- a submaximal cycle ergometry test for estimation of VO2max

The EKBLOM-BAK test is a simple non-maximal cycle ergometer test for estimation of cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max). It is low risk, easily administrated and requires neither advanced laboratory equipment nor expertise knowledge in work physiology.

The test is suitable in situations when a maximal test is not feasible, for example in health evaluations.

Updated prediction equation

In 2016, a new prediction equation for the Ekblom-Bak test was published. The new equation is an update of the old equation published in 2012, and provides an improved precision for estimation of VO2max. Moreover, the valid ranges for VO2max (19-76 ml·min-1·kg-1) and age (20-86 years) are increased.

Below information and documents are all updated according to the new prediction equation.

Brief summary of the Test

First, the test subject cycles for 4 min at a low standard work rate (same workrate for all subjects performing the test), pedalling at 60 rpm. Mean heart rate during the last minute is recorded.

Then, the resistance is increased to a higher individually chosen work rate, to reach a steady state heart rate above 120 bpm (> 110 bpm for older subjects) and a perceived rate of exertion of ≈ 14 according to the Borg RPE scale. Mean heart rate during the last minute at the higher work rate is recorded.

VO2max is estimated by sex-specific equations based on the difference in heart rate response between the higher work rate and the standard work rate, a factor corresponding to the higher work rate, heart rate at standard work rate and age.


Equipment needed for the test:

  • Cycle ergometer*
  • Stopwatch
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Borg RPE-scale

Documents for the Original method

Using a mechanically braked Monark cycle ergometer (Original method):

Documents for the Alternative method

Using an electronically braked ergometer (Alternative method):

Using an electronically braked ergometer for the Ekblom-Bak test is an alternative method (see comment in italic below).

It is not validated and might induce estimation error which is not in line with the one presented for the original method. On an electronically braked ergometer, watts rather than kiloponds are used. Otherwise, the method, as well as the estimation of VO2max is the same as the original method. Though, it is important that the test subject pedals at 60 rpm.

Below, see guidance for the conversion of kiloponds to watts for electronically braked ergometers, depending on whether the work rate is measured by the pedals or the flywheel.

Reference values for VO2max 

Reference values 2018-03-19


Updated preditiction equation (2016):

Björkman F, Ekblom-Bak E, Ekblom Ö, Ekblom B. Validity of the revised Ekblom Bak cycle ergometer test in adults. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2016 Sep;116(9):1627-38. doi: 10.1007/s00421-016-3412-0. Epub 2016 Jun 16.

Original equation (2012):

Ekblom-Bak E, Björkman F, Hellenius ML, Ekblom B. A new submaximal cycle ergometer test for prediction of VO2max. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Apr;24(2):319-26. doi: 10.1111/sms.12014. Epub 2012 Nov 6.


* The test was developed using a mechanically braked Monark cycle ergometer (Model 828E). It is important to consider that other types of cycle ergometers may give different work rate responses when adding the same resistance at higher work rates, and consequently a variation in the pulse response.

Address to this webpage:


Download the app

You can find The Ekblom-Bak cycle test application with new calculation equation in App Store.

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