Heart rate training

We have all seen our heart rate flashing up on the cardio machines at the gym but how many of us actually know what it is supposed to be? If you Google heart rate training it is a minefield so this article is going to simply cover how to work out your very own heart rate zones and which zones you should be working out in depending on your goal.

Heart rate training for beginners

Step 1: Calculate your maximal heart rate

Before you can figure out what your personalised zones are you need to estimate your maximal heart rate. This is the maximum number of times your heart can beat in one minute. Now if you are a very fit and experienced cardio junkie then you may want to consider getting your true maximal heart rate which I can cover in another article. However, for most of you, the estimated method will suffice for now. Ok so here is the equation, don’t be scared, it is dead simple:


That’s it.

For example, if you are 20 years old then your maximum heart rate is 200 (220-20 = 200).

Step 2: Calculate your zones

You will now calculate the following percentages of your maximal heart rate, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%. Again don’t be scared this is easy! I will use the 20-year old as an example:

220 – 20 = 200

200 x 0.5 = 100 (50%)

200 x 0.6 = 120 (60%)

200 x 0.7 = 140 (70%)

200 x 0.8 = 160 (80%)

200 x 0.9 = 180 (90%)

Step 3: Use the table below to monitor your intensity

Heart Rate Training Zones

A word of caution

Although heart rate training has been shown time and time again to be a very effective tool for programming and monitoring exercise intensity it is not an exact science. For example, your actual maximum heart rate may not be estimated correctly using the 220 minus your age method. Also, if you are very new to exercising you may find that 80% of your maximum is too challenging and 70% of your max may actually feel like vigorous exercise to you. Conversely, a very experienced endurance athlete will be cruising at 85% of their max and would feel more like moderate intensity to them. However, these are guides and will give you a foundation to work from. The important thing is that we use some metric for measuring intensity so that we can track progress, challenge ourselves when we want to and regress when we need to.

Stay active folks 😉


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