What is zone training?

Zone training is a strategy individuals/coaches will implement to effectively condition the cardiorespiratory system. Zone training specifically deals with percentages of individual maximum heart rates. Three common zones are:

Zone 1: This phase incorporates activities challenging the aerobic system (65- 75% mhr). 
Zone 2: This phase encompasses activities that require a higher intensity then that of Phase I. Phase II challenges what is called the anaerobic system (75- 85% mhr). 
Zone 3: 
This phase consists of activities that require quick outputs of energy.  Phase III challenges the ATP/CP system (85-90% mhr).

There are two common formulas utilized to identify zones:

Basic Formula: 

• Figure out maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. If on Beta Blockers formula is 162 – (.7 x age) = MHR

• Next calculate the target heart rate by multiplying the remaining number by the percent of intensity.
• Example a 40 year old beginner. 220-40=180, 180x.65=117 (THR per minute)

*It is important to note that this is a general formula for your maximum heart rate. In consideration to athletes/individuals the MHR can vary upon specific sport or activity. Exhaustion testing in various sports can help identify a closer MHR.

Karvonen Formula:

• This formula is similar to the first, but more individualized because it incorporates resting heart rate.
• Figure out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.
• Next, subtract your resting heart rate from MHR.
• Multiply that number by the percent of intensity.
• Last, add the resting heart rate by the above number to get your target heart rate.


Zone training refers to the process of exercising in different heart rate zones during cardiorespiratory training. Heart rate zone training establishes optimal exercise intensities based on your unique metabolism, heart rate, current level of fitness, and health or fitness goals. Commonly, heart rate zones are established based on a percentage of predicted maximum heart rate unless access to more specialized or advanced techniques are available. There are a number of different heart rate zone training protocols- some use three zones and others use five or even seven zones. Generally, the more zones used as part of the protocol, the more specific the training goal of the cardiorespiratory program.

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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.