The Decremental Protocol as an Alternative Protocol to Measure Maximal Oxygen Consumption in Athletes

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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To determine whether a decremental protocol could elicit a higher maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) than an incremental protocol in trained participants. A secondary aim was to examine whether cardiac-output (Q) and stroke-volume (SV) responses differed between decremental and incremental protocols in this sample.


Nineteen runners/triathletes were randomized to either the decremental or incremental group. All participants completed an initial incremental VO2max test on a treadmill, followed by a verification phase. The incremental group completed 2 further incremental tests. The decremental group completed a second VO2max test using the decremental protocol, based on their verification phase. The decremental group then completed a final incremental test. During each test, VO2, ventilation, and heart rate were measured, and cardiac variables were estimated with thoracic bioimpedance. Repeated-measures analysis of variance was conducted with an alpha level set at .05.


There were no significant main effects for group (P = .37) or interaction (P = .10) over time (P = .45). VO2max was similar between the incremental (57.29 ± 8.94 mL · kg–1 · min–1) and decremental (60.82 ± 8.49 mL · kg–1 · min–1) groups over time. Furthermore, Q and SV were similar between the incremental (Q 22.72 ± 5.85 L/min, SV 119.64 ± 33.02 mL/beat) and decremental groups (Q 20.36 ± 4.59 L/min, SV 109.03 ± 24.27 mL/beat) across all 3 trials.


The findings suggest that the decremental protocol does not elicit higher VO2max than an incremental protocol but may be used as an alternative protocol to measure VO2max in runners and triathletes.

The authors are with the Dept of Movement Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.

Address author correspondence to Chantal Vella at