By Phil Yoss
One of the very common measurements we use to quantify the level of someone's cardiovascular fitness is the VO2 max. This is the measure of maximum oxygen consumption that is derived from a bout of incrementally intense exercise(1). When thinking about how to improve in sports one common idea is to just get in better shape cardiovascularly. This applies both to endurance sports and fast-paced, intense sports. There are of course many other aspects to sports performance than cardiovascular fitness. It should be one of the foundations of most sports programs to include focus on athletes cardiovascular fitness.
The most valid and reliable way for us to do this would be in the laboratory setting. Performing a vo2 max test via incremental intensities on a motorized treadmill is the recommended method for tennis players(2). Doing this test with the accompanying metabolic cart is a very involved process. It requires trained professionals and specialized equipment. While it is a very valid measure of vo2 max it is not practical to expect each athlete to get a test of this sort.
So how can we practically figure out someone’s VO2 max without bringing them into a lab to test them? There are various practical ways of estimating an athletes current Vo2 max. Some of them are general and some are more specific. One of these tests which has been shown to be reliable and specific to tennis play is the 30-15 intermittent fitness test(3). Another which could be utilized for tennis fitness testing is the Yo Yo intermittent fitness test(4). These tests are very specific to tennis play, but not completely practical as they must be administered one on one with an athlete and coach. One test that is commonly used in sports for its ability to be administered with minimal equipment and in groups is the multistage shuttle test or beep test. This test has been found to be acceptable valid given its convenience and correlation to direct measurements(5,6). Since administering the beep test can be done practically and simply in groups of athletes it is one of our go to tests here at CourtSense.
Results from these tests, whether general or specific, can do many things for us. They can tell us where someone is at with their fitness. They can also help us determine proper paces for running in sport and conditioning practice(3).
Here you can see a table of potential results for various player levels on the beep tests and the corresponding meaning of those results.
So once we have the information obtained through one of these tests what can we do with it. As described above, it can help us determine training paces. This information can also help us determine where the athlete stands in relation to their cohort of age and sport performance level(7). This will then tell us whether increasing fitness should be a priority or whether it can be put on the back burner.