I find that some of the people I coach do increase their max heart rate and sometimes they may start seeing an increase in just only two or three weeks. In this article I discuss how to get to your natural hereditary max heart rate potential.


As your fitness improves your max heart rate will increase up to your natural hereditary max heart rate potential (the maximum HR your body is capable of when you are optimally trained). Your max heart rate increases as a response of your body as it adapts to the neurological and physiological changes that come from aerobic and high intensity training (like interval training). As your cardiovascular system improves, you’ll be able to perform at a higher intensity for the same fitness level.

By training at higher intensities, you release your neurological and physiological restrictions holding you back from riding at your maximum and this enables you to realise your natural hereditary max heart rate potential. Think of it as like blowing out the cobwebs.

In most cases and certainly early on in a cyclist’s fitness development an increased max heart rate is a combination of the two.

Structured training improves your fitness which enables you to realise more of your hereditary max heart rate potential. This combined with training your body to neurologically go faster (speed training) will enable you to ride at a higher max heart rate. However, at some point (when you reach your natural hereditary max heart rate potential) your max heart rate will peak out and become stable. If you overtrain it will drop a little. Same happens if you back off your training.

Reaching your natural hereditary optimal fitness, or in other words, realising your true fitness potential is a two-step process.

  • The first step is to build a proper cardiovascular aerobic base.
  • The second step is to specialise your training and add specific high intensity efforts targeted at your chosen disciplines.

Also, if you think that you’re not working hard enough because you need to hit your max heart rate on every ride, think again. High intensity training should be done in moderation because this can lead to burnout and injury. It’s much better to introduce these high intensity sessions into only one or two of your sessions a week. You don’t need to hit your max heart rate in these sessions either. You just need to get up into the top end of E3 or V02MAX.

One thing to note about your max heart rate. Your cycling max heart rate may be different than your max heart rate that you’ll get when performing other sports. You may find that your max heart rate will be lower when cycling that when you are running and, it may be higher than when you are swimming. This is due to the mechanics of the sport, and in swimming also due to the water keeping you cooler.

In my experience most cyclists have not built a proper base foundation from which to realise their natural hereditary optimal fitness. Or, once they have built a proper base, the lack the knowledge to train properly and take their training beyond the plateau that they have reached.

For more information regarding specific training programs check out our Coaching Services page

Check this article on How To Work Out Your Cycling Heart Rate Zones.