Health and Safety The Bruce Protocol Treadmill Test for Athletes A Fitness Evaluation Used to Measure VO2 Max By Elizabeth Quinn Updated March 20, 2019 Pin Flip Email Print Show Article Table of Contents VO2 Max Testing Using the Bruce Treadmill Test Cautions Test Stages Protocol Formula Protocol Norms View All Back To Top VO2 Max Treadmill Testing. Dan Kitwood / Staff / Getty Images More in Fitness Health and Safety Beginners Motivation Sports Nutrition Fitness Trends Running Strength Walking Workouts Cardio Flexibility and Stretching Yoga Pilates Fitness Tools and Equipment View All The Bruce protocol treadmill test is used for estimating the overall fitness of endurance athletes. The test was originally designed by cardiologist Robert A. Bruce in 1963 as a non-invasive test to assess patients with suspected heart disease. In a clinical setting, the Bruce treadmill test protocol is sometimes called a stress test or exercise tolerance test. The test can be used to estimate maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), which is a measure of an athlete's capacity to performed sustained exercise. It is linked to aerobic endurance. VO2 Max Testing Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) specifically refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can take in and use during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight (ml/kg/min). The Bruce treadmill test is an indirect test that estimates VO2 max using a formula and an athlete's ability to exercise on a treadmill as the workload is increased. Other methods of measuring VO2 max are much more cumbersome and require the direct collection and measurement of the oxygen volume and oxygen concentration of inhaled and exhaled air the athlete uses while running. This collection determines how much oxygen the athlete is using as they run. Clearly, that sort of direct testing would require far more elaborate and sophisticated equipment and data collection that the formula based on time on the treadmill. How to Estimate VO2 Max Using the Bruce Treadmill Test The Bruce protocol is a maximal exercise test where the athlete works to complete exhaustion as the treadmill speed and incline is increased every three minutes. The length of time on the treadmill is the test score and can be used to estimate the VO2 max value. During the test, heart rate, blood pressure and ratings of perceived exertion are often also collected. Cautions Because the Bruce treadmill test is a maximal exercise tolerance test, it is not something to be done without a physician's clearance and expert supervision. In an untrained individual or an athlete with an underlying heart condition, exercising to a maximal effort can lead to injury or potential heart events. While performing the treadmill stress test, clinicians will monitor the patient's vital signs continuously and stop the test at any sign of trouble. For an athlete, an experienced technician should monitor heart rate and rhythm throughout the testing. Be sure that your testing facilitator has the appropriate clinical expertise and has conducted such tests many times before you step on the treadmill for your own testing. Bruce Treadmill Test Stages Stage 1: 1.7 mph at 10 percent gradeStage 2: 2.5 mph at 12 percent gradeStage 3: 3.4 mph at 14 percent gradeStage 4: 4.2 mph at 16 percent gradeStage 5: 5.0 mph at 18 percent gradeStage 6: 5.5 mph at 20 percent gradeStage 7: 6.0 mph at 22 percent gradeStage 8: 6.5 mph at 24 percent gradeStage 9: 7.0 mph at 26 percent grade The Bruce Protocol Formula for Estimating VO2 Max These are the formulas used: For men VO2 max = 14.8 - (1.379 x T) + (0.451 x T²) - (0.012 x T³)For women VO2 max = 4.38 x T - 3.9T = Total time on the treadmill measured as a fraction of a minute (a test time of 9 minutes 30 seconds would be written as T=9.5). Bruce Protocol Norms VO2 Max Norms for Men as Measured in ml/kg/min Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior 13-19 <35.0 35.0-38.3 38.4-45.1 45.2-50.9 51.0-55.9 >55.9 20-29 <33.0 33.0-36.4 36.5-42.4 42.5-46.4 46.5-52.4 >52.4 30-39 <31.5 31.5-35.4 35.5-40.9 41.0-44.9 45.0-49.4 >49.4 40-49 <30.2 30.2-33.5 33.6-38.9 39.0-43.7 43.8-48.0 >48.0 50-59 <26.1 26.1-30.9 31.0-35.7 35.8-40.9 41.0-45.3 >45.3 60+ <20.5 20.5-26.0 26.1-32.2 32.3-36.4 36.5-44.2 >44.2 VO2 Max Norms for Women as Measured in ml/kg/min Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior 13-19 <25.0 25.0-30.9 31.0-34.9 35.0-38.9 39.0-41.9 >41.9 20-29 <23.6 23.6-28.9 29.0-32.9 33.0-36.9 37.0-41.0 >41.0 30-39 <22.8 22.8-26.9 27.0-31.4 31.5-35.6 35.7-40.0 >40.0 40-49 <21.0 21.0-24.4 24.5-28.9 29.0-32.8 32.9-36.9 >36.9 50-59 <20.2 20.2-22.7 22.8-26.9 27.0-31.4 31.5-35.7 >35.7 60+ <17.5 17.5-20.1 20.2-24.4 24.5-30.2 30.3-31.4 >31.4 Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Get exercise tips to make your workouts less work and more fun. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Heyward VH, Gibson A. Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription, 7th Edition, The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, Dallas TX, 2014. Kenney WL, Wilmore JH, Costill DL. Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2012. Continue Reading Article The Value of VO2 Max Testing in Athletes Article Cooper Test: A 12-Minute Run to Check Aerobic Fitness Article Understanding VO2 Max Scores for Women Article How's Your Cardiovascular Fitness? Get the Scoop on How to Improve Yours Article How Athletes Can Build Cardiovascular Fitness and Boost Endurance Article Improving High-Intensity Endurance With Lactate Threshold Training List How to Check Your Fitness Levels at Home Before a Workout Routine Article Visualization and Mental Rehearsal Can Improve Athletic Performance List This 7-Move Slideboard Workout Will Boost Your Athleticism Article Jet Lag and Athletes' Performance List Best Agility Exercises for Athletes List The Important Parts of Walking and Running Shoes Article Athletes Can Prevent ACL Injury With Training Drills Article What Is the Principle of Specificity in Athletic Training? List How a Fitness Test Is Used to Design an Exercise Program Article Do You Know When and How Much to Drink for Exercise?