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How do you calculate your maximum heart rate?

In fitness we talk about "maximum heart rate" (MHR). How do we know what our max HR is and what is the best way to calculate this?
Posted in Health & Fitness, asked by Fito, 5 years ago. 941 hits.


Your max HR can be calculated in many ways but here are three generally popular ways to work with.

The first and most common way is by taking 220 and subtracting your age (220 - age = age predicted maximum HR).

For example, if you are 20 years old then you take 220 and subtract 20 which equals to 200. Therefore 200 is your maximum heart rate, i.e. 200bpm (beats per minute).

This method is a general guideline for the average individual. I like to use this method as a baseline with my clients as a safety guide.

If you’d like to calculate your own “true max HR” then you should do a specific test called the VO2 Max Test.

The test itself is not very comfortable and any that has done it will tell you the same thing. The way it works is that you’re put though and exercise drill that increases in intensity by means of increments.

The test measures the amount of millilitres of oxygen that is used for every kilogram of bodyweight. The test is done with a supervisor (a medical professional) and it will push your cardiac output and capacity to the very limits.
Often, individuals will have significantly higher than “normal” max HR’s (especially with athletes) because they have adapted to high intensity load.

This is the most accurate way of testing max HR.

Lastly there is the Sub-maximal heart rate test. This test is also a baseline or estimate way to read max HR. It’s called “sub-max” because it’s below your actual maximum HR.

This method is better than the age based max HR but not as good as the VO2 Max Test. There are a number of ways to do this one but here is an idea.

You‘ll need to use a heart monitor (watch and strap monitor) to measure the numbers. The way to do this is to train for around 20 minutes until you reach 85% intensity (PRE – Perceived Rate of Exertion), or 85% of your maximum HR.

Then it depends on what type of activity you are doing, but following the above a person usually performs a “burst set” or a type of “interval style drill”. So for example, following 15 or 20 minutes at 85% you’ll suddenly go flat out for around 2 minutes and then immediately move into a recovery set then followed by another burst of intensity.

After the routine you’ll then use your monitor and pick out the highest heart rate. The individual then adds 20bpm to that number (sometimes higher depending on the activity and fitness of the individual) and this will be the maximum HR for that person.

This method is best used for people that are used to fitness training and have a high level of fitness.
5 years ago
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