Max HR improving, what's going on physiologicly?

So I just completed Base 2, (from 241 to 257 which I’m happy with!) and on the ramp test noticed my max HR reached 199. I’ve never seen it this high, usually it tops out high 180’s or low 190’s. What’s going on? I assume this is a good thing? My heart is able to work harder after some structured training or am I mentally just going deeper? Are there physical changes happening that are favorable?


assuming it wasnt an error on the HRM side of things its likely you just pushed harder. max hr doesnt really go up but seeing a say 5-6bpm max increase likely means you just pushed yourself as hard as possble. which is the idea for a ramp test so good on ya for that. after structured training youd likely see a slightlyyyy lower hr for a given effort, but your max would stay about the same. for the longest time i had a threshold HR set at 185, but a particularly hard mtb race combined with the fact that i dropped my bottle and lost all the water in it actually saw me average 187bpm for an entire hour! sometimes youll just push harder then you ever have!

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I found the HR I could achieve in the test improved in the last 18 months I have been on TR - my max hasn’t increased…probably gone down as I am 51. But as an ex decent runner I could never get my HR high as I didn’t have the muscle mass on my legs …now I just cycle I presume I have adapted to getting it all out as they say on the bike - something I could do in the past while running but not cycling.


Yeah, as above, max HR shouldnt increase. If it is then you pushed harder or had other external factors influencing it.

In terms of HR, as you get stronger you should be able to put out more power for the same HR or the same power for lower HR


I’m not sure I agree with that in this context, and would be interested to hear discussion on what I’m mentioning.

Yes, true max doesn’t increase and decreases as we age. But we are talking about cycling max here. Running max can be higher as it incorporates more muscles requiring more from the heart. I think it’s possible that @chrisq increased muscle mass from training increasing the demand on his heart.

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I would bet your true max HR is higher than that. I don’t think I truly hit max HR on a ramp test. I don’t think the duration at the higher power levels really will drive you there.

Nothing like a race here to bring the worst out in you. I bet if you did like an 8 or 20 minute threshold test and then tried to up and sprint the last 30 you’d go above 199.

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What other factors could cause it? Nutrition wise I didn’t have anything all that different than other hard rides or tests.

If you’re relatively new to cycling then it’s possible you’re simply learning to dig deeper and use more of your body’s resources to generate power. I’ve known people who have come into cycling from other sports (particularly running) who find their max HR on a bike is initially much lower than they’re used to, but rises over time as they start to adapt to generating power on a bike vs whatever they were doing previously.

Other thing that impacts max HR quite a bit is freshness. My highest HR numbers always come in races or tests where I’m pretty fresh after a recovery week or taper. So maybe you had a really good recovery week? Or maybe you’re adapting to structured training and can now get through the blocks with less fatigue than previously?

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I had the same experience with my max HR after 1.5 years of TR training. I thought I knew my cycling max HR but I reached new levels during ramp tests. In fact during ramp tests I’ve “increased” my max HR from 189 to 192 to 194. I doubt that I’ve actually increased my max HR, but my ability to reach this HR likely has. As your mental and physiological fitness increases you are able to dig deeper and incorporate more of your overall body during a ramp test. This could be the cause for a “new” max HR.

What ever the reason it’s all good and another sign that your fitness is improving.

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All sorts of things. Stress, caffeine, sleep/fatigue. Its the reason that HR is limited in it’s use as a way of measuring effort/output

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Chances are you’re just now figuring out what your max HR is. Years ago when I first got a HRM I spent some time seeing how high I could go… I found that I only hit max HR outside and on all out 1 minute power tests (basically every time I hit max around 40-45 secs). Then I found I hit similar numbers at the end of some races. I have also had some variability with HR straps, and need a few weeks of training to figure out if any deltas are real or just the new HRM.

My HR is always higher outside… I’ve even done 20+ minute TT’s in the summer with higher average HR than some of my max HRs on the ramp test. I feel like on the ramp test I stop from other fatigue before my HR has a time to get to max, but I’m sure everyone is different.

I also agree with comments about freshness and that it is something you can get better at the more you do. You need decent fitness to push yourself that hard without stopping, so agree with above that it is a good sign that your fitness is improving.

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Thanks for all the replies! I was particularly fresh this test after taking almost a week and a half off due to a back injury. Makes sense!