What is meant by heart rate training zones?

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Heart rate training is just what it sounds like--training using your heart rate as a guide to improve cardiovascular health. There are 3 training zones:

  • zone 1: 65-75% maximum heart rate. This zone is also known as the recovery zone and can be maintained for long periods of time. Exercising in this zone allows the body to improve it's ablilty to get oxygen where it is needed during exercise.
  • zone 2: 80-85% maximum heart rate. This zone is more intense because at this level  the body cannot supply the amount of oxygen needed with regular breathing. Exercising at this level also burns more calories than at zone 1.
  • zone 3: 86-90% maximum heart rate. This is the most intense zone and cannot be maintained for long periods of time (no longer than 60 seconds). This zone should be used along with the zones 1 and 2. Someone using heart rate training will generally start exercising in zone 1 and progress until they are using a combination of the heart rate zones in a workout. Incorporating the next zone into a workout should be based on how quickly the heart recovers after being in each zone. 

Heart rate training prevents hitting a plateau. For instance, if a person always exercised using zone 1 the body would never be able to improve it's cardiovascular abilities. Varying a workout to include all three training zones will allow the body to reach peak performance levels.

Heart rate zone training is one way to get feedback on how your training sessions are going. The training zones should be broken down by energy systems. This means they should be broken up to work either the aerobic system, which is good for recovery and base building, or around the anaerobic threshold, which is used for endurance training or anaerobic training, which is based on short bursts with high intensity. The heart rate is a good gauge that will help you know which of the systems you are training in. Heart rate is not an absolute number.  They are zones because the intensity and time in the zone is a better indicator of the energy system. When using heart rate zones you will adjust your workload ( speed, incline, level, watts) to try to stay in that zone based on your goals each day for your workout. These zones are personalized for each client, so when using a formula to find your zones remember to make adjustments in the zones to fit your fitness level and genetic makeup. This needs to be done by trial and error over time based on how you respond to the workouts.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.