Maximum Heart Rate - Swimming


Maximum heart rate is the highest number of beats per minute your heart can pump under maximum stress.


Measuring your heart rate requires a heart rate monitor device. Smart Watches especially with a chest strap are great but with the condition of being in the water there is no instant feedback as you would have with running or cycling. You can't look at your watch while you are swimming so you need to store the data on the chest strap and read it out later.

Common errors are that the flow of the water makes that the strap sometimes don't touch your skin, so it is not measuring your data. Preventing that can be done by using a (tight) shirt or using a wetsuit.

Swimming versus Land Sports

Your heart rate is lower in the water then it would be on land.

Reasons for this:
- your lower body temperature slows down your metabolism
- water supports your bodyweight
- your heart delivers oxygen with less effort when you are horizontal
- when you have your head in the water, you hold your breath for a period of time, this will trigger the valsalva maneuver
- you use smaller muscle groups


Please check with your doctor first before attempting any of these tests.

Procedure - Age Formula

While this is a good starting point, research has shown that this formula is not perfectly accurate for all people, especially for people who have been fit for many years or for older people.
Your maximum heart rate can be estimated with the formula: 220 - [Your Age]

Procedure - Use another sport

You can do a test on land to determine that maximum heart rate. A controlled environment would be ideal, perhaps in combination with measuring your VO2max and/or your lactate.
You can estimate your maximum heart for swimming using the formula: [maximum heart rate on land] - 12

Procedure - Stress Test

- WarmUp properly

- Swim 50(m) aggressively (about RPE=8) using your favorite stroke.
Rest two minutes.

- Using the time from your first 50(m), add ten seconds to get your starting pace.
Swim a few 50(m) at this calculated pace.
On each 50, try to decrease the lap time by about five seconds until you can no longer increase the speed.
Stop for a few seconds after each 50 and check your heart rate monitor.
Your highest value during the test is equal to your MaximumHeartRate (MHR).

How we use it

Due to the limitations of checking your heart rate while swimming we use the data mostly in post-workout analysis. Your feedback using RPE combined with the heart rate data we can give you tips how to use 'how you feel' during swimming to train in the correct Zone.

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