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FAQ: The Balke Test

The Balke Test was designed by Bruno Balke as a way to estimate a runner's VO2 max.

You can evaluate your Balke test results here.

How is the Balke test conducted?

On a windless day, the athlete runs on an athletics track for 15 minutes. The objective is to run as far as possible in the time available. In general, this is achieved by running at a broadly constant pace; though the runner may be advised to start hard and finish up running as hard as possible.

If the athlete has a helper or coach, it is convenient for the coach to blow a whistle every 5 minutes, to enable the athlete to keep track of progress, and to count laps and note how far the athlete has reached at the end of the test.

How are the results evaluated?

The Balke test page on this website interprets the results using three different formulae.

The original formula proposed by Bruno Balke was:
VO2 = 6.5 + 5 x laps covered.

Since then, Frank Horwill has proposed the following formula:
VO2 = 0.172 x (metres/15 - 133) + 33.3

Finally, it is possible to use the formula relating VO2 max to distance and speed proposed by Daniels and Gilbert to estimate VO2 max from the results of the Balke Test:
VO2 Max=(-4.60 + 0.182258 * velocity + 0.000104 * velocity^2)/(0.8 + 0.1894393 * e^(-0.012778 * time) + 0.2989558 * e^(-0.1932605 * time)) [where velocity is in metres per minute; and time in minutes]

Which formula is the best?

I don't know; and I would welcome the opinions of others.

The Daniels and Gilbert formula is used in other parts of the website; it is therefore the preferred formula if you are going to use the VO2 max as the basis of other calculations.