Knowing the maximum heart rate is crucial for those athletes who train by monitoring their heart rate. This will allow for the proper setting of training zones, which will boost training results and give sessions structure. Calculating maximum heart rate, however, can be tricky.
It takes time for the heart rate to reach its maximum value, unlike speed or power. Rather, reaching maximum heart rate pushes an athlete to the limit and beyond.
It is possible to calculate maximum heart rate with good accuracy through 3 different methods, for those who want to do a little suffering (or a lot). Learn all about them by scrolling down.
What is the maximum heart rate?
Heart rate maximum (or MaxHR or MHR) is the number of Beats Per Minute the heart makes under maximum stress.
Max heart rate is used as a benchmark for how much an athlete's body can produce. An athlete and his coach can structure the training process around specific training intensities or 'training zones' if they are aware of that number.
Accurately calculating the maximum heart rate is important. To optimize training results, athletes use it as a reference to focus on specific training intensities.
A person's maximum heart rate can vary significantly from one to another. It is not good or bad to have a high or low Max HR. It's just something that everyone inherits.
Using it instead as a guide to building a structured training plan with specific exercise intensities is what makes all the difference.
The 5 training zones are based on a percentage of maximum heart rate (from very light to full gas). To achieve the desired results of training, it is essential to pinpoint an accurate maximum heart rate.
1- Calculate song tempo and maximum heart rate with BPMTest
BPM Test helps you establish, calculate, and measure your song's tempo. In some cases, you need to test BPM several times to avoid human error and get an accurate result, and this bpm calculator will give you the fastest heart rate you can achieve while exercising without experiencing severe problems.
Depending on your natural ability, training level, sport, and determination, the speed, distance, and intensity of your training will vary greatly.
2 – Estimate maximum heart rate with a maximum heart rate formula
Utilizing the formula will give you the best estimate of your maximum heart rate. Additionally, it is the safest approach, making it ideal for beginners.
There have been many studies on maximum heart rate formulas. These are the most popular:
- [ 220 – Age ] – the most commonly used maximum heart rate formula
- [ 207 – 0.7 x Age ] – a more precise formula, adjusted for people over 40 years old
- [ 211 - 0.64 x Age ] - slightly more precise formula, adapted for relatively active people
Unfortunately, neither of the formulas above is gender-adjusted. A woman's maximum heart rate is often five to ten beats higher than a man's, so that is an additional factor to consider.
It's better to check several formulas and choose a middle ground if you are new to this. Among the people I trained with, the formula adjusted for active people was almost accurate: Maximum Heart Rate = 211 – 0.64 x Age.
It is important to remember that these formulas represent the 'theoretical' maximum heart rate. It will depend on the sport whether an athlete can reach a specific maximum heart rate.
Running, for example, involves more muscles than cycling and its overall maximum heart rate tends to be higher. Similarly, the maximum heart rate while swimming is lower because a cooler environment is used and mainly upper body muscles that are smaller in size are used.
Therefore, to set up training zones correctly, it is important to calculate Max HR for a specific sport.
3 – Calculate maximum heart rate during a laboratory test
A supervised laboratory test would be a much more formal (and accurate) way to calculate maximum heart rate. As part of the VO2 max analysis, a person is tested to the absolute limits of their physical abilities and, therefore, is pushed to their limits.
The procedure is quite simple - the athlete runs on a treadmill (or cycles/kayaks/etc. on an ergometer) ever faster, increasing their power and speed until they reach exhaustion. The test gathers a lot of data about the athlete's current fitness (like oxygen intake, lactate build-up speed, and other fun stuff).
It determines not only the maximum heart rate, but also the anaerobic, aerobic, and lactate thresholds. Data like this helps to analyze how training affects the body and if something needs to be changed or adjusted.
Can I go over the maximum heart rate estimated for me?
Yes, the answer is yes. However, this is not because the heart explodes if something is done beyond what the formula suggests is Max HR. Because the formula generalizes people, it becomes imprecise for very fit athletes and older people who are very active.
While the maximum heart rate does decrease with age, it does not decrease nearly as much as formulas would suggest (especially for fit people). It decreases mainly because of a decrease in overall activity.
A trained athlete's maximum heart rate does not drop until they end their careers and reduce training volume. It is not uncommon to see 40-year-old athletes working out at a maximum heart rate of 195, even though the formula suggests no higher than 180.
An athlete who sets a Max HR benchmark too low will be forced to under-exert himself and not get the most benefit from training.
However, if an athlete is serious about his training, estimating maximum heart rate should only be a starting point. Training or competing in races should help you to understand what your maximum heart rate is.
Heart rate target and estimated maximum heart rate
Moderate-intensity physical activity should be performed at a heart rate of 66-76% of your maximum heart rate. Based on your age, you can estimate your maximum heart rate. Calculate your maximum age-related heart rate by subtracting 220 from your age. Accordingly, a 50-year-old person's maximum age-related heart rate would be 220 - 50 years = 170 beats per minute (bpm). The levels would be as follows for 64% and 76%:
- 64% level: 170 x 0.64 = 109 bpm, and
- 76% level: 170 x 0.76 = 129 bpm
For an individual 50 years of age, moderate-intensity physical activity requires a heart rate between 109 and 129 beats per minute.
For vigorous-intensity exercise, your target heart rate should be between 77%1,2 and 93%2. Follow the same formula as above, except change "64 and 76%" to "77 and 93%". As an example, a 35-year-old's estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be 220 - 35 years = 185 beats per minute (bpm). These are the levels of 77% and 93%:
- 77% level: 185 x 0.77 = 142 bpm, and
- 93% level: 185 x 0.93 = 172 bpm
This shows that vigorous-intensity physical activity requires the heart rate to be between 142 and 172 beats per minute for an adult 35 years of age.
During a moderately to highly intense heartbeat, you are at this level. The maximum heart rate is found by subtracting your age from 220. Cardio-respiratory endurance can be improved by performing a workout at this pace. So knowing your target heart rate helps you pace your workout.