To investigate the cardiac determinants of treadmill performance in patients able to exercise to volitional fatigue, 88 patients with coronary heart disease free of angina pectoris were tested. The exercise tests included supine bicycle radionuclide ventriculography, thallium scintigraphy and treadmill testing with expired gas analysis. The number of abnormal Q wave locations, ejection fraction, end-diastolic volume, cardiac output, exercise-induced ST segment depression and thallium scar and ischemia scores were the cardiac variables considered. Rest and exercise ejection fractions were highly correlated to thallium scar score (r = −0.72 to −0.75, p < 0.001), but not to maximal oxygen consumption (r = 0.19 to 0.25, p < 0.05). Fifty-five percent of the variability in predicting treadmill time or estimated maximal oxygen consumption was explained by treadmill test-induced change in heart rate (39%), thallium ischemia score (12%) and cardiac output at rest (4%). The change in heart rate induced by the treadmill test explained only 27% of the variability in measured maximal oxygen consumption.Myocardial damage predicted ejection fraction at rest and the ability to increase heart rate with treadmill exercise appeared as an essential component of exercise capacity. Exercise capacity was only minimally affected by asymptomatic ischemia and was relatively independent of ventricular function.