Heart Rate (HR) vs FTP, which drives the bus?

I am an endurance cyclist. I like the long, double century type gravel grinders like Dirty Kanza the best, but I will do paved road rides too. I have been training for these and other shorter events that are coming up this spring and summer. I’m following the recommendations presented by Coach Chad of Sweet Spot II base high volume, sustained Power Build High volume and Century specialty High volume plans. I like these as that make training very simple. Each day you know exactly what to do. Here is my problem. I recently (Christmas) got a heart rate monitor. I have been reading up on how to interpret my heart rate information.

Doing the TR training plans your effort is calibrated by your test results which set your FTP. If you are in better shape you will test higher and then all workouts will be calibrated by your FTP. Simple. But how does max heart rate figure into this equation? My issue is that when doing over-under workouts (V02Max) my heart rate goes way up. Over 220 bpm! Recovery is quick and I drop back down to 100 in no time at all.

It has been suggested by some that I should never ever allow my bmp to exceed 180 and then if it does for only a few seconds or so. If I then use my heart rate to set my effort I’m not coming anywhere near the effort as set by the test and FTP.

So, what drives the bus? Heart rate or FTP? And should I back down, way down seeing that my heart rate is so high? I don’t want to get hurt. Yes I’m very sore after one of these workouts, so is everyone. I figure that is the point and why TR does it this way.

I also notice that in your setup for TR they ask you for your weight but not your age. Why is that? Seems age would have a bearing on FTP, no?

Comments? Help?

Which heart rate monitor did you get? 220 down to 100 seems like poor readings.


Where did the 180bpm “ceiling” come from? Do you know what your max heart rate is from actual experience and not a calculated value from a formula? I definitely wouldn’t pay too much attention to HR on short and hard intervals (that’s where power really shines since it’s instant with no lag), but certainly monitoring your effort on longer endurance rides can be useful, especially when you’re fatigued which just hammering away at the prescribed power may not be the best thing to do–use both as tools, but you can make use of them for different things/at different times.

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Some light reading:

Come back with questions! :smile:

(P.S. many folks on the forum–myself included–believe there are very good uses for heart rate, but we might as well get the “you don’t need no HR just use power, bro” stuff out of the way first before getting to the advanced and useful nuances)


I only have questions. To help us help you:

  • While doing the criss cross intervals, you go to 220 bpm at what % FTP? Recover to 100 bpm what does that mean? Are you still just below FTP threshold or do you mean recovery between intervals? What’s your max, and threshold HR?

  • Who suggests not going over 180 bpm? Being able to sustain a high HR all else equal is a good thing vs. a lower HR. Having a HR at FTP as close as possible to max HR is a really good thing. For example having an average HR at FTP which is 80% of max is less desirable than being able to sustain 90% of max at FTP. Being able to go well past your FTP equivalent HR over and over and recover back to that FTP HR is further measure of fitness.

  • What is the context of age affecting FTP? A 90 year old won’t be able to produce as high an FTP compared to themselves at 20 yes. But, there is no 220-age equivalent for power. It is what it is. Your FTP and all other power HR metrics are unique and individual to you. There is no constant for age if that’s what you’re asking. Power is power.

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These seems like crazy fluctuations, even in a recovery valley. Did you mean those numbers literally or were you just exaggerating a bit? I question your HR’s accuracy if those are the numbers you’re getting.

Yeah. Maybe you can link us a ride where this happens? Big fluctuations smell like HR monitor error. But if you have a big aerobic base and limited VO2max exposure, I could see hitting you max HR in an interval and dropping down to a really low HR during rest.

It’s a Polar

The percent increase is 108% FTP. So what happens is when I start an interval, like doing the workout Kosciuszko +4, during each interval my HR climbs up to 218 to 220 bpm, then when the interval is over and the power drops to 40% my HR recovers down to around 100 bpm. Then it goes up with the next increase in power for the next interval.

I know, the swing is wild but it’s what is shown. Idk, maybe my Polar, which is brand new, is off. For reference my polar is very close to my Apple watch.

