Does Ramp Test give Max HR? How do you determine it?

Polarised Training talks about working at a percentage of Max HR, which is great and makes a lot of sense. But how many of us actually know our Max HR?
I don’t think the highest HR I get in a ramp test reflects my true Max HR, so i don’t want to use that number in calculating training zones off that.
A race is probably the best way to determine it, but where I am at this time of year there aren’t a lot of races, and what sort of race is the best to determine it anyway? I could probably get closer to max HR on a hill finish, but in a field sprint I can’t get my HR up that high…I’m usually busy working my way backwards in a gallop to the line unfortunately.
Is there another TR workout that would get nearer to Max HR than the Ramp Test, or should I just add a lazy 5 or so beats on the end of my measured max in the test and get ‘close enough’?
Keen to hear what people think.

A 3 to 5 minute maximal effort will usually get your close to Max HR. You can also just add 2-3bpm to a really well executed ramp test and that will be close for most people.


Sharing my experience. I’ve never heard of adding 5bpm to max HR in a ramp test but oddly enough, my max HR in yesterday’s ramp test was 187bpm and the highest recorded HR on my Garmin, which I use as my max HR, is 192bpm. Maybe that method isn’t so bad…

1 Like

MAX HR of what? 5 sec, 10 min, 20 min?

In this case, it is simply the peak heart rate that is recorded

1 Like

Thanks. Yeah I like the idea of adding 2-5 beats to my peak HR in a ramp test.
It’s easier to get motivated to do and I think is reasonably close to true peak.

Ramp test does for me.


A typical fields test is to do a 1 minute all out effort following 3 to 4 very hard 3 minute efforts on incomplete recovery. To truly hit your max you need to go over your maximal aerobic effort after a nice warm up.

The ramp test does get my hr up there but my max is about 4 beats higher than my highest ramp hr.

1 Like

Hmm. My legs give up in the ramp test quite a bit below my max observed heart rates; 188bpm in all of my ramp tests this year; 197bpm at the end of a hill climb in the last year and 204bpm seen running a 10k a year before that. Maybe this is down to being fatigued during training though?

1 Like

Your hill climb number is probably pretty accurate. Beware of comparing running maxHR to what you do on the bike. I believe each sport should keep its own max. My limited understanding is that because running engages more of the body’s muscular system, it would be expected to have a higher maxHR.

1 Like

Also keep in mind that your cycling HRmax is likely to be lower indoors compared to what you would get outside (less core & upper body muscle recruitment).

That definitely corresponds with my experience. It’s weird that I can be happily(?) running along at >180bpm but getting near that number on a bike, especially indoors, feels like hell on earth and it’s a struggle to maintain 3 minute VO2max intervals :laughing:

I bet the less effective cooling indoors contributes to the RPE vs. BPM discrepancy too.

Got a 1 min hill close to where I live.

I find a max effort there is the highest HR I ever see.

If you can’t get your heart rate up while cycling it’s simply because you’re a better runner than a cyclist.

1 Like

Even with my hardest effort on a ramp test I have still recorded my highest heart rate out doors.

1 Like

As with a lot of others, the ramp test gets close but my legs give out before I get to max HR. There’s a hill near where I live which is an average of 12% and is a few km in length. If I go all out when riding up it then that generally gets me to what I’ve observed as my max. It also makes me want to vomit at the top and I’ve never felt that bad after a ramp test.

1 Like

I did a ramp test a few weeks ago, and before my legs quit, I looked
at the screen and saw my HR at 183, which was above my Max HR.
I quit the test a bit early, because I was a little worried. I had never had that experience before. Of course, I, myself, set the Max HR at 180. I based it on how I ‘felt’ when I routinely got to 175, no science involved.
Being 67 I felt like I have to be careful not to overexert.

By the definition of max HR, your max HR is… 183.

Keep in mind that this data point really is a variable. Your max HR will vary based on hydration level, temperature, etc.

This is bad news. I’m an awful, awful runner :rofl: