16 December, 2019

Are you exercising at the right intensity? Have you been told to work at 70-80% but aren’t really sure what that feels like or how to calculate it? Perhaps you’re just a numbers person and enjoy analysing the figures associated with your workout!

Whatever your motivation is to calculate your heart rate zones, exercising at the correct intensity can help you get the most out of your physical activity, and ensure you’re not pushing too hard or too little. Heart rate training benefits everyone, from the beginning exerciser trying to lose weight, to individuals trying to improve their cardiovascular fitness, to the highly conditioned athlete preparing for the next competition.

Heart rate training uses your heart rate, or a percentage of your maximum heart rate as a guide for intensity during training and can be used as a technique to work various energy systems. Once baseline measurements have been established, percentages can then be easily applied and monitored throughout training sessions to ensure you are working at the intended intensity.

Heart Rate Training


How to Calculate Your Zones:

Maximum Heart Rate:

Firstly, you’ll need to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR). This is roughly calculated as 220 – your age, so if a person is 25 years old their MHR would be 220 – 25 = 195.

Resting Heart Rate:

Your resting heart rate (RHR) can be calculated by using a smartwatch or similar device, or by taking your pulse and counting the number of times your heart beats in a minute. You can take your pulse before you get out of bed, and repeat for a few days in a row to get an accurate result.

Heart Rate Reserve:

Once you have both your MHR and RHR, your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) can be determined. This formula considers that a working heart rate zone should be calculated using resting heart rate as a baseline. This is calculated by finding the difference between resting heart rate and maximal heart rate.

Target Heart Rate Zone:

Once you have these numbers, your target heart rate for intensity zones can be calculated using the Karvonen Formula:

Target Heart Rate = ((Max HR − Resting HR) × % Intensity) + Resting HR

E.g., if a 25-year-old with a RHR of 65 wants to determine his training heart rate for the intensity level 60% – 70%:

Minimum Training Heart Rate:

  • 220 – 25 (Age) = 195
  • 195 – 65 (RHR) = 130
  • 130 x .60 (Min. Intensity) + 65 (RHR) = 143 Beats/Minute

Maximum Training Heart Rate:

  • 220 – 25 (Age) = 195
  • 195 – 65 (Rest. HR) = 130
  • 130 x .70 (Max. Intensity) + 65 (RHR) = 156 Beats/Minute

Training Heart Rate Zone = 143-156 beats per minute.

Heart Rate Training Running


What Are The Heart Rate Zones?

Various models of heart rate training zones exist, each with their own names and labels. One of the most well-known and commonly used models is that developed by heart rate monitor company Polar. Their general guidelines suggest that 5 zones exist:

Zone 1: Very light, 50-60% of MHR

Zone 2: Light, 60-70% of MHR

Zone 3: Moderate, 70-80% of MHR

Zone 4: Hard, 80-90% of MHR

Zone 5: Maximum, 90%> of MHR

You can get different fitness benefits by exercising in different heart rate zones. In each zone, you will feel a different level of exertion and your body will be burning a different percentage of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.


How To Use These Zones For Your Training:

Your intensity and your zones will depend on your health, performance, goals, and workout preferences. Here are a few examples of how HR zones may be used for different goals:

Fat Burning Zone = 50-75% of MHR

  • Primarily using fat as a fuel source

Aerobic Fitness Training Zone = 70-85% of MHR

  • Heart rate required to improve aerobic endurance
  • Primarily using carbohydrate as fuel source

Anaerobic Training Zone = 85-95% of MHR

  • Will improve your V02 max and lactate threshold
  • Used for sport specific training
  • Primarily using carbohydrate as fuel source

Heart Rate Training



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