The Ekblom-Bak test

The Ekblom-Bak test was developed by researchers at GIH and is a submaximal cycle ergometer test for calculating VO2max.

Elin Ekblom-Bak demonstrates tests for men on an exercise bike

Description of the test

The test is suitable for situations where you need to determine maximum oxygen uptake capacity, but neither want nor to have the opportunity to carry out a maximum test, for example during a health assessment.

It requires advanced laboratory equipment or occupational physiology expertise and involves a low risk for you as test subjects.

The test person first cycles for four minutes at a low standard load, the same load for everyone who completed the test, with a pedaling frequency of 60 revolutions per minute. The average heart rate during the last minute is noted.

The load is then increased directly to a higher, preselected load so that the test subject achieves a steady state heart rate above 120 beats/min (> 110 beats/min for older people) and reports a general perceived physical exertion level of ≈ 14 according to Borg's RPE scale. The average heart rate during the last minute of the higher load is noted.

VO2max is then calculated via sex-specific equations based on the difference in heart rate between the higher load and the standard load, a factor corresponding to the higher load, heart rate at the lower load and age.

In 2016, the calculation equation for the Ekblom-Bak test was updated, which meant that the test's precision in calculating VO2max was improved.


Equipment needed for the test:

  • Exercise bike*
  • Clock for timing
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Borg's RPE scale

* The test is developed using Monark's mechanically braked exercise bike, Model 828E. It is important to note that the brake mechanics at higher loads differ between different models of bicycle ergometers. This gives a variation in work done for the same load search and consequently a variation in the pulse response.

An application for the test

You can find The Ekblom-Bak cycle test application with new calculation equation in App Store External link, opens in new window. and on Google Play External link, opens in new window..

Document for original method

Here are documents for the implementation of the Ekblom-Bak test using a mechanically braked Monark cycle, the so-called original method.

Document for alternative method

Use of an electronically braked bicycle is an alternative method when performing the Ekblom-Bak test.

The alternative method is not validated and may yield a method greater than that presented for the original method. A given wattage is set on the bike instead of a resistance in kilo pounds. Otherwise, the method and calculation are the same as the original method. However, it is a basic condition that the test person still cycles with a pedaling frequency of 60 revolutions per minute.

The conversion document below provides guidance on the relationship between kilo pounds and watts for electronically controlled braked bicycles, depending on whether power is measured at the pedals or at the flywheel.

Reference values

In the paper below, you will find reference values for estimated maximal oxygen consumption according to the Ekblom-Bak test (Table 3).


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. External link, opens in new window.

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 External link, opens in new window.

Mijwel S, Cardinale D, Ekblom-Bak E, Sundberg CJ, Wengström Y, Rundqvist H. Validation of 2 Submaximal Cardiorespiratory Fitness Tests in Patients With Breast Cancer Undergoing Chemotherapy. Rehabil Oncol. 2016 Oct;34(4):137-143. External link, opens in new window.

Björkman, F., Eggers, A., Stenman, A., Bohman, T., Ekblom, B., & Ekblom, Ö. (2018). Sex and maturity status affected the validity of a submaximal cycle test in adolescents. Acta Paediatrica, 107(1), 126–133. External link.

Väisänen, D., Ekblom, Ö., Ekblom Bak, E., Andersson, E., Nilsson, J., & Ekblom, M. (2020). Criterion validity of the Ekblom-Bak and the Åstrand submaximal test in an elderly population. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 120(2), 307–316. External link.

Björkman, F., Ekblom, Ö., Ekblom Bak, E., & Bohman, T. (2021). The ability of a submaximal cycle ergometer test to detect longitudinal changes in VO2max. BMC Sports Science, Medicine & Rehabilitation, 13(1). External link.

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  • Elin Ekblom Bak´s profilbildProfessor, Docent, Director of studies, Senior lecturerElin Ekblom 8-120 53 861

Test app

There is an app for The Ekblom-Bak cycle test with new calculation equation. Click on the links below to download the app.

Last modified:12 Feb 2024