Reaching HR max @ VO2 max

If I cannot get close to HR max. when doing VO2 Max intervals, what is lacking? Is it muscle endurance, will power, simply doing more VO2 work?

I cannot reach more than about 95% of what I think is my HR max when on the bike. Doesn’t matter if its 30/15, 3min, 5min or 8min intervals. I don’t think my problem lies in pushing myself, as I am able to reach higher heart rates when rowing & playing squash.

I don’t think my problem is strength. both my dead lift and squat training weights are significantly more than my body weight

Its very hard to get to max hr…

I only get there on very hot days or during a ramp test…

1 Like

I don’t get there even on the ramp test. And not for lack of trying.
I would’ve chalked it up my HR max being lower than what I think. If it wasn’t for the fact that I can get significantly higher heart rate on the rowing machine etc.

My max hr running is (was?) 200 about a year a change ago…

I haven’t hit that at all this year …

I have however hit 190 on the bike (ramp test).

My point is that too many variables, environment, fitness, and motivation.

The only times I can get my hr that high is when racing 5ks and usually during the last mile, where I hit the last gear and usually faster than the rest… I run with motivation and tell the heart to shut up

For some or if its only some of the time it is normally due to fatigue.

In your case this may or may not be a factor, never being able to get to what you believe to be your HRmax might be an indicator you HRmax has decreased.

Or his fitness has improved…


The only time I get to HR max is during an FTP test, and frankly, now that my fitness is a bit better, I’m not really sure that I’m at my HR max actually on the bike. I think I might be able to get to HR max on the rowing machine, but the bike just doesn’t stress me enough any more. (Or so it seems…)

You’re not doing weight bearing activity. Try running or cross country skiing.

To improve my maximum heart rate on the bike? I already know I can reach a higher HR when playing squash, which is weight bearing. I guess I am trying to figure out if more VO2 Max workouts or muscle endurance workouts will yield the biggest benefits.

The sensation I get during the hardest interval on the bike is more a feeling of the legs “quitting” rather than heart rate peaking, if that makes sense.

1 Like

Yes, but this is fine. I would be worried if my CV system was giving out before my legs when cycling hard intervals or a ramp test.

I’m not sure what you mean by improve your maxHR - a higher HR isn’t a better thing.

1 Like

Clumsy formulation on my part. I know it cannot improve, and it decays with age etc.
I was just referring to not being able to hit the same heart rate on my bike, as I can doing other sports. And if that fact, somehow could be translated into making decisions on my training plan.

1 Like

Can’t believe the typos in my original post.

Maybe (fitness has probably improved), but that doesn’t really make sense in the context of the original post. Doing VO2max or going all out you should still reach max.

I see what you’re saying then, but I just don’t think it’s a useful measure of progress. The way I see it, once you are regularly training your HR is your HR and whatever maximal rate you see in any given sport just is what it is. Perhaps maxHR might increase if you gained masses of leg muscle and you needed the extra stroke rate to supply it - but you’d see the gains in FTP anyway. Rowing and squash recruit much more muscles than cycling so your heart needs to supply more oxygen/evacuate more co2 quickly.

More useful is your aerobic heart rate, so if you see you HR decline for endurance efforts, I would see that as a good thing, because you’re seeing less cost for the same output.

1 Like

I was hitting 201bpm on sprints at the end of 2018 because I was only doing zwift events once every 5-7 days and that’s it, so my heart was just never being used to working hard. Once I started riding and training consistently I haven’t been past 193, until I took a 9 day break and my HR was again elevated when I came back and then settled back down to normal. My reality is those extreme HR values I saw were just from a lack of training

1 Like

Very good question. Last time i did z5/vo2max session i was well rested and was ready to smash it mentally (the most important thing for me). Was very focused on the session and reached 98-99% of max HR on the last interval (now i think my max is even higher).

Not sure about muscle endurance, but will power and doing more vo2max has helped me personally. But that example above was done after mostly z2+sst period so for me the “will power” is the most important thing.

In rowing and squash you use more muscles so i guess that explains the higher max.

@adrian_r max HR can be different for different activities. Generally, the more muscles are involved the higher max HR will be. You can go to absolute failure doing index finger curls & not achieve a very high heart rate.

So the first thing I thought when I read your post: what were you doing when you achieved what you call your max HR? If it was sprinting on cross country skies…don’t expect to achieve a similar HR on the bike. I’ve never done much rowing (more’s the pity) but it wouldn’t surprise me if max HR achieved during rowing is generally higher than same athlete/same fitness on the bike. More muscle mass engaged in rowing…higher HR.


Also, coach chad responded to a question similar to this on the podcast. The ramp will not get you to max hr so don’t stress it.

It will if you’re adequately trained as a cyclist.

If you are, and it doesn’t, you quit early.

1 Like

The usual prescription I read for vo2max intervals is accumulating time over 90% of HRmax.

We can always get @chad to reiterate what he said on the podcast. But basically it will be a few beats off of true maximum. The protocols to measure that have a series of 3-4 minute intervals followed by a maximal 1 minute effort. What Chad said for this instance would be after a quick recovery after the ramp to then do a similar ~1 min maximal effort.