You've probably heard of training according to heart rate. It's based on the idea that you can improve your fitness regimen by matching your intensity with the goals of a particular workout. You do this by determining your heart rate training zones, and then exercising in the zone that fits the goal you have for a particular session.
We all have a personal resting heart rate, ‘a minimum heart rate’, and a maximum heart rate. And between these values are different HR zones that correspond to training intensity and training benefit.
There are different ways to identify your heart rate zones calculation. One simple way is to define them as percentages of your maximum heart rate, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this introduction.
Heart rate zones can be defined as percentages of your maximum heart rate.
Heart rate zones are closely linked to your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. Understanding this can really help when considering heart rate zones exercise, especially your heart rate zones for running or heart rate zone training for weight loss. But first, let’s look at what the different zones are.
There are five different heart rate zones (1–5) and your training plan can (and should) include workouts in all five zones. This HR zones chart shows the level of intensity and percentage of Maximum Heart Rate used in each one.
ZoneIntensityPercentage of HRmaxZone 1Very light50–60% Zone 2Light60–70% Zone 3Moderate70–80% Zone 4Hard80–90% Zone 5Maximum90–100%
Below is a breakdown of what each heart rate zone means and what the benefits of training in that heart rate zone are.
This is the very low intensity zone. Training at this intensity will boost your recovery and get you ready to train in the higher heart rate zones.
To train at this intensity, pick a form of exercise that allows you to easily control your heart rate, such as walking or cycling.
Exercising in heart rate zone 2 feels light and you should be able to go on for a long time at this intensity.
This is the zone that improves your general endurance: your body will get better at oxidizing – burning – fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.
Training in heart rate zone 2 is an essential part of every exercise program. Keep at it and you’ll reap the benefits later.
Working out in heart rate zone 3 is especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles. This is the zone in which that pesky lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream.
Training in this HR zone will make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.
Heart rate zone 4 is where the going gets tough. You’ll be breathing hard and working aerobically.
If you train at this intensity, you’ll improve your speed endurance. Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.
Heart rate zone 5 is your maximal effort. Your heart and your blood and respiratory system will be working at their maximal capacity. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes you won’t be able to continue at this intensity.
If you’re just starting out or have only been training for some time, you probably won’t have to train at this intensity. If you’re a professional athlete, look into incorporating interval training into your training plan for peak performance.