Is max HR the HR at FTP effort?

I’m trying to set up my max HR to identify training zone for running and biking. I know there are tests to determine max HR to enter into Garmin or Strava. But is the max HR from these tests the same as the average HR during FTP-level exertion?

My understanding is that it’s literally your max HR. I would recommend you do a 10s sprint, spin easy for 1min, then hit another all out sprint. Sometimes it’s hard to hit max HR the first time bc there is a lag.

HR at threshold watts is another thing, but I believe training zones that you’re talking about that ask for max HR is true max beats

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It’s a bit confusing. For running, I heard that to determine the max HR for training zones you are supposed to run at an all out effort for 30 min and take the average HR for the last 20min. Surely that is a different number than my true max HR (achievable only for very short times).

No, it’s impossible for the max to be equal to the average.


If my recollection is correct, but may not be, the energy system at FTP is basically still mostly aerobic but quickly changing to more and more anaerobic above that.

Therefore average at FTP should be a bit lower than max hr? HR at FTP maybe more of a high zone 3 to low zone 4?

I also thought max HR in setting zones was theoretical maximum and usually enter some bump above the highest I’ve gotten to in all-out short efforts.

At this point I’ve set max for running based on really hard 800s or so, then ended up setting my cycle max he and zones based more on RPE vs running (at similar RPE my cycling HR is probably 10bpm lower than running)

I’m no expert in any of this and don’t use the zones for anything specific anyway, but my 2 cents.

Max HR = max bpm you’ve seen in a ride file, probably ever

example, 30s sprint around 865w

Heart rate max is 201 which is my max hr

For HR zones you can either:

take a percentage of max HR (usually around 90% for LTHR/LT2/VT2 and roughly 75%-80% for LT1/VT1)

Of if you have a long duration threshold effort, you can take the last 20 minutes average hr for the effort as the threshold HR

In this example for me
Max HR: 201
Threshold HR: ~180 (about 90% of max hr and also agrees with my threshold tests)
Aerobic Threshold HR/LT1/VT1 whatever you want to call it HR: 160 (around 80% of max and has good agreement with a bunch of random stuff I don’t feel like typing out right now)


Thank you all—I’m particular stevemz. I think was confusing the max HR with threshold HR.

That would certainly explain why Garmin has gone haywire for me (crazy rest times, continuous ‘overreaching’ status, mellow rides pushing me into Z3/4, …). Glad to know how to fix it.

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At FTP level exertion, your HR should be around your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. LTHR is roughly where your body clears lactate about as fast as it produces it.

LTHR is typically around 86-92% of maxHR, although there are outliers. LTHR is trainable - those who regularly train at LT are more likely to be 90-92%. LTHR only changes by a few BPM, but the power you can produce at LT, and how long you can hold that power increase as well from such training.

So no way should your HR around FTP be your maximum. Although the HR you reach during a TrainerRoad ramp test (which increases gradually to 125% of FTP), will probably get to around 96-98% of maxHR.

Edit: just saw @stevemz’s response. He has done a much better job with pictures than I could with words.


Most people have different max HR for running, cycling, swimming, etc. You should go all out with each activity to find them out for yourself.

Nope. Highest you’ve seen in reality. Likely will come in vo2max


Ramp Test HR is likely to be your highest on the bike.

Running HR can be higher due to greater muscle utilization (both upper and lower body), but I wouldn’t use this number.

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I usually get pretty close to mine on a ramp test so kill 2 birds with one stone


Threshold intervals HR in the low 170’s if I’m doing them correctly. If I throw a 20 second all-out sprint at the end of these intervals (10 mins threshold then finish the last 20 seconds all-out sprint), HR bounces up to 185, which I interpret as my max before things just fall apart. Just to say that you can be totally worked and max’d out in your breathing and effort, but then tapping the anaerobic/neuromuscular pathways leads to short bursts of even higher HR.

I also usually get close to my max HR during a proper ramp test.

The formulas for estimating max HR are based on bell curves for the general population. I haven’t seen many people doing extended periods of structured training for whom the formulas are good estimators.

Max HR at the very end of a ramp test should be close to max HR, unless you wuss out or aren’t in great shape (in which cases your mind or your legs will give out first).