Cycling Training Tips

Average Heart Rate vs Threshold Power

Question from Rob Worrell: “My seasonal goal was an 11mile hill climb near my home at the conclusion of the summer. In interval training, I once hit 182BPM (I am 39 Years old), but most of my intervals are around 160-170BPM. In the MTB hill climb race (seasonal goal), I averaged 173BPM for a 1:05:30 race time. This seems like my threshold is really close to my max of 182BPM? I lost by 6 minutes or 33 seconds per mile. Do I need to increase my threshold even higher? Or how do I get more power at the same threshold?

Threshold heart rate and threshold watts are two different terms. Your best average heart rate for a one-hour event is probably very close to your performance in the MTB hill climb race you mention. This means that on that specific day, you delivered an optimal performance.

No training = Lower threshold power

If you didn’t train the last 12 weeks before this event, you would probably still be able to maintain an average heart rate close to 173bpm, but there is no doubt that your finishing time will be significantly slower. This is because your threshold watts at the same heart rate are much lower when you haven’t trained.

More training = Higher threshold power

Thus, when you train consistently and do good workouts, your threshold power output will increase, but your threshold heart will very likely remain at the same level. You are close to the limit of how much you can push your average heart rate, but that is, in fact, uninteresting. There is a substantial aerobic potential waiting for you when you work focused on your threshold power. In theory, there is no limitation on how far you can raise your power output.

The main training methods for threshold power are VO2 max intervals, aerobic intervals and endurance rides.

1 thought on “Average Heart Rate vs Threshold Power”

  1. Hi Jesper, I had been pondering the same question for a while, but since I got a powermeter, my whole perception of HR has changed. I just ran my second FTP test and this has made me consider HR again. My first test one month ago I had an average HR of 174 (my max is 186) and it was quite stable. That HR is higher than I have used in 10km time trials, and higher than I though I would have been able to maintain for 20 minutes. I just did a second FTP test (4 weeks after the first) and my power is up 15W. That is not that strange as I have been training regularly, albeit with not much intensity. What I found interesting was that my average HR was only 169. The conditions were the same (indoor on rollers), so I wonder what if anything this 5 beat difference along with 15 more watts means. For this second test I paced myself by watching watts and trying to keep it more or less where I thought my new FTP is. Did I perhaps underestimate, based on the 5 beats slower HR? Cadence was exactly the same for both tests, 88 rpm.


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