Heart Rate Training Zones: 7 Tips for Maximum Results

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Heart Rate Training Zones 101 | Heart rate training uses beats per minute (bpm) as a guide to hitting a certain workout intensity. This type of training involves keeping your heart rate within a certain range for a designated period of time. Training this way can help you improve your overall fitness, lose fat, build lean muscle, and increase your endurance and stamina. Click to learn how to calculate your heart rate zones, what they mean, and how to use HR training for fat loss.

Using heart rate training zones to maximize your workouts is becoming increasingly common. Apple watches and other fitness trackers are all the rage these days, and if you own one, then you already have access to your heart rate. Heart rate training can help you improve your overall fitness, lose fat, build lean muscle, and increase your endurance and stamina. Want to know more about heart rate training zones? We’ve got your covered.

What Is Heart Rate Training?

Your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during training. Instead of trying to guess the intensity of your workout, your heart rate is a number you can actually track. With a wearable fitness tracker, you can easily monitor how fast your heart is beating. Heart rate training uses beats per minute (bpm) as a guide to hitting a certain workout intensity. This type of training involves keeping your heart rate within a certain range for a designated period of time. As you exercise, your heart rate increases to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. By monitoring your heart rate you can make sure you’re working out at the appropriate level of intensity to achieve your fitness goals.

What Are the Benefits of Heart Rate Training?

  1. Easily trackable
  2. Increases cardiovascular training
  3. Helps lose or maintain body weight
  4. Builds lean muscle
  5. Improves overall fitness
  6. Reduces triglyceride, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels
  7. Improves insulin sensitivity
  8. Helps lower blood pressure
  9. Increases endurance and stamina
  10. Reduces risk of fatigue or overtraining

What Are the Different Heart Rate Zones?

Zone 1 (Recovery/Very Light Exercise) 50 to 60%
In this zone, you’re doing very light activity, in which you can easily control your heart rate (walking, leisurely cycling, restorative yoga, etc.). This type of exercise is typically done on active recovery days, and helps the body become more efficient at delivering oxygen to your muscles and carrying lactic acid away from your muscles. It gets your body used to moving with minimal stress or exertion. Over time, this allows you to exercise longer and harder without that burning feeling of lactic acid building up.

Zone 2 (Light Exercise) 60 to 70%
You may have heard of zone 2 training, as it’s the most popular iteration of heart rate training. It’s the lowest zone used for training purposes, and is where your body is creating the ability to use more oxygen. It’s a pace you can go at and sustain for a long period of time (30 to 60 minutes), and helps you improve your muscular fitness, decrease your insulin resistance, reduce your risk of injury, and increase your body’s ability to transport oxygen to your muscles. In this zone you should be able to do low intensity activities like rowing, swimming, biking, or jogging, while still being able to hold a conversation.

Zone 3 (Performance/Moderate Exercise) 70 to 80%
Zone 3 is when you start exercising at a vigorous intensity. You push the pace to build up speed and strength, and this range trains you to go harder for longer. By increasing the time spent in zone 3, you can complete workouts in zone 2 with less effort. After some time, staying in this zone can become a challenge, but it’s a pace that’s still manageable for distance work. It’s the zone that helps improve aerobic fitness and is the heart rate people usually stay at in kickboxing lessons and cycle classes. Tempo running is another example of training in zone 3, in which you run at an uncomfortable pace (not an all-out sprint) for several minutes at a time.

Zone 4 (High Intensity/Lactate Threshold) 80 to 90%
This is the zone where your lungs and heart start burning up. You’ll hit zone 4 in high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, in which you alternate between quick heart-pumping exercise and active recovery or total rest. Another example of zone 4 training is a 5 km run race or 500-meter swim. You’ll feel the burn in your muscles, so it will be difficult to stay in this zone for too long. This is because your body is processing its maximum amount of lactic acid as a fuel source, which fatigues muscles. This is the zone where you push your limits and gradually increase your aerobic capacity performance.

Zone 5 (Maximum Effort/Anaerobic) 90 to 100%
Zone 5 is where you’re pushing yourself to your limit. It’s your maximum speed zone where your body learns how to recruit additional muscle fibres and how to fire muscles more effectively. You’ll be able to maintain zone 5 training for about one minute, but you can sprinkle zone 5 efforts into your training to improve your stamina and build strength.

How Do I Calculate My Heart Rate Zones?

Everyone has different heart rate training zones, and even your own heart rate training zones can vary day-to-day. All kinds of things can affect your heart rate, and heart rate ranges can differ by age, height, weight, body composition, and stress level. Different movements can also put different stressors on the body, so your max heart rate can vary depending on the activity you’re doing.

To calculate your heart rate zones, you need to first calculate the percentage of maximum heart rate (MHR). A commonly used formula to estimate MHR is subtracting your age from 220 (220 minus age). Keep in mind that this is an estimate and individual differences can apply depending on different factors.

Let’s say you’re 40 years old. Your MHR would be 220 – 40= 180 bpm.

Now you can calculate your heart rate zones using the percentages of your MHR. The percentages are shown above. Simply multiply your MHR by the lower and upper percentage limits for each zone. For example Zone 1: 180 x 0.5 = 90 bpm, 180 x 0.6 = 108 bpm (90-108 bpm) and so on.

In this case, your heart rate training zones would be:
Zone 1: 90-108 bpm
Zone 2: 108-126 bpm
Zone 3: 126-144 bpm
Zone 4: 144-162 bpm
Zone 5: 162-180 bpm

How Do I Use Heart Rate Training for Fat Loss?

The best thing you can do to burn fat is to ensure your workout includes a range of heart rate zones. The more time you spend within a zone, the more efficient you get working within that zone. Work in a combination of heart rate zones to get variety and push your limits. By getting in tune with your heart rate zones, you can optimize fat loss and achieve your fitness goals more efficiently.

If you’re interested in heart rate training, we hope you found this overview helpful to reach your fitness goals!

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Heart Rate Training Zones 101 | Heart rate training uses beats per minute (bpm) as a guide to hitting a certain workout intensity. This type of training involves keeping your heart rate within a certain range for a designated period of time. Training this way can help you improve your overall fitness, lose fat, build lean muscle, and increase your endurance and stamina. Click to learn how to calculate your heart rate zones, what they mean, and how to use HR training for fat loss.

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