Send to

Choose Destination
Sports Med. 1993 May;15(5):312-27.

Measurement of anaerobic capacities in humans. Definitions, limitations and unsolved problems.

Author information

Department of Human Movement, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.


Anaerobic capacity is defined as the maximal amount of adenosine triphosphate resynthesized via anaerobic metabolism (by the whole organism) during a specific mode of short-duration maximal exercise. This review focuses on laboratory measures which attempt to quantify anaerobic capacity; it examines the evidence supporting or challenging the validity of these measures and provides research foci for future investigations. Discussion focuses on anaerobic capacity measured during running and cycling, since almost all data reviewed were collected using these exercise modes. The validity of the oxygen debts (alactic and total), maximal blood lactate and oxygen deficit as measures of anaerobic capacity was examined. The total oxygen debt, now termed the excess post-exercise consumption, was used in investigations in the 1920s and 1930s to quantify anaerobic energy production; it has since been shown to be an invalid measure of anaerobic capacity, since its magnitude is known to be influenced by factors (e.g. temperature, catecholamines, substrate cycling, lactate glycogenesis) other than those directly involved in anaerobic metabolism. Maximal blood lactate, a measure also used in some of those early investigations, is often used in exercise and sports physiology. Opinion on the utility of maximal blood lactate as an estimate of anaerobic (lactic) capacity is, however, divided. Despite problems interpreting the physiological meaning of maximal blood lactate levels (due primarily to acute changes in blood volume), this measure is still used in both research and athletic settings to describe anaerobic capacity. Its use is supported by (a) the high correlations observed between maximal blood lactate and short-duration exercise performance presumably dependent upon anaerobic capacity, and (b) the higher maximal blood lactate values observed in sprint and power athletes (who would demonstrate higher anaerobic capacities) compared with endurance athletes or untrained people. However, training-induced changes in other performance, physiological and biochemical markers of anaerobic capacity have not always been paralleled by changes in maximal blood lactate; its relatively high variability also diminishes its usefulness to athletic populations, since relatively small changes in anaerobic capacity may not be detected by a measure with such high variability. These latter findings may be partially related to the confounding influence of blood volume which often changes in response to short and long term exercise demands. Maximal blood lactate is known to be influenced by the intensity and duration of the preceding exercise bout; therefore, it is plausible that these factors may also influence the degree to which maximal blood lactate accurately reflects anaerobic capacity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center