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Estimation of maximal heart rate in recreational football: a field study



To examine the accuracy of practical indirect methods (i.e., recreational football match and estimation equations) in assessing individual maximal heart rate (HRmax) in recreational football players. Sixty-two untrained male participants engaged in a recreational football intervention (age 39.3 ± 5.8 years, VO2max 41.2 ± 6.2 ml·kg−1·min−1, body mass 81.9 ± 10.8 kg, height 173.2 ± 6.4 cm) were tested for HRmax using a multiple approach, at baseline and post-intervention (i.e., in the untrained and trained status, respectively). Observed HRmax was plotted against peak match HR (Match-HRpeak) and HRmax estimated from prediction equations (EstHRmax) at both time-points.


In the untrained status, only the 211 − 0.64 × Age and 226 − Age equations showed non-significant (medium-to-small) differences with observed HRmax. The differences between observed HRmax and Match-HRpeak were large (P < 0.0001). At post-intervention, the observed HRmax (Post-HRmax) was significantly and largely lower than at baseline. The prediction equations under consideration provided EstHRmax values that were lower than Post-HRmax, with small-to-large differences (P > 0.05). The exception was for the 226 − Age and 211 − 0.64 × Age equations, with values largely higher than Post-HRmax.


This study suggests caution when considering EstHRmax and Match-HRpeak in recreational football interventions to track HRmax. The accuracy of EstHRmax may vary according to training status, suggesting the need for different approaches and equations across training interventions.

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Authors and Affiliations



SP and CC conceived and designed the research. Testing and data collection were performed by SP. CC and SP analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. PK contributed for the study design, interpreted the results, and edited the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Susana Póvoas.

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Communicated by Keith Phillip George.

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Póvoas, S., Krustrup, P. & Castagna, C. Estimation of maximal heart rate in recreational football: a field study. Eur J Appl Physiol 120, 925–933 (2020).

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  • Association football
  • Soccer
  • Aerobic fitness
  • Field tests
  • Yo–Yo tests
  • Team sports