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 Post subject: Looking for some help
PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:06 am 
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Hi, cards on the table i aint a keep fit guru or an expert on VO2 but I need some help.

Basically, i'm a firefighter in the UK and we have been getting tested to see if we are fit enough to stay "on the run". some brigades operate the fitness testing differently from others. e.g. based on time while others look for gas analysis to be used.

the protocol is on a treadmill @ 3.8mph starting on the level and then incline increased 3% every 2 minutes upto a max incline of 15%. (there is a 2 minute warm immediately up before the start of the test)
The ACSM metabolic calculations have the vo2 estimates at each level:
1. 14
2. 19
3. 25
4. 31
5. 36
6. 42

The full document can be found at http://firefitsteeringgroup.co.uk/firefitreport.pdf and the pages regarding the treadmill tests is 16-20. although there are 3 treadmill tests the RAMP Protocol test on p20 can be discounted as no brigade is using this.

The "pass" is a 42 ml/kg/min.
some fire departments are happy to test their FF's simply by "time" i.e. if they complete the test they must have around a 42.
some use a Polar HR monitor and let them complete each level up until they have a HR of above 80% of their Max HR. then project the graph to their Max HR (220-age) to get a VO2 score.

i dont have an issue with the 2 ways the tests are being conducted above my problem is the way my own department is conducting a basterdized test of all 3 ;

a 2 minute warm up is being employed immediately before the start of the test?
doing the test to level 6, knowing it could be a maximal test for some without proper medical equipment being available or trained medics (we in the uk aren't paramedic trained unlike the US FF's).
Gas analysis is being used and some (approx 10%) are being told that they have failed to get a minimum score to stay on the run (34) never mind the 42 for a 3 year ticket.
Of these 10% that are failing 95% them are completing the 6 levels of the test yet are being told that their VO2 Max is less than 34. I dont understand that someone can complete a test that ACSM say would give them a 42 yet because gas analysis is being used they are told that they are scoring as low as a 29/30. Furthermore what ive read is no one can operate at their VO2 Max for more than 90 seconds or thats what it says in the report (link above). so someone who scores 30 would really in effect have been operating at their MAX for nearly 4 minutes?

another issue that i forgot to mention is that the testers are telling FF's to breath heavy or even run during the test. I can only assume that this is to try and get the O2 absorbed levels up before the end of the test?

Is it possible that someone who's VO2 graph that hasn't plateaued at the end of level 6 and has only scored say 38 would be able to achieve a higher score if there was another level to the test say 18% incline?
Is it completely wrong to assume that someone who can finish the 6 levels has a VO2 of less than 34.
Does it sound like there is an issue with the calibration of the gas analyser (a medical graphics).

so to this community i appeal for some help in the form of your thoughts in the flaws of the test employed by my department!


Last edited by Ironman on Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
fixed your link


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:13 am 
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Well, I fixed your link and a took you out of the "newly registered" group, so you will be able to post links in future. That's about all I can do for you though. I only have a small amount of knowledge on vo2 and that sort of thing. There may be someone else with better knowledge on that topic though.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:46 pm 
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Ironman wrote:
Well, I fixed your link and a took you out of the "newly registered" group, so you will be able to post links in future. That's about all I can do for you though. I only have a small amount of knowledge on vo2 and that sort of thing. There may be someone else with better knowledge on that topic though.


thanks for doing that :)

fingers crossed someone wants to have a go at trying to understand the issues facing us!!!!

btw am i in the right place to ask my question or should i be looking for another "type" of forum to get the answers?


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:02 am 
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There are some people that know a little about this. We have more knowledge in weight training though. There could be other forums for this, but I'm mostly familiar with strength or bodybuilding forums. I'll move this to the general section and see if that helps.

My guess is that the VO2 max numbers are wrong. I would think that if the guys can do the actual test they are good to go, and the numbers are an anomaly. I would think it is a combination of 90 seconds only being a limit for average people, and those numbers being a little off.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:37 pm 
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It's not clear to me what the question is.

Also, by "gas analysis" do you mean measured oxygen consumption (therefore an actual measurement of vO2) or use of a pulse oximeter during the test?

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:15 pm 
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Jungledoc wrote:
It's not clear to me what the question is.

Also, by "gas analysis" do you mean measured oxygen consumption (therefore an actual measurement of vO2) or use of a pulse oximeter during the test?


That's the way I read it.

It seems to me that there was a standardised way to do the test but some cut corners and the result is a non-standardized scoring.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:18 am 
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hi guys,

the machine used is a medical graphics CPX Express, http://www.medgraphics.com/download/060 ... pg_web.pdf

as far as i know it measures VO2 (to me thats O@ absorbed by the body)

Jungledoc wrote:
It's not clear to me what the question is.


the questions are,

is the protocol used correct as its is non standard ie getting subjects to breath heavy and/or run to make their body increase their VO2 before the 12 minutes is up?

can the results be as much as 10 or more points off with gas analysis from the standard ACSM calculatiuons. (all over the net there are metabolic calculators and each give the same mets (vo2) for a treadmill at X speed and Y incline. yet using the medgraphics analysiser its way out from that???


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:26 am 
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Well, if the expectation is that all the firefighters have to meet the same standard, the test should be done in a standardized way. The people administrating the tests should be trained to the same standard, and then should all do it in the same way. It strikes me as a bit complicated to use vOx in the test. Most agencies that have a fitness standard use a running test, some combination of distance and time. I don't know why that wouldn't be good for firefighters. It would certainly be simpler to standardize.

As to whether telling subjects to try to breath hard affects the test, I don't really know, but I doubt that it affects it one way or the other. Since breathing effort would not affect O2 utilization at the cellular level, I don't see how it could either make the test go faster, or give an altered result.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:52 am 
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thanks again for the replies.

let me try and ask a question that hopefully more than a couple of you will participate in.
using the same protocol 3.8mph on a treadmill starting at 0% and increasing every 2 minutes by 3%

Q. is it unreasonable to say that a subject who doesn't reach a vo2 of 42 ml/kg/min after 12 minutes (3.8mph @ 15% incline) does not have a vo2 max of at least 42 if they are able to continue on the treadmill, i.e. not exhausted yet.

a YES or NO please


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:29 am 
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The science behind fitness testing is something that scientists should be asked. I really don't think any of us here are qualified to respond.

However, that never stopped me before.

On the surface your assumption appears correct. The problem as I see it, is that a person with exceptional pain control, could push himself past the point where he overcoming lack of oxygen to his muscles any fighting through the lactic acid buildup. Or he may have a max heart rate that far exceeds the average (by about 30 BPM). I know that I score higher on tests that don't measure heart rate than on ones that do. That's why I avoid taking a step test at all costs. I'm just getting warmed up when they stop the test because my heart rate is too high. The "gas analysis" should be measuring VO2 directly and therefore should be the most accurate. If VO2 is the standard, that that should be the test. Your ability to do more work than the "standard" assumes you can do, is irrelevant to the test, but probably highly relevant to being able to do a task.

The Canadian Army's most recent tests, and most fire departments in North America, use task based testing that has been validated to predict the ability to perform typical tasks required. There is no heart rate or "gas analysis" involved. You can either do the tasks or not.

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Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.~Hippocrates
Strength is the adaptation that leads to all other adaptations that you really care about - Charles Staley
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