This paper examines how selected physiological performance variables, such as maximal oxygen uptake, strength and power, might best be scaled for subject differences in body size. The apparent dilemma between using either ratio standards or a linear adjustment method to scale was investigated by considering how maximal oxygen uptake (1·min−1), peak and mean power output (W) might best be adjusted for differences in body mass (kg). A curvilinear power function model was shown to be theoretically, physiologically and empirically superior to the linear models. Based on the fitted power functions, the best method of scaling maximum oxygen uptake, peak and mean power output, required these variables to be divided by body mass, recorded in the units kg2/3. Hence, the power function ratio standards (ml·kg−2/3·min−1) and (W·kg−2/3) were best able to describe a wide range of subjects in terms of their physiological capacity, i.e. their ability to utilise oxygen or record power maximally, independent of body size. The simple ratio standards (ml·kg−1·min−1) and (W·kg−1) were found to best describe the same subjects according to their performance capacities or ability to run which are highly dependent on body size. The appropriate model to explain the experimental design effects on such ratio standards was shown to be log-normal rather than normal. Simply by taking logarithms of the power function ratio standard, identical solutions for the design effects are obtained using either ANOVA or, by taking the unscaled physiological variable as the dependent variable and the body size variable as the covariate, ANCOVA methods.