Karvonen formula

I recently became aware of this formula and i am wondering if anyone has used it in their training. Is it even useful?

180 - age + or - 10 or 5 or 0 depending on where your currently at?

Im getting an A/B grade cyclist onto it for this coming off season.

Mind you, i did use i different method for myself last cyclist season, yet the same Figure came up - and it worked a treat thats for sure. Though i used it for cycling, its pretty easy to slow right down to keep HR low - running on the other hand, i find it hard to run slow with my long legs. I think my technique changes and it starts hurting the musclure system, Ie, cadence is lower and im loping along. Mind you i didnt practice much running in that regard, so i guess with practice…

Give it a try - from a purely aerobic perpective it works. That is, if your training for events for 1hr +.

I once worked with two Olympic athletes (both medalists) who checked heart rates during workouts. One would be easily 200+ and the other would be around 140-145, for the same workout at the same time. The latter maxed out below where the former was for threshold (AT, LT, OBLA, whatever floats your boat).

I don’t touch anything that has anything to do with generalized estimates of max. heart rates or threshold or training zones or anything like that.

Actually, I don’t think I’ve had an athlete check their heart rate in 10 years. We either go all out or pretty easy, and we don’t need to know the heart rate for either one.

My advice is, if you do want to use heart rates, test for max., and go from there. If you care, and can do it, test for AT/LT/OBLA. But I’ve seen way too many people that don’t fit the formulas. And if you care about heart rates, hitting the wrong ones doesn’t help you.

I was hunting around for more information and I found this:


Fritz has been studying US elite rowers for years. The guys they mention (for high and low maximum heart rates) might well include the two guys I was talking about.


Makes sense. Like the two rowers you mention, my max heart rate is in the 220 range, and my wife’s is in the 160 range. We’re both 27.

t main trick is 2 find your own max HR. dont use formula - just do a test. then work out zones from there

yea when i first read about it i questioned it, and seeing how im not competing in any aerobic events i dont think ill be needing it.

haha, well totally pointless then.

be a great tool for triathletes though

That was my experience as well.

There is no need to rely on a formula (with athletes) for something so easily measured with a HR monitor.

One would be easily 200+ and the other would be around 140-145, for the same workout at the same time. The latter maxed out below where the former was for threshold (AT, LT, OBLA, whatever floats your boat).

That was very probably due to different resting HR.

Well, there is even more to it than that - a friend of mine who trains for cycling, has a resting HR very close to mine - sub 50, same age 33, yet his Hr has read 202 on his Hr monitor, v’s mine 183.

So naturally i would be lactating at 170 hr v’s him being in aerobic threshold.

Does it mean he is therefore faster than i? No, he just has to learn to use HIS readings for him, and me use my readings.

Like others have noted - useless for speed work Hr reading is.

With a difference of 60 beats at the maximum HR the main difference is resting HR, even if in other cases the difference is related to other factors.

he just has to learn to use HIS readings for him, and me use my readings. -
useless for speed work Hr reading is.


Hr itself cannot really measure the difference between 2 people

you also have - heart size

so, 2 people - both can have same resting HR values
both can lets say run 5k in 14min
yet one can have a max hr of 200 the other 170
both same height, both same weight, both same body fat

this leads that the lower hr person will have a larger heart - therby pumping more blood per beat than the high HR guy.

This is why Hr values should remain individual. And they also change over time as you get better - just like working in the gym off your 1RM max - over time your 1RM improves so too will the percentages.


I just found out that the 140s guy had a recorded resting heart rate of 49, and the 200+ guy had a recorded resting heart rate of 56.

First, the physiologist I just got the info from told me that he considers the difference insignificant. If they had checked resting heart rates the next day, the second guy might well have turned out lower than the first guy.

Second, even if those are their dead-on, exact, never-to-vary resting heart rates, it still doesn’t explain the difference in maximum heart rates. The difference at maximum was around 40% (higher over lower) and the difference at rest was 14%.

The only way it even comes close is if the 49 happened to be exceptionally high, and the 56 happened to be exceptionally low. And the physiologist just laughed when I asked if he thought there was a connection between resting and maximum. He said there are completely different things going on at each extreme, and the two have nothing to do with each other. And obviously, if they were related, the formula would only need one of them, rather than both.

This sounds correct, the correct term being a larger “Stroke Volume” - ie the amount of blood in mls ejected with each heart beat. HR x stroke volume = cardiac output (typically around 5 litres/min in a resting healthy male)

The current thinking is that endurance training increases the internal dimensions of the heart chambers, and that strength training increases the thickness of the heart muscle walls and may in fact reduce the Left Ventricular cavity dimension.

Another factor is the contractility of the myocardium (heart muscle). ie the harder the muscle can contract, the more blood can be ejected.