Good questions. I have read that the “standard” formula for determining your max workout heart rate is to take 220 and minus your age. where does 220 come from? idk! Why 220? idk, it’s just what is written. So, OK I’ll take it as a base line. 220 minus my age (58) is 162 bpm. 162? Really?! Idk what to think. There are other methods out there besides the 220 starting point. I’ve seen in Bicycling mag using a rate of your age times .7 minus 208 (which for me is 167.4). Then there is the Maffetone 180 training method which uses 180 minus your age then has additional additions and subtractions. Using this formula my max HR would be 112! 112!!!??? I surpass that just warming up!

This whole discussion and concern is that I do not want to overexert myself and get hurt! This said, I don’t want to go too lean due to the several epic events I’m training for. I understand that recovery and rest are extremely important. I’m trying to understand when too much is too much and rest is better.

Make sense?

This formula is for your aerobic training zone.

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True, but isn’t his program for all training? It reminds me of old school where one would simply just ride for hours on end, not fast speed wise but with a high cadence. Very very low stress. I suppose if you were training for an event is 2020 maybe starting this program now would be fine. I’m more time crunched.

This formula is just for base training. I don’t know what he recommends after you have built your base or even when you recognize that it is time to move on from base training.

Is this the first time you’ve ever measured HR? Do you have a history of having a high HR? If you do and your HR is accurate, then using the “standard” formulas for Max HR won’t work for you. If you don’t want to do an effort or race that will elicit near max HR, you may want to just do one of the standard Lactate Threshold tests for HR (usually a 30’ test where you go as hard as you can for the 30’, but hitting your lap button 10’ in and taking the AVG HR over the last 20’) and base any HR training off that for the time being. The 220 to 100 BPM swings seem like something’s off though, especially for 58, but if it’s consistently doing that then maybe? If RPE doesn’t match (i.e. you don’t feel like you’re going to fall off your bike if you keep holding the effort at 220BPM) then that would also point to something being off. For the bike training I wouldn’t pay too much attention to it either way though and I’d especially not make use of MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) training on the bike since it’s more running related.

I’ve been using Trainer Road for almost three years now and i just got the HR monitor. Why? Well it was a gift from Christmas and I figured might as well, so I got it. Do I have a history of high HR? Not that I know of. I mean when faced with doing a really tough workout sometimes I adjust the power down or advance the workout but it’s due to muscle fatigue not cardio or shortness of breath. So what is my max HR? How do you figure it out? And what does it mean? Is it a rate that one should never exceed? The HR swings from a high of 220 to 100 take several minutes to occur. In fact tonight I did 6 intervals in 1 hr. 15 min. Each interval was 8 minutes with 5 minutes recovery between intervals. I hit peak HR around minute 5 to 6 of in each interval, then my HR dropped down 30-40 beats. Once the interval was over and I was in the recovery 5 minutes it wasn’t until minute 3 or almost 4 that I hit the 100 bpm level. So there’s a ramp up and a ramp down.

In all honesty I think, like others have said, it could be a faulty HRM. At 58, I doubt your heart rate would ever reach 220. I think most people 35+ would ever see it go above 200.

N=1, the only time I’ve ever seen a reading go above 200 is on a windy day going downhill and that was clearly connection issues as I was coasting! I’m 39 and have been cycling for the last 10 years.

Is there anyway you could exchange it for another one just to rule it out? If the other one is like it as well you might want to get your heart checked out just for peace of mind.

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As someone who does super long endurance rides I’m not surprised your heart rate essentially resets very quickly down to 100ish during recovery valleys - that fits with the fact that you spend loads of time working in that lower zone anyway so your body is conditioned to that.
The fact that your heart rate shoots up to 220 could potentially be a little bit worrying. That’s right at the top end of max heart rates for healthy individuals (most people over 35 will not go above 200 at the very highest end unless in medical distress). You could be in that very small percentage of people with ultra high max heart rates, but even if you are confident that is the case I would still get it checked out by a doctor.
Basically, if you have any concerns or nagging doubts about your heart, go to a doctor and get some test. No amount of armchair quarterbacking from people on here will be able to give you any real reassurance.
Moving beyond that, how do you feel when your heart rate skyrockets up that high? Do you feel like your chest is about to explode? If yes, STOP. If no, then take it as interesting information that you can use to help build a picture over time.

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There’s your problem right there. :laughing:

If it’s possible, return it and get a Wahoo HRM. It was the best decision I made a few years ago.


The OP indicates that he gets a similar reading from an Apple Watch, which, if verified, would rule out a sensor issue - unless the Polar is also an optical and worn on the same wrist as the AW.