Target Heart Rate Zone
I’m sure many of you have at one point asked: “What’s my target heart rate for Insanity? or cardio?”, “What heart rate can burn more calories?”, “Is there a Fat Burning zone?”. Here are some excerpts from a very good article from Steve Edwards. Hope it answers some of your questions.
Importance of Heart Rate Monitoring
Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. It delivers oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body and, as you’re aware, oxygen is the primary ingredient keeping us alive. Like any muscle, the heart needs to be exercised, and monitoring your heart rate is an easy way to keep yourself working in the right “zone,” reducing your chance of injury and overtraining, and increasing the odds that you’ll get the results you want. Heart rate monitors measure your cardiovascular and physiological stress during training sessions. They provide you with an accurate gauge of how intensely you’re exercising, which is reflected in your heart rate. The harder you exercise, the higher the heart rate goes. When your heart rate changes, it’s a sign that something is happening. By monitoring your heart rate, you will learn to tell when your workouts are effective, when you are over or undertraining, and even when you may be getting sick and need to back off.
What’s Your Maximum Heart Rate?
Your maximum heart rate (max HR) is the maximum number of times your heart can contract in one minute. An accurate max HR should be tested in a lab setting. In lieu of lab testing, we use this formula:
Women: 226 – your age = your age-adjusted max HR
Men: 220 – your age = your age-adjusted max HR
For example: If you are a 35-year-old male, your age-adjusted maximum heart rate is 220 – 35 years = 185 beats-per-miunte (bpm).
These formulas apply only to adults and have an error margin of +/–10 to 15 beats per minute, due to different inherited characteristics and exercise training. If you want to exercise/train at your most effective levels, your max HR should be measured. However, most of us are fine using the above estimates. When you need your training to be more specific, you’ll almost certainly know it because you’ll be obsessing over a race or event as opposed to simply trying to be healthy.
What Target Heart Rate Zone Should I Be in?
These “zones” correlate to different levels in intensity, which (as you’ll see below) increases as you get closer to your max HR. In any hard workout you will experience all of them. Easier workouts will skip the higher zones.
|Heart Rate Zone||Percentage of Max HR||Perceived Exertion Difficulty|
|Z1 Healthy Heart Zone||50%–60%||2–5 (perceived exertion)|
|Z2 Temperate Zone||60%–70%||4–5 (perceived exertion)|
|Z3 Aerobic Zone||70%–80%||5–7 (perceived exertion)|
|Z4 Threshold Zone||80%–90%||7–9 (perceived exertion)|
|Z5 Redline Zone||90%–100%||9–10 (perceived exertion)|
Each heart rate zone burns a different number of calories per minute. How many calories you burn within the range for each zone depends on how fit you are:
Zone 1 = 3–7 calories per minute
Zone 2 = 7–12 calories per minute
Zone 3 = 12–17 calories per minute
Zone 4 = 17–20 calories per minute
Zone 5 = 20+ calories per minute
Looking at this, you all probably want to be in zone 5 as much as possible. Unfortunately, the time we can spend here is limited. For efficiency, Beachbody workouts try and maximize the time spent in the higher zones, which we’ll get to in a moment. Training in the lower zones is also important.
What About the “Fat-Burning Zone”?
You’ll notice the lack of something called the fat-burning zone in the table below. The reason for this is that it’s misleading because people feel the need to stay in this low heart rate zone in order to burn fat. In reality, the opposite is true.
In Z1 and Z2, you’re using stored fat for fuel. It’s cool-sounding, yes, but your body is doing this because it’s trying to conserve its limited stores of something called glycogen, its primary fuel for hard exertions. It’s important to train in Z1 and Z2, but most of us train in it plenty during our warm-ups, cool downs, recovery periods between hard sets of exercise, and the daily activities in our life.
Z3 is called aerobic because it’s the hardest zone you can train in without going anaerobic (the point where the pump starts settling in). This is what we’re targeting in steady state “cardio” workouts. It’s actually quite hard to stay in this zone because we’re always creeping into zone 4, so the most effective way to train it is using an over/under strategy, which is done by training in intervals between the higher and lower zones.
Z4 and Z5 are your anaerobic zones. You can’t stay in these very long because your heart can’t pump oxygen to your body fast enough. Your body is using glycogen (via blood sugar) as fuel and it runs out rapidly—part of why Results and Recovery Formula works so well after hard workouts where you’ve spent a lot of time in these zones. Trying in these zones forces your body to break down muscle tissue and fire “emergency” hormones to repair this tissue, which is all vital for getting fitter (and looking “ripped”).
What Zone Should I Be in During My Workout?
Generally, on my cardio days, I keep my HR between 80-90% of my max HR (except for during the warm-ups, cool downs and stretching . Sometimes, it goes as high as 95%! That’s when my body starts slowing down and hitting a diminishing rate of return.
To get a sense of how intense you’re working out, your heart rate monitor is a great tool to help you monitor and track your progress, and make sure you are working hard enough to get the cardiovascular and fat-burning results you want.
Cardio workouts will burn more calories than resistance workout at first because you’re moving more and your average heart rate is higher. Over time, however, you should get stronger and, thus, lift more weight for more repetitions in resistance days, greatly increasing the caloric burn for those days. This is why so many of our programs use weight and, even in INSANITY (which uses gravity in place of weight), we add weight to the later workouts of ASYLUM. If this is not happening, it means you need to add weight and/or repetitions to your resistance workouts! Besides what you see in the mirror, this is best way to see if you’re making improvements in your health and fitness.
You will also learn that by tracking your progress, you’ll be more in tune with external factors that are upsetting you. You will be able to tell when you are getting sick or overtraining. When that’s happening, you won’t be able to get your heart rate to maximums that you’ve seen prior, or your heart rate at rest will be too high. This is an indicator that something isn’t quite right.
What’s the heart rate zone for your cardio workouts? Feel free to comment below.