Posted by: Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes | November 12, 2008

A More Accurate Way to Determine Maximum Heart Rate

       In my last two posts, I described two methods you can use to calculate your Heart Rate Training Zones: the MHR = 220 – your age formula and the Karvonen Heart Rate Reserve method.   Both of these methods are based on estimating your maximum heart rate (MHR) and using a percentage of this number to determine your training zones.  The problem with this process is that the 220 – your age formula can miscalculate your actual heart rate by 10-15 beats per minute.  Fortunately, there are several ways to more accurately determine your MHR.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that some of these methods will cause you great physical stress.  In fact, the most accurate way to determine your MHR is to work out at such a high intensity that your heart can’t beat any faster.  This is known as a “Max HR Test” because you work so hard you actually achieve your maximum heart rate. 

Now pay close attentionvery few of us need that type of accuracy!  In fact, only elite level athletes or those training for serious competition should consider a Max HR Test.  And even elite athletes should do so with the strict supervision of medical personnel and/or exercise professionals.  Furthermore, even if you are an elite athlete, I don’t typically recommend a Max HR Test because a better method for developing Heart Rate Training Zones is through the use of lactate threshold (LT).  LT can be defined as the hardest you can run, ride, swim etc. for a period of 30 minutes or more.  It is the point past which your muscles produce lactic acid faster than your body can remove it causing you to reduce your exercise intensity (I’m getting ahead of myself – I’ll discuss this in much greater detail in a future post).

Still, if you want a more accurate measure of your MHR, there are several SubMax HR Tests you can do to improve the accuracy of your Heart Rate Training Zone calculations without going into the ‘red zone’.  I will discuss these in my next few posts.

NEXT POST – November 17, 2008



  1. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your site?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could
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  2. Producing energy aerobically also promotes good health by maximizing the efficiency
    of the body’s nutrient transport mechanism via the bloodstream and optimizing the efficiency of the heart and lungs. This means if you are only looking to burn the calories, you need to do some high intensity workouts. For the lower end of the training zone: 220 – 30 – 70 = 120.

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