination which reduces energy expenditure.
What are “vVO2 max” and “tlimvVO2 max”?
vVO2 max is the minimal running velocity which produces VO2 max i.e. causes your muscular system to utilise oxygen at its highest possible rate.
tlimvVO2 max is the maximal amount of time a runner can keep going at vVO2 max. During the research Billat was able to show that tlimvVO2 max, on average, was 6 minutes.
Billat found the best predictor of tlimvVO2 max is lactate threshold speed i.e. the higher your lactate threshold speed the longer your tlimvVO2 max. See the lactic page to find out how to improve your lactate threshold.
How do you determine your vVO2 max?
Take yourself down to the track, run as hard as you can for six minutes (360 seconds) and record the distance covered. Calculate your velocity in metres/second to determine your vVO2 max.
Let us assume you manage 1800 metres then vVO2 max is 1800 ÷ 360 = 5 metres/second. It is recommend that you repeat the test 48 hours later and use the highest velocity in your training sessions.
Remember to repeat the six minute test every 4 to 6 weeks to determine your new vVO2 max.
What types of training sessions are there?
There are three training sessions that you could use:
- 30-30 session
- 60-60 session
- 3-3 session
The 30-30 session
This session comprises of:
30 seconds at 100% of vVO2 max
30 seconds recover at 50% of vVO2 max
This cycle is repeated for as long as the 30 seconds at 100% vVO2 max can be sustained.
Based on achieving 1800m in the 6 minute run then in 30 seconds we can cover 150 metres. The 30-30 session would comprise of 150 metres in 30 seconds followed by 75 metres in 30 seconds. This is repeated until you are unable to maintain the 150 metres in 30 seconds.
The 30 seconds at 100% vVO2 max is important, as this is the element from which the gains in fitness will be achieved. The recoveries need to be run slowly and reasonably close to 50% vVO2 max.
The 60-60 session
This session comprises of:
60 seconds at 100% of vVO2 max
60 seconds recover at 50% of vVO2 max
This cycle is repeated for as long as the 60 seconds at 100% vVO2 max can be sustained.
Based on achieving 1800m in the 6 minute run then in 60 seconds we can cover 300 metres. The 60-60 session would comprise of 300 metres in 60 seconds followed by 150 metres in 60 seconds. This is repeated until you are unable to maintain the 300 metres in 60 seconds.
The 3-3 session
This session comprises of:
3 minutes at 100% of vVO2 max
3 minutes recover
This cycle is repeated for as long as the 3 minutes at 100% vVO2 max can be sustained or 5 repetitions have been completed.
Based on achieving 1800m in the 6 minute run then in 3 minutes we can cover 900 metres. The 3-3 session would comprise of 900 metres in 3 minutes followed by 3 minutes recovery. This is repeated until you are unable to maintain the 900 metres in 3 minutes or 5 repetitions have been completed.
Which of these sessions should you do?
Ballet recommends using the 30-30 session early in the season as an excellent, easily tolerated way to kick start improvements in VO2 max, vVO2 max, lactate threshold and running economy. In the 4 to 6 weeks before a major competition, conduct one session a week of the 3-3 session.
- BILLAT, V. (1999) Interval training at VO2 max: Effects on Aerobic Performance and overtraining markers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 31 (1), pp. 156-163
The reference for this page is:
- MACKENZIE, B. (2000) vVO2 max and tlimvVO2 max [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/vvo2max.htm [Accessed 23/9/2014]
Additional Sources of Information
For further information on this topic see the following:
- BEASHEL, P. & TAYLOR, J. (1996) Advanced Studies in Physical Education and Sport. UK: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd.
- DAVIS, B. et al. (2000) Physical Education and the Study of Sport. UK: Harcourt Publishers Ltd.
- McARDLE, W. et al. (2000) Essentials of Exercise Physiology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
- BEASHEL, P. & TAYLOR, J. (1997) The World of Sport Examined. UK: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd.
- GALLIGAN, F. et al. (2000) Advanced PE for Edexcel. Oxford; Heinemann Educational Publishers
- BIZLEY, K. (1994) Examining Physical Education. Oxford; Heinemann Educational Publishers
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