Measuring maximum heart rate


New Member
I'd like to establish my personal maximum heart rate using a DIY method
so that I can use it for training with a heart rate monitor. I don't
have any faith in the various formulas that are used.

Anyone have a link to a good method?

The only description of a DIY method that I've found so far isn't clear
to me:


"Warm up thoroughly. On a long, steady hill increase effort every minute
for at least 5 minutes until you can't go any faster. Then sprint for 15
seconds. Check your heart rate at its maximum for a full 30 seconds and
double the number."

This throws up some questions:

1) Climbing for 5 minutes "until you can't go any faster" for me means
that I would be standing on the pedals at the end. What then am I
supposed to do to "sprint"? (per the previous instruction I am already
going as fast as I can)
2) What am I expected to do after the 15 second sprint, stop, continue
cycling at a reduced effort?
3) I don't understand what "Check your heart rate at its maximum for a
full 30 seconds and double the number." means.

Checking for a full 30 seconds and then doubling the number suggests
that I should use the average heart rate over a 30 second period
following the sprint, but this leaves me confused as what is meant by
"Check your heart rate at its maximum".

If I should use the average HR over the 30 second period following the
sprint (doubled), this makes it difficult to use my HRM to measure this
figure. It requires me to reset the trip data on my computer and
following that reset allow it to measure my HR for 30 seconds. With my
computer the only way I can stop it from counting after 30 seconds is to
take off the HRM strap. Only then could I use my computer's function
that reports the average HR for that period.

The alternative of checking my pulse manually isn't really practical
either after climbing for 5 minute at full capacity followed by a 15
second sprint.

The author of the article hasn't responded to a request for


New Member
What they're saying is that you gradually build up effort until you're knackered and can't increase any more, then sprint to totally exhaust yourself so your heart hits it's max. Then stop and record the max HR

The 30 second thing I think assumes you're using your finger and a watch. Most people do 6/10 sec and then multiply by 10/6 but they're suggesting double 30 to improve accuracy.
What I'd do (I have a Polar HRM which doesn't record until you hit the start button. It then stops logging when you hit stop) would be to start recording at the end of the sprint and then stop after 30 seconds, then grab the average from your HRM. If you can download individual data points then you can just start your HRM right at the beginning and then just use the numbers logged after the sprint.


Legendary Member
N Ireland
In his book, 'Smart Cycling' Dr Arnie Baker suggests "warm up for 10mins. After working at moderate pace for 3mins, increase your pace by about 10% every min. This means increasing your cadence by 5-10 or increasing your gearing by 1 gear of difficulty every coupole of mins. When you get to the point that it is extremely difficult to continue at pace, sprint absolutely as hard as you can for 30secs. Watch your HRM. This value should be close to your max".

In his book, 'Serious Cycling' E R Burke, PhD states "I have determined that average HR during a 5km TT is approx 95% of a persons max". He goes on to state that people tend to reach this average HR at the mid point of an all out effort 5km TT.

You could try both methods a week or so apart to see what results you get. Be warned that you have to work very hard and you should be fit to begin with. I have seen it suggested in some books that you should have company in case you keel over - for this reason pick low traffic roads!!


New Member
The "ramping up" method outlined above works well.

But be careful where you try it. A turbo trainer is best as you really will be in some distress if you exercise until you have to stop abruptly.

I've got the Arnie Baker book and doesn't he say something along the lines of "when the red mist clears, the value on your HRM is your HR max" If it isn't his book it's the one by Armstrong's trainer.

So avoid the commuter run for HR max attempts. ;)

Tim Bennet.

Entirely Average Member
S of Kendal
I would like to add a couple of things;

1. If you are just starting serious training, or are over 40, take care with this as by definition you are about to stress your heart to it's maximum. And whatever age, never do it alone and find a road where you won't be in danger from traffic or whatever when you have hit maximum and are no longer capable of controlling your bike. As has been said, a turbo is more controlled.

2. The 10 minute warm up is totally inadequate. You should ride steadily for about an hour with several bursts in the final twenty minutes up to race pace. Just look at the time and effort pro riders take to warm up before a time trial.

3. A full set of physiological tests are not that expensive to get done in the lab. You will also then get a lot of other markers and insights. Often local university sports or medical departments are looking for 'guinea pigs'. They often have a defib machine to hand as well, which is comforting.

4. If the Max HR test is not one of the most unpleasant experiences of your life, you haven't done it right. You might as well just boast your maximum observed HR by five percent and be done with it.


Legendary Member
N Ireland
Tim, you are on the button.

When I did the max session some years back I thought I was going to die.


Well-Known Member
I did the max test on an indoor rower last year. Came very very close to vomiting and fell off the machine - people staring etc. Gym instructor was very encouraging throughout and treated me like a hero afterwards. Point? Professional help is worth it's weight in C-Record. Turns out the old 220 less your age is just the fitness tech manufacturers playing safe. My HRmax is that of a man 14 years younger - and I am not even at club cyclist level fitness.


New Member
Steve Austin said:
My max is 199, and i'm a bit older than 21 ;)

Those with bionic parts are not allowed to play the "what age does my MHR say I am" game :biggrin:
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