Determine maximum heart rate: What heart rate during training?

Posted by Timm Schaffner on

Determine maximum heart rate

The more strenuous the workout , the faster your heart has to beat in order, among other things, to transport fresh oxygen to your muscles. Much like an engine that has a red line, your heart has a breaking point.

Heart rate is defined as the number of beats per minute. When you train hard, you approach a level of exertion known as your maximum heart rate, or maximum heart rate. It is an individual value that differs from person to person and also depends on the form of the day.

Simple formulas to calculate the maximum heart rate, but according to sports scientist Paul Schmidt-Hellinger they are too imprecise. Nevertheless, they can provide an orientation. But in order to be able to estimate the degree of stress at all, you first have to be able to measure your pulse rate.

This is how the heart rate is measured

As recently as the late 1970s, you could only get a reliable heart rate check from a doctor. It wasn't until the 80s that the first watch designed to measure heart rate came onto the market. Nowadays there are countless fitness gadgets that you can use to do this on the side.

Most heart rate monitors use light rays to measure the heartbeat very precisely. If you don't have a heart rate monitor at hand, you can also measure your heart rate on your neck. Here the pulse can be felt very well with 2-3 fingers. Time 15 seconds and count the strokes. Then you multiply the result by 4 and get (approximately) your current heart rate.

What is the maximum heart rate?

When training , you should train at about 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. As you get fitter, you may even be able to push yourself closer to your breaking point for a short time.

There are rules of thumb for men and women to determine the maximum heart rate:

  • Men: 223 minus 0.9 * age in years
  • Females: 226 minus age in years

It is important to remember that everyone's heart rate is different. For example, someone who naturally has a higher heart rate will have a higher maximum heart rate than the rule of thumb calculates. The most important thing is that you listen to your body and interpret the signs correctly.

As you can already see: As you get older, your maximum heart rate decreases, and with it your maximum heart rate. Doctors call this frequency the "intrinsic heart rate". On average, it decreases by 0.7 to 1 beat per year of life. For example, if a 20-year-old has a maximum heart rate of 200, a 40-year-old has an average of 180 beats per minute.

How can I find out my ideal heart rate zone?

Just try it like this: Start your workout (e.g. with a rowing machine ) for ten minutes at a medium intensity level that you don't consider particularly demanding. Then you should train for about two minutes on the same, but increase the speed.

Next, you increase the intensity of the resistance, but train more slowly for about 5 minutes. Then you try to go full throttle again at this level for 1 minute. Then switch back to easy mode for 5 minutes and then finish your workout.

Now a look at the heart rate monitor is necessary. The evaluation will show you a few peaks because you have demanded different performances from your body. The last peak should be the highest and should be used as a guide to your maximum heart rate to be on the safe side.

Depending on the percentage of the maximum heart rate, there are so-called heart rate zones that you can target for training control:

  • With a pulse rate of 50 to 60 percent of the maximum heart rate, you find the training easy.
  • Between 60 and 70 percent you already feel a certain exertion. When you're training with someone else, it's easy to talk. This zone is already very effective for burning fat.
  • A rate of over 70 percent is recommended for effective fitness training. If you are a proficient athlete, this is the zone you should aim for.
  • If you are above 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, you are in the performance range. You won't last long here and you shouldn't force it either.

By the way: Real high-performance athletes can get very close to their maximum level during competitions (where the pulse rate can be even higher due to the pressure to perform). However, it is by no means recommended for recreational athletes.

Maximum heart rate (HRmax) or actual maximum value (HRpeak)?

Your maximum heart rate (HRmax) will be at a different level every day at different levels of exertion. It can only be achieved in theory. As it is different every day, yesterday's value could still be exceeded if today's load is higher.

Experts therefore do not like to talk about the HFmax, but prefer to talk about the HFpeak. This is the highest value during a workout and therefore an indicator of what your body is capable of. If you don't reach this value or you don't feel so good, you shouldn't try to reach a certain heart rate frantically.

Tip: Keep a training diary and monitor your peaks. This way you will quickly get a feeling for when you feel a high level of exertion and which heart rate range you should aim for for your training.

Conclusion: Don't overexert yourself and analyze carefully

Ultimately, it can be said that the maximum heart rate cannot be calculated that easily and is more of a theoretical value. It is more important that you observe your personal heart rate peaks over a longer period of time and adjust your training accordingly. After all, you won't and shouldn't reach your maximum value anyway.

Be sure to listen to your body and don't train doggedly based on numbers. How intense your workout can be also depends on your daily form, which is influenced by your diet, mood and daily sleep, among other things. Nevertheless, it is very interesting to deal with the maximum heart rate and you should definitely track your heart rate in order to train effectively.

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