Heart Rate Training Zones: When to Train in Each


Heart Rate Training Zones: When to Train in Each

by Amanda Jane Snyder

Heart Rate Training Zones: When to Train EachPhoto byAmanda Jane Snyder

Heart Rate Training Zones: When to Train in Each

What's the most optimal way to challenge our cardiovascular system? Heart rate training zones. Or at least that's what everyone is saying these days. Many popular studio and group fitness classes base their entire business model on heart rate zones, and how maintaining a certain zone is how you get the best workout of all time. I've even had clients obsess over this heart rate training, feeling like a failure if their heart rate isn't in the specific zone they think it should be in.

First of all, what is heart rate zone training?

Let's start with the basics. Heart rate zone training is essentially based off of your heart rate max and using percentages of that heart rate max to determine how intense you're pushing your cardiovascular system. There's many ways to determine your heart rate max but let's start with the most basic formula: 220 - age = heart rate max. For example, 220 - 30 = 190 for a 30 year old person.

The 5 Zones

Zone training consists of 5 heart rate zones.

Zone 1 = Recovery Zone. This is an easy effort. You should be able to do this all day long. 50-60% of your heart rate max.

Zone 2 = Aerobic Base. This is the training zone that you can sustain for 60 minutes. There's a bit of effort here but you should be able to maintain a comfortable conversation. 60-70% of your heart rate max.

Zone 3 = Moderate Intensity. You feel like you're working out now. This is where you start to sweat a little. This is that effort that's just a little bit over that comfort threshold. 70-80% of your heart rate max.

Zone 4 = Hard. You can only say 1-2 word sentences at this point. It is very difficult to maintain this intensity. 80-90% of your heart rate max.

Zone 5 = All out effort. A sprint. Max. 90-100% of your heart rate max. This should only last a few seconds as most.

The best way to calculate which zone you're in is to take the percentage and multiply by your heart rate max. To use our example of our 30 year old, if they want to exercise in zone 3, they will aim to maintain a heart rate between 133 and 152. You can also determine zones through the above descriptions if you don't have a heart rate monitor. Determine how hard the effort feels and place yourself in each zone accordingly.

How often should we train in each zone?

With HIIT classes being all the rage, we'd think high intensity zone training would be the best bet for improving our cardiovascular performance. But as stated above, true zone 5 training really should only last a few seconds. It's impossible to actually maintain high intensity interval training for a full 45 min to 1 hour class. In other words... most HIIT classes, aren't actually HIIT.

The amount of time we spend in each zone really boils down to one thing: our goals. But let's just say your goal is overall health and wellness. Overall health and wellness requires a good aerobic base (zone 2 training) with a little push (zone 3-4 training) every once in awhile. If you live in a city, you are probably doing a lot of zone 2 already but try to incorporate it 1-2x a week anyway! Zone 2 training should last about an hour at least and can be a long walk around the neighborhood, a hike, or an incline treadmill walk or stair master session.1-2x a week of true HIIT training for about 10-20 minutes will be the perfect finisher to your zone 2 cardio or your lifting session. It only needs to be 10-20 minutes because of how truly intense it is. If you feel like you can go longer, you weren't training hard enough! This can be 20-30 second sprints followed by 10-30s rest, repeating this 8-12x through. Sprints can be done on a track, outside, on a bike, the treadmill or the stair master.

What are your goals? How much time do you spend in each cardio zone per week?

Amanda Jane Snyder is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, and Mindset Coach living in Brooklyn, NY. She has been vegan since 2016. She specializes in Strength and Conditioning for Actors, Singers, and Dancers but loves creating, exploring, and enjoying all things vegan and gluten free!

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Amanda is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Coach and a Lifestyle/Mindset Coach living in Brooklyn, NY! In the midst of the ever-changing fitness industry chock full of fad diets, Amanda uses her program Forever Fit to help clients find true success through habit change, routine, and making health and fitness apart of their LIFESTYLE! She combines her love for the performing arts with her love of fitness to help actors, singers, and dancers create career longevity.

Brooklyn, NY

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