Purpose To assess methods for determination of exercise intensity, and to investigate practice variation with respect to the contents, volume and intensity of exercise training programs in Dutch cardiac rehabilitation (CR) centres. Methods A paper questionnaire was sent to all Dutch CR centres, consisting of 85 questions for patients with an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) or after coronary revascularisation (Group 1) and for patients with chronic heart failure (CHF, Group 2). Results CR professionals from 45 centres completed the questionnaires (58 %). Symptom-limited exercise testing was used to determine exercise capacity in 76 % and 64 % of the CR centres in group 1 and group 2, respectively; in these centres, a percentage of the maximum heart rate was the most frequently used exercise parameter (65 % and 56 %, respectively). All CR centres applied aerobic training and the majority applied strength training (64 % in group 1 and 92 % in group 2, respectively). There was a considerable variation in training intensity for both aerobic and strength training, as well as in training volume (1-20 h and 1-18 h respectively). Conclusion Among Dutch CR centres, considerable variation exists in methods for determination of exercise intensity. In addition, there is no uniformity in training volume and intensity.