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VO2 max Step Test

Testing and measurement are the means of collecting information upon which subsequent performance evaluations and decisions are made. In the analysis, we need to bear in mind the factors that may influence the results.


The objective of this test is to monitor the development of the athlete's cardiovascular system.

Required Resources

To conduct this test, you will require:

  • A 16¼ inch high bench or step
  • Stopwatch
  • Metronome or cadence tape
  • Heart rate monitor (optional)
  • An assistant

How to conduct the test

The VO2 max Step Test is conducted as follows:

  • Step up and down, one foot at a time, onto the step or bench for 3 minutes
  • Maintain a steady four-beat cycle
    • Women 22 steps/minute
    • Men 24 steps/minute
  • On finishing the test, count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds
  • Multiply the number of beats in 15 seconds by 4 to give the "step test pulse rate"
  • Use this final value to assess the athlete's VO2 max using the calculator below
Step Ups Step Ups


I am unable to locate any normative data for this test.

The following equations can be used to determine the athlete's VO2 max (McArdle 2000)[1]

  • Men = 111.33 - (0.42 x pulse rate beats/min)
  • Women = 65.81 - (0.1847 x pulse rate beats/min)

For an evaluation of the athlete's VO2 max select the gender, enter the "step test pulse rate" and then select the 'Calculate' button.

Gender Step test pulse rate b.p.m.     VO2 max -


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.

Target Group

This test is suitable for active and sedentary athletes but not for individuals where the test would be contraindicated.


Test reliability refers to the degree to which a test is consistent and stable in measuring what it is intended to measure. Reliability will depend upon how strict the test is conducted and the individual's level of motivation to perform the test. The following link provides a variety of factors that may influence the results and therefore, the test reliability.


Test validity refers to the degree to which the test measures what it claims to measure and the extent to which inferences, conclusions, and decisions made based on test scores are appropriate and meaningful. This test provides a means to monitor the effect of training on the athlete's physical development. For an assessment of your VO2 max see the VO2 max normative data tables.


  • Minimal equipment required
  • Simple to set up and conduct
  • Can be conducted almost anywhere


  • Assistant required to administer the test


  1. McARDLE, W.D. et al. (2000) Nutrition and Energy Transfer. In: McARDLE, W.D. et al., 2nd ed. Essentials of Exercise Physiology, USA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, p. 199

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • POGLIAGHI, S. et al. (2013) Tailored Submaximal Step Test for VO2max Prediction in Healthy Older Adults. Journal of aging and physical activity
  • WEBB, C. et al. (2014) Estimating VO2max Using a Personalized Step Test. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 18 (3), p. 184-197
  • JACKS, D. E. et al. (2011) Prediction of VO2 peak using a sub-maximal bench step test in children. Clin Kinesiol65, p. 68-75

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2007) VO2 max Step Test [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: