I was recently doing some research on basketball skills training and came across a young basketball player that was not only amazing on the court but he was also an amazing track star. He was breaking records in both sports at the age of eleven. What caught my attention was not only his insane skills, but that some doctors ran tests on him finding that his VO2max level was extremely high. Ok, what is VO2max and what does it have to do with why this kid is so amazing? Well, first, VO2max is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body transport and use of oxygen during incremental exercise, which reflects the physical fitness of the individual. Now, the actual measurement of VO2 is all science and mathematics; what we want to know is what it actually is and why it is important.
To put it in layman’s terms, it’s simply the amount of oxygen your body takes in when exerting yourself, VO2max is reached when oxygen consumption remains at a steady state despite an increase in workload. So, now we know what it is and why it is so important. Doctors and other athlete professionals feel that the measurement of VO2 is the single best measurement of cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power. Reason being, it takes oxygen to breathe while exercising, and exercise increases the strength of muscles like the heart. Endurance training, such as track, can increase your VO2 max, but sadly strength training doesn’t increase the VO2 as much as we all would like it to. It doesn’t hurt, but endurance training is the best.
Basically, this 11 year old has the VO2 max measurement of a 20 year old marathon runner, so he doesn’t hit that out of breath, ‘I feel like I’m dying’ wall as quickly as the rest us or, even better, he doesn’t hit it as quickly as the average 11 year old does. Now why is his VO2 so high? Part of it is his basketball skills training and dedication to sports training in general, but some of it is genetics too. Does this mean his VO2 will be off the charts when he hits 20? Not exactly, but it will definitely increase as long as he keeps up this kind of training.
Aerobic power is highly important to basketball players because the game requires frequent periods of intense activity throughout the length of the game and VO2max tests, among other tests and indicators, have been utilized to determine the aerobic power of the athlete and their general physiological condition related to basketball skills training. Although good VO2max is sometimes characterized by genetics, it is possible to improve it through endurance training.
French physiologist, Veronique Billat, created the 30/30 and 60/60 interval technique to help improve VO2max. This technique requires the athlete to warm up for 10 minutes, run as fast as possible for 30 seconds, then go to a steady jog pace for 30 seconds. The athlete continues to alternate the 30/30 intervals 12 or more times. After the 30/30 interval technique is mastered and the VO2max is improved, then the athlete moves on to the 60/60 interval training, repeating the fast and slow movements for 60 second intervals.
With improvements in VO2max, basketball players can vastly improve their explosive power on the court and it may be a very important inclusion in basketball skills training for both young and adult players. Once optimum VO2max is achieved, basketball players and many other types of athletes can take the competitive advantage of the sport because they will tire less frequently and out-perform other players.