Your Maximum Heart Rate And What You Should Know

Maximum Heart Rate

Quick Summary

Your maximum heart rate is also known as HR Max. Simply put, we can define the maximum heart rate as the maximum number of beats per minute your heart can pump during vigorous exercise. Your max heart rate is at the opposite end of the scale from your resting heart rate

Table of Contents

What is your maximum heart rate?

Now that you are ready to calculate your max heart rate, how do you begin?

You’ve probably tried to calculate your resting heart rate. Instead of calming your heartbeat down, calculating your maximum heart rate will push you to its limits.

Maximum heart rate calculation requires you to exercise and have the equipment necessary to measure it. We will walk you through how to find out your max heart rate.

What factors can affect your maximum heartbeat? Your max heart rate will be affected by age, fitness, stress, medication such as beta-blockers, and other factors. 

Does your sex affect your max heart rate? The formula to calculate the maximum heart rate for both males and females is identical. However, you might be interested to learn that women tend to have a higher max heart rate than men.

Why is your maximum heart rate important

Heart rate-based training allows you to exercise at the correct intensity to achieve your training goals. In addition, training more intelligently is often better than just training hard.

The five zones that determine training intensity are also called heart rate zones. These zones range from very low to high intensity. These zones represent a percentage of your maximum heartbeat.

First, determine or estimate your maximum heart rate. From there, you can determine your personal heart rate zones. For example, you can train at 81-90% of your HR Max in heart rate zone 4. Therefore, zone 4 will increase your maximum performance potential.

Alternatively, you can train at heart rate zone 3, typically your average heart rate while running. However, you will still improve blood circulation efficiency by training at a slightly lower level of 71 to 80% of your HR.

First, determine or estimate your maximum heart rate to determine your personal heart rate zones.

Use this simple formula to estimate your max heart rate

One way to calculate your maximum heart rate is to use this simple formula. To estimate your maximum heart rate, take the number 220 and minus your age.

The formula is a great starting point. However, it is not perfect for everyone, especially for those older humans or those who have been physically fit for a long time.

Maximum Heart Rate

Get a laboratory V02 max test

If you have the money or time, a clinical measurement of your max heart rate is the best way to determine your maximum heart rate. These clinical tests will be done in a sophisticated laboratory with high-tech equipment.

The maximum oxygen intake, also known as VO2 max or maximal oxygen use, is the maximum oxygen that an individual can consume during intense exercise. This is generally the best indicator of aerobic endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

A person’s ability to use high levels of oxygen during exercise will determine how much energy they can produce. This test often referred to as the gold standard, is the best way to determine cardio-respiratory fitness. Because aerobic exercise requires oxygen, the heart must pump enough blood through the circulation.

Measuring VO2 max

We can measure the volume and gas concentrations in inspired and expired air by placing a mask on the subject. This measurement is used frequently in research and is the most precise. This test is done on a treadmill, or on a bicycle at a pace that increases in intensity every few minutes until exhaustion. It is intended to measure the maximum effort as you reach your max heart rate.

VO2 Max Testing

This test also gives us the maximum heart rate of an individual, which can be combined with a resting heartbeat to help us develop a more specific target heart rate range. This is more accurate than age-predicted equations. The subject is able to leave the lab with a clear idea of their current fitness level as well as how to improve it.

Testing your max heart rate on your own

If you don’t have the time or money to do a V02 max test, you can also perform your own tests to calculate your max heart rate. 

While you won’t require any fancy equipment to perform the field test, it will give you an accurate estimate of your maximum heart rate. It’s simple. You warm-up and do an exercise that gets you to your maximum effort.

There are two approaches that I have used for this, one is running up a hill, and the other is using a rowing machine while performing a high-intense training, also known as HIT. Both of these allow you to get a very good estimate of your max heart rate. 

For both of these exercises, you will need your heart rate monitor. I have used several different heart rate monitors, but today my preference is my Apple Watch. Make sure to turn on an exercise app while doing the tests so that you can monitor your heart rate. 

Using running as a technique

If you decide to measure your max heart rate by running, make sure to warm up for at least fifteen minutes on flat ground. Once warm, find a hill that will take you about two minutes to run up it. Run up the hill once, building up to your fastest pace, a pace that you could hold for at least twenty minutes. Once you have finished, jog back down the hill. Run up the hill again, this time with a faster pace. Then, return to the bottom of the hill. Let your heart rate drop down to 30-40 beats per minute. Then run up the hill a third time, with a faster pace again. Record your maximum rate. Add ten extra beats to your reading to calculate your HR Max value.  

My favorite is the rowing machine

Because I don’t seem to have a hill close by, I prefer to measure my maximum heart rate by using our rowing machine. However, to push me, I use high-intense training with intervals. To start, warm up with a five-minute row. Once warm, I set my interval timer for two minutes for the high intense period and then thirty seconds for the low period. I do this for twenty cycles. These twenty sessions with a bit of time for a cool down genuinely get my heart pumping. Likewise, add ten extra beats to your reading to calculate your max heart rate.


Max Heart Rate

Checking out your performance

For both of these tests, I record my heart rate with my current favorite workout app for my Apple Watch, the Heartwatch app. I love the amount of data that this app records and interpolates.  

Read more from the experts at the CDC