The purpose of this test is to estimate your VO2 Max and it is one of the few tests of such nature that can be performed with minimal equipment. The Bruce Test is a good way to measure cardiovascular fitness in endurance athletes. For those of you who don’t know, VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen a person can take in during exercise, which is measured in milliliters of oxygen used in one min per kg of body weight (ml/kg/min). The Bruce Protocol test is one of the simpler methods of estimating VO2 max.

During the Bruce Protocol Test, you will be working to exhaustion to see how long you can last on the treadmill as your speed and incline will increase every three minutes. Each stage below represents a three-minute interval.

  • Stage 1 = 1.7 mph at 10% Grade
  • Stage 2 = 2.5 mph at 12% Grade
  • Stage 3 = 3.4 mph at 14% Grade
  • Stage 4 = 4.2 mph at 16% Grade
  • Stage 5 = 5.0 mph at 18% Grade
  • Stage 6 = 5.5 mph at 20% Grade
  • Stage 7 = 6.0 mph at 22% Grade
  • Stage 8 = 6.5 mph at 24% Grade
  • Stage 9 = 7.0 mph at 26% Grade

A few words of caution, however. Since this test, especially in the later stages, is a test of your maximal exercise tolerance, it is best to get a physician’s clearance prior to performing it. Please note that this test is not recommended for those with known heart conditions, as there are risks associated with it. Additionally, you should also keep an eye on your heart rate to avoid extreme overexertion.

Assuming that you have been given clearance to perform this fitness test, use the following Bruce Protocol formulae to estimate VO2 Max:

  • Men’s VO2 Max = 14.8 -(1.379 x T) + (0.451 x T²) -(0.012 x T³)
  • Women’s VO2  Max= 4.38 x T-3.9

In the above formula, T=total time on the treadmill, measured as a fraction of a minute. For example, 8 minutes and 15 seconds would be plugged into the formula as “T=8.25”. Once you calculate your estimated VO2 Max using these formulas, you will be able to see approximately where you stand based on your age and gender.

Please take a look at the tables below to see how to rate your VO2 Max.

VO2 Max Norms for Men as Measured in ml/kg/min
AgeVery PoorPoorFairGoodExcellentSuperior


VO2 Max Norms for Women as Measured in ml/kg/min
AgeVery PoorPoorFairGoodExcellentSuperior