A New Model for Estimating Peak Oxygen Uptake Based on Postexercise Measurements in Swimming

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Assessing cardiopulmonary function during swimming is a complex and cumbersome procedure. Backward extrapolation is often used to predict peak oxygen uptake (V̇O2peak) during unimpeded swimming, but error can derive from a delay at the onset of V̇O2 recovery. The authors assessed the validity of a mathematical model based on heart rate (HR) and postexercise V̇O2 kinetics for the estimation of V̇O2peak during exercise.


34 elite swimmers performed a maximal front-crawl 200-m swim. V̇O2 was measured breath by breath and HR from beat-to-beat intervals. Data were time-aligned and 1-s-interpolated. Exercise V̇O2peak was the average of the last 20 s of exercise. Postexercise V̇O2 was the first 20-s average during the immediate recovery. Predicted V̇O2 values (pV̇O2) were computed using the equation: pV̇O2(t) = V̇O2(t) HRend-exercise/HR(t). Average values were calculated for different time intervals and compared with measured exercise V̇O2peak.


Postexercise V̇O2 (0–20 s) underestimated V̇O2peak by 3.3% (95% CI = 9.8% underestimation to 3.2% overestimation, mean difference = –116 mL/min, SEE = 4.2%, P = .001). The best V̇O2peak estimates were offered by pV̇O2peak from 0 to 20 s (r2 = .96, mean difference = 17 mL/min, SEE = 3.8%).


The high correlation (r2 = .86–.96) and agreement between exercise and predicted V̇O2 support the validity of the model, which provides accurate V̇O2peak estimations after a single maximal swim while avoiding the error of backward extrapolation and allowing the subject to swim completely unimpeded.

Chaverri, Iglesias, and Rodríguez are with the INEFC-Barcelona Sport Sciences Research Group, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Schuller and Hoffmann are with the Inst for Physiology and Anatomy, Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln, Cologne, Germany.

Address author correspondence to Ferran Rodríguez at farodriguez@gencat.cat.