Max HR set too low?

Hi everyone,

I’m John and I got into road cycling about 5 months ago and have been doing structured workouts for about 4. I didn’t have too much gear at the start so I went based on perceived exertion and got an HR monitor later. Since the rains have picked up here, I recently got an indoor trainer which can finally give me power info.

A little about my physical attributes - I’m 25 years old, 182cm, about 75 kg and have always been active in sports and pretty, but not exceptionally fit. I’ve always had a pretty slow-beating heart. Both in terms of resting HR (around 47 before I started training, gets down to 39 or so these days sometimes) and as I’ve found out recently, Max HR.

I’ve been zwifting quite a bit for the past week and took the ramp FTP test to get a baseline to establish workout intensities. The max HR I reached in the test was 181 and the FTP I got from the test was 317W. This was higher than what I expected so I’ve been trying to validate this number with some workouts and have done the 2*15’ @ FTP and a sweet spot workout that has me oscillate between 305W and 280W. Now here’s the thing - These workouts were very hard, especially the 15 min FTP intervals - but doable. Although my legs are working very hard, my breathing is still pretty controlled, even at FTP intensity. However I’m noticing that my heart rate comes very close to the max HR that came out in the ramp test. In the FTP intervals, my HR crept up to 178 at one point and settled around 175-176 bpm. In the sweet spot workout it settled around 173-174 in the last 305W interval.
I don’t think my FTP or SST heart rates should be such a high fraction of my maxHR. So it leads me to the conclusion that either the ramp test overestimated my FTP or that my maxHR is not really 181 like I think and is higher. Which one do you think is more plausible? Any general guidelines would be helpful. I’m attaching the power and HR data from my Ramp test here if that helps.

Below is my data from the SST workout

And the FTP workout

Max HR is a very individualistic thing. FWIW as a 46yo I will get to 93-97%max (93-97% in ramp test) but in a long flat TT or 20mins test Ive got up to 99% (196bpm) and didn’t black out so I use 197bpm as my max (I saw 202bpm on a 2 up last year but I dismissed that :joy: ). On the road it seems to work out if I keep things under 75% I can ride all day, below 85% I can ride for hours at that tempo and below 95% I can recover quickly.

I suspect your HR can go higher but as I said HR is a very individualistic thing. Have you tried using AI FTP D rather than a ramp ? For a limited number of folk they either over or under perform on a ramp test (I’m the latter) and can get better results with a well paced 20mins test (the negative you have to pace it well and it has a lot of TSS; AI FTP D doesn’t have those negatives).

I don’t hit my max heart rate during a ramp test designed for ftp testing. You might be the same.

1 Like

Thank you for the detailed response! It was probably a mistake on my part to assume that my HR would it’s max value in the ramp test. My ramp test ended due to erg death when I was no longer able to turn the crank over at the start of the 440W step. So leg strength and fatigue were probably the limiters there. I’m sure that if the ramp stayed at 420W or even something lower like 380W, my HR would’ve continued creeping up at least 4-5 bpm.

I’ve been doing more workouts at the set FTP of 317W and completing them quite comfortably, so I’m gaining more confidence in the number. The 20 min test is just too forbidding to me because of the herculean effort it would take so I don’t think I’m gonna do that. The AI test, on the other hand; what is it exactly? I don’t think I’ve heard of it anywhere.

Thanks again for your response!

1 Like

Yes, as I responded to HLab’s response, I think that’s the issue. The limiter in the ramp test probably wasn’t the heart rate. I’m gonna do some steady state efforts above my FTP to see what kind of value I can get it to, but until then , I think the set value of 317W FTP is alright since I’ve been able to validate it with several workouts.

You turn it on in Account>Early Access>AI FTP Detection>Enabled then as an alternative to your next scheduled Ramp Test on your Career page it’ll give you the option to use it (AI FTP D). It looks at your power history and from that detects what your FTP should be. It will also substitute the ramp test for a workout.

You can get more Info here:

I’ve actually gone back to the 20 min test, it generally goes like this

First 5 mins - This doesn’t feel too bad, hard but manageable.
Second 5 mins - This is starting to feel somewhat harder, concentrate!
Third 5 mins - I’m breathing like an out of condition steam train, heart rate still climbing for same power output.
Final 5 mins - Oh God make this end , look at that heart rate, rapid breathing, fatiguing legs, hang in there, don’t ruin it now.
During cool-down - You think you could have gone harder (not true)

I’ve found the ramp test is only hard for about 3 mins, and the 20 min test harder. I like to undertake that which I find challenging and get better at it. What I find harder are the longer intervals at slightly lower power. Thus I aim to tackle them head on, including when testing.

The trick is to break it down into 5 min blocks and just assess where you are at the end of each. Can you go a bit harder, can you hold your current power, do you need to go a bit easier? Then hold on for those last 5 mins. If you can go harder in last 5 mins, you’ve likely gone too easy in first 15 mins.


I use the same 5 min block strategy, makes it bearable. If I start dying in the 2nd 5min I know I’ve gone too hard. If I’m not dying in the beginning of last 5 min I’ve gone too easy.
When I pace it right last minutes feel like a sprint while just trying not to let the power drop.

This, every time.