What's the best plan to increase HR amplitude?


I’m aware it’s a noob question, but I believe it’s central in my training abilities. I’m relatively new to cycling, as I’ve been riding leisurely for 4 years, but I really want to improve my skills. I’ve been using TR to that effect for a month now on a home trainer, and I’m really hooked.

My main issue is that my HR only ranges from 75bpm to 188bpm. With the first stroke of the pedal I’m already at 105, and even with a 100 Watt target at 85 rpm I’ll be around 120 bpm.

This makes it incredibly difficult for me when the road starts to climb beyond 6 or 7% and there’s no way I can deal with anything above 9% for more than a few yards. This is the area I’d really like to improve.

I’m still of course on the base phase build mode, and I’m aware that the more I train, the lower my initial HR will be, but any pointers to help me in that are are welcome.

I’m 43 with a 240 FTP (and 3.8 ftp/weight ratio)

thanks !

Lots of zone 2 - it sounds like you lack the aerobic base - although a FTP of 240W isn’t bad if your HR is at 120bpm @100W !..lots of steady miles will lower your resting HR which is what you’re interested in and make you more efficient so you don’t get that sudden spike as you start to pedal. If you live somewhere warm try to get outside for some longer easy rides…or do some of the longer endurance turbo sessions on TR if you can take the tedium…I can’t - then start adding the SS workouts from the plans - if you are on HV you could probably just do this but if you are on MV/LV then you might struggle with the o/u workouts without the aerobic base.


Is that low? I’ve been riding for years and my HR never goes above 190, ever.

With a 240 FTP, you should be able to manage 9% grades. Especially at 3.8 W/kg, that’s pretty high and you’re pretty light. I’ve been training with TR for a year or so and I’m only at 3.3 W/kg with a 280 FTP. What gearing are you using? That’s the only thing I can think of if you’re having trouble with climbs at that FTP.

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You don’t want amplitude. My beyond rudimentary understanding is that the max amplitude (HR max) is biologically determined.

Gearing helps a lot here.

I would kill for that. My FTP is currently at ~3.0 w/KG. But, I can manage long 12-14% grades, because of gearing. Also, my FTP is not ramp test determined, and is actually based on longer efforts.

@jdman has got it right, IMO. You need a stronger base. That will come with more base training. e.g., my FTP is currently 226. I can sit at 165W-170W (basically I can sit at the upper end of Z2) for a long time with a HR around 125bpm. My upper end of Z2 HR is 135bpm.

That comes with endurance training.


hmm, I wouldn’t look at it as a HR issue (I’ve got a similar HR range).

Sounds like working on your aerobic base / aerobic capacity will help. In my experience doing longer zone2 / aerobic endurance work helps to increase power output at easy efforts.

I’ve got a similar FTP at higher weight and have done long climbs at only 2.5 to 3.0 W/kg level of ‘climbing fitness.’ For example a 3 mile climb at 9%, 5 miles at 8%, up to 10 mile climbs at 6-7%, and 18 miles at 5%. My experience is that long climbs require:

  • strength endurance
  • tempo/sweet spot pacing
  • mental toughness

Lay the foundation with sweet spot and threshold work, and if you are racing those climbs then vo2max work will help responding to attacks and sharp increases in % grade.


My bike is an Orbea Avant H50 from 2014

The chainring is 34 and 50 (maybe I need a 3rd one ?)
Sprocket is 13-26

And thanks to everyone who took the time to answer, this is incredibly helpful

As I keep seeing amplitude and frequency being mixed here, I think it’s useful to keep in mind that:

  • Frequency refers to how quickly the heart is beating (think: how quickly is a pattern repeating)
  • Amplitude refers to the intensity of a heart beat (think: how large are the peaks in that pattern)

You have a relatively limited heart rate range covering 113 beats per minute from rest to maximal exertion. If I understand correctly, you would ideally like to increase that range as a way to have more capacity for cycling.

The short answer: you want to enlarge your heart so that it can pump more blood with each beat, thereby increasing amplitude. I highly recommend reading this article by Alan Couzens, who talks about that as part of his mechanism to increase an athlete’s Vo2max:
How ‘Trainable’ Is VO2 Max Really?

Part of his takeaway is that high volumes of low-intensity training are useful for causing heart enlargement:

That is, the total volume of the athletes’ hearts, scaled not with the intensity of training, but with the average weekly volume! This makes good physiological sense, since we know that for the majority of people, stroke volume reaches its maximum limit at relatively low intensities of training (~40-60% VO2 max).3However, as the Berbalk data suggests, it takes a whole lot of beats to make these significant changes!

So if you want to effectively increase your heart size (thereby also decreasing your resting heart rate), spend as much time as you can on the bike. If you have lots and lots of time, much of it will be spent in Zones 1 and 2 so you can get those physiological adaptations without overtraining. It will give you a broader heart rate frequency base (or Heart Rate Reserve, to use Karvonen’s parlance), and give you a stronger aerobic foundation on which to build higher-intensity efforts.

My final thought: whether it’s useful to directly target this facet of aerobic health is up for debate. For me, as someone who likes it when the race goes long (200+ kilometers), it’s useful to have as much physiological adaptation as possible which supports long efforts. For you, you might find that enough adaptation occurs automatically as you focus your training this year. But this is hopefully a start.


PS. You don’t need a third chainring; stay with your 50/34. However, DO consider a different sprocket with a wider range; I have a 12-30 on a bike I use regularly for climbing, and on another bike with a gravel setup I have a single 40t chainring up front and an 11-42 sprocket in the back.

What is the component line on your bike? Sora, Tiagra, 105? How many gears do you have in the back? Can you see a model number on any of the components? Answers to those questions could help us give you pointers on what cassette could be a useful upgrade for you.

@Kblougou You’re getting the cart before the horse. Keep it simple and follow the plan. Over time and with “fitness” you will be able to do more work at the same HR. Or another way to look at it is the same work for longer at a lower HR compared to the “unfit” you. If that is confusing just follow the plan. :wink: :boom: :100:

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It’s all Shimano, with 7 gears at the back

It’s all a bit overwhelming when you’re starting from scratch, there’s a lot of information out there. When I watch YouTube videos, I feel like they think I’m preparing an IronMan although all I want is to get better at cycling and enjoying it even more.

Everything you said sounds right to me, and in any case, I’ll be following the plan. I just wanted to be sure it was the best suited for what I’m trying to achieve. I do have some time though, and maybe I should go from 3 1/2 hrs per week to 5, even though for beginners they say to stay in that range

SRAM has a 12-32 7 speed cassette, assuming you are a cassette and not a freewheel. If you are a freewheel, look for the 7 speed MegaRange freewheels.

And a new chain.


I am lucky to get mine up to 185 now days unless it is sweet spot 90% for 20+ minutes x 3 intervals.

If this is the case then what do you have to do to get to 188? Are you nervous about the workout or dealing with a lot of stress?

There is a method out there that is designed to effectively build your aerobic base. There are some mixed feelings about the efficacy of this but when I was running I felt like it really helped me.

The MAF Method

To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps.

1. Subtract your age from 180.
2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

a) If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

b) If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

c) If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), keep the number (180–age) the same.

d) If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems in (a) and (b), and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category (b), you get the following: 180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

In this example, 145 must be the highest heart rate for all training. This allows you to most efficiently build an aerobic base.

You would then do rides up to your HR determined in the formula above. Not average HR, maximum HR. Over time you will see your ability increase to ride at much higher wattage for the same HR.

Once you have a more solid foundation of base, you should be able to get on the trainer and do 150 watts or perhaps even a much greater wattage for that same 120bpm.

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