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Maximal Aerobic Power Output

What Is It And How Is It Measured?

If you do a lab-based bike test, one of the most important variables assessed is the power output you are able to sustain during the last minute of the test.

Maximal power output (MAP) is the power output that you are able to sustain for a minute at the end of a test where the power output you produce is required to increase throughout the test.

How Does It Influence Performance?

A good MAP is useful for climbing and sprints, but also the higher it is the more room you have below this to improve - the higher the percentage of your max that you can sustain the better.

How Is It Measured?

What can get confusing here is how this number is achieved. There are a variety of test protocols that can be used to determine this value.

Bike Lab Test

Generally they involved either a ‘fast ramp’ test, or an ‘incremental stage’ test.

A fast ramp test involves the power output increasing every minute, usually by around 15 – 20 watts per minute. This can be broken down to 5W every 15 or 20 seconds, or just a straight 15 – 20W jump every minute.

This sort of test should last around 10 – 15 minutes, and as such the starting power output should be adjusted accordingly.

So someone who is heavier or has done ‘more’ training would start at a higher power output than someone who is lighter or less well trained.

An incremental stage test usually involved 3 or 4 minute stages where the power output (resistance) starts off relatively low and increases by about 30 watts or so every stage. The athlete continues with these stages until they are unable to continue. As this test is longer (usually around 20 – 30 minutes), maximal aerobic power output is usually lower.

So if you’re reading something about the percentage of MAP that can be sustained, just make sure you know where MAP came from. The sustainable percentage of MAP obtained from a fast ramp will be lower than from an incremental stage test.

Can I Train Maximal Aerobic Power Output?

The good news is yes, maximal aerobic power output is trainable. The most sustainable improvements are seen through long rides done at a relatively low intensity. More recently research has shown good improvements in this variable through short, high intensity training.

However this sort of training does not give you a good base and the improvements are not as sustainable long term. So if you get injured or ill, then you will lose fitness more quickly than if you have built up a good base through long rides. However if you are unable to fit in long rides, or enough of them, then the higher intensity training can be beneficial.

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