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What You Need to Know About Heart-Rate Training Zones

One of the most general safety precautions that the majority of folks who exercise routinely do not employ is a heart-rate monitor. This simple device can help you maintain your target heart rate and help you know when you've pushed it too far. And it's also a great way to maximize your fitness routine to get you in shape and build up cardiovascular endurance.

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We're going to look at the heart-rate training zones and what exactly they can be used for. Some basics before we begin:

  • Maximal Heart Rate: the maximum beats per minute your heart can sustain before overload and cause harmful effects including exercise-induced stroke and heart attack. Maximal Heart Rate = 220 minus your age.
  • Target Heart Rate: the ideal range of beats per minute that promote cardiovascular and muscular health and endurance. This will allow you to maximize your training goals. Target Heart Rate, depending on your age, can be anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your maximal heart rate.
WARNING: remember that the more intense that you train, the bigger the risk of injury. Make sure you are in a properly supervised or doctor-approved training regimen with the proper monitoring equipment.

Typically, the heart rate is broken down into five zones:

1. Healthy-Living Conditioning

This is on the low end of the scale of the target heart-rate zones. This will help to promote heart health and prepare you to get into higher levels of heart-rate training. This basic level of heart-rate training will help you to maintain healthy levels of bodily processes as well. This would be anywhere from 45 to 60 percent of your maximal rate.

2. The Burn Zone

This fitness zone promotes a healthy level of body composition changing, meaning the ability to burn fat. Anywhere from 55 to 75 percent of your maximal heart rate will allow you to burn calories and increase your cardiovascular training. As you get better, you should focus on training extended periods of time in this zone to maximize calorie burning.

3. Conditioning Zone

Now we're moving, folks. This zone is optimal for aerobic endurance and training. This is where you are reaching 70 to 85 percent of your maximal rate. You can definitely increase endurance as well as strengthen and enlarge your heart muscle to its prime function. Ideal for endurance, race and athletic competition training.

4. VO2 and Maximum-Effort Zone

While many will tell you that this is technically two zones, for our intents and purposes reaching 85 to 100 percent of maximal heart rate training is definitely reserved to those that are a.) properly supervised and b.) training for professional or Olympic quality competition. Generally training at this rate is in short duration to prevent injury. I STRONGLY recommend that if you intend to train to maximize your oxygen intake abilities and peak training, that you find supervision.

Good luck tracking your heart rate and meeting your training goals!

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Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous professional, collegiate and amateur athletes across many different fields, including professional and arena football players, Mixed Martial Artists, elite runners, international soccer players, and more. 

Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA, as well as the owner and operator of Funky Fitness PA, a personal training studio, in home personal training and personalized fitness planning service. Ryan's work has been featured across the US and the globe, working with clients in all facets of life. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can check Ryan out on Facebook or follow him on Twitter, or you can reach him at funkytimefitness@gmail.com.



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