Do you know your Maximum Heart Rate
The theoretical maximum heart rate formula (220 minus your age = MaxHR), is thought to be developed back in 1970 by Dr William Haskell and Dr Samuel Fox. The formula was not developed from any original research of theirs but based on their observation of some public research and some unpublished scientific compilations.
Despite widespread publication of the formula, research into the formula has revealed large inherent errors and has neither any accuracy nor any scientific merit. What it has got going for it is the formula is easy to use and remember. It’s also widely used as the “general rule of thumb” given the lack of anything else to use that doesn't require an EKG! In some cases the formula has been found to be very accurate when measured against an athlete’s subsequent cardiac stress tests however this can be put done to pure luck than anything of scientific value.
There are a number of formulas that have since been developed and studied. These studies have concluded that there is no “formula” that currently exists that is 100% accurate for determining a person’s maximum heart rate. The reason for this is based on individual differences between athletes. Even when comparing athletes within the same sport, of the exact same age and gender, maximum heart rates can vary up to 60 beats per minute! No surprises then why the experts say that maximum heart rate is the least most important variable when comparing athletes. It just shouldn’t be done!
So why should you know your actual maximum heart rate? Because if you are using a heart rate monitor training with heart rate zones based on your theoretical heart rate which could be ±20 beats per minute of your actual maximum heart rate, then you could be grossly under training or god forbid, over training! All that effort could be wasted if you are not training in your optimal heart rate training zones.
There are 3 factors I use to determine an athlete’s maximum heart rate and their subsequent heart rate training zones;
1. Theoretical heart rate – this could be based on any one of the 48 or so formulas that have been developed to determine your maximum heart rate. Currently I am using the 208-(0.7xage) but even then should be taken with a grain of salt. This factor I use just out of interest sake and I do not weight it very heavily when determining an athlete’s maximum heart rate.
2. Training history - I will review downloaded heart rate files from races and hard training sessions to find the highest recorded maximum heart rate within the last 12-24 months. The reason for this time period is the evidence to suggest that our maximum heart rate declines with age.
3. The third factor I use in determining maximum heart rate is an actual maximum heart rate step test. I perform this test on a stationary bike (Wattbike Trainer) with inbuilt power and heart rate capability. This allows me to accurately increase the workload and power output at set time intervals. This gives the athlete the best chance of reaching their maximum heart rate during the test. The test takes roughly 20-30 minutes and the athlete reaches their maximum heart rate just prior to exhaustion.
Considerations for Maximum Heart Rate Step Test
The athlete must be fully rested and have had a couple of day’s recovery from hard training just prior to performing the step test. The usual cautionary steps are followed to ensure athletes are fit enough for the task and they are not carrying any injuries etc.
Once I have the athlete’s actual maximum heart rate, then I work out their very own personalised heart rate training zones!
PCS performs Maximum Heart Rate Tests in the Brisbane locaction for $95.00. To book in for your Max Heart Rate Test contact us and we will schedule in a time that suits you.