Heart Rate Reserve

Time after time we are asked, “what should my heart rate be when I am exercising?”. The answer we give to all our patients and athletes is that it’s not that simple. That’s because heart rate can be manipulated or altered by many different factors, and therefore plucking a single numerical value cannot be given over the counter.

However, for the people who don’t suffer from a cardiac condition, or are taking cardiac altering medication this post will help you determine a value that is right for you!

All the time we are told that the way to work out an appropriate heart is by following the 220 – age formula. Have you ever stopped to think that this is just far too generic and a one size fits all? This formula does exist and scarily enough is still used today across the gym/fitness industry when choosing a desired cardiac intensity. So today we would like to show you a way to do it better, so that your training can be far more individualised and specific.

So the answer we often provide is heart rate reserve (HRr). This is because the formula incorporates an individual’s resting heart rate, and therefore gives a far more accurate result or guide as to the intensity one should be aiming for when training aerobically.

Heart rate reserve is achieved by using the calculation as below however, do keep in mind that a maximal and resting heart rate test needs to be obtained prior to calculation.

(HRMax – HRrest), x the intensity you wish to be working at e.g .7,.8.9 + HRrest

So let’s compare the two formula using a 20yo individual (male) with a Max heart rate of 205, a resting heart rate of 45, that wants to train at 76% of his maximal aerobic capacity!

Old formula    220 – age                        

220 – 20 = 200              

(200/100) x 76 = 152BPM        


Heart Rate Reserve (HRr)

HRr = (HRMax = 205 – HR Rest 45) x .76 + 45

HRr = (160 x .76) + 45

HRr = 166.6

As I am sure you can see the results are significantly different. This formula can be used for people of all ages and training backgrounds. We at stride encourage you to take the next step in your training and make it more specific. We are aware that some people may look at the difference of 14 beats per minute as insignificant however, when working with the elite or recreational athlete or runner, we find the most subtle differences can be key to better training, environment and most of all performance.

Here is a quick clip thanks to Jonathan Braswell



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