Heart Rate Training


Fitness watches and monitors are so accurate and inexpensive that heart rate zone training is available to all athletes. Instead of focusing on pace or an external metric, training is based on your own heart rate. This method allows you to train your cardiorespiratory system to work at a specific effort level for a certain time. Progress is monitored using heart beats per minute (BPM) to gage your intensity level.

As you get fitter, your heart gets stronger and more efficient. To progress, you have to increase training intensity to elevate your heart rate. Heart Rate Training allows you to continually and efficiently tailor your fitness program to achieve your goals.

Many of today’s fitness watches calculate your maximum heart rate (HRmax) and set your training zones. At the end of your training, the watch will tell you how long you spent in each zone. We have included a HR Zone Chart below to help you understand how to use zones based on your goals.

If your watch does not calculate your HR zones, it is easy to do it yourself. These equations are not exact, but they will provide you with a good starting point.

1) Calculate your maximum heart rate (HRmax) use the following equation:

age-predicted HRmax = 220 – your age

2) Calculate your Resting Heart Rate (HRresting). Take your heart rate when you wake up each morning for 3-5 days. Use the average of these HR for your HRresting.

3) Calculate your Heart Rate Reserve (HRreserve) = HRmax-HRresting


4) Calculate your HR ranges for use in the Training Zones:

50%= HRreserve * .50 + HRresting

60% = HRreserve * .60 + HRresting

70% = HRreserve * .70 + HRresting

80% = HRreserve * .80 + HRresting

90% = HRreserve * .90 + HRresting

Using an example of a 53 year old with a Resting Heart Rate of 56, the calculations would be as follows:

HRmax = 220 – 53 = 167 HRresting=56   HRreserve= 167-56 = 111

50%= (.5*111+56)=112





The Five Cardiovascular Training Zones (Sally Edwards)

  • Zone 1: Healthy Heart. At 50%–60% of HRmax, this zone is low-intensity training and provides primarily metabolic and emotional health benefits. Training in this zone can lower cholesterol, reduce emotional stress and improve blood pressure.
  • Zone 2: Temperate. At 60%–70% of HRmax, this zone is low to moderate exercise intensity and burns more calories from fat and more total calories than does Zone 1. People training in this zone may start to sweat, yet they are able to carry on a conversation without any difficulty. Sometimes, Zone 2 is also known as the “recovery zone.”
  • Zone 3: Aerobic. At 70%–80% of HRmax, this is the zone that drives endurance capacity—the ability to sustain exercise over a long period of time without fatigue. The aerobic zone provides improvements in fitness level by increasing mitochondrial density and enhancing fat utilization, resulting in more total calories expended per exercise minute. This zone is more challenging. For a trained exerciser, this zone is considered “somewhat hard,” with a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) of 5–6.
  • Zone 4: Threshold. At 80%–90% of HRmax, this zone was once thought to be only for athletes and competitors. However, it is for anyone who wants to get fitter and faster. It is named the Threshold Zone because it is for more fit individuals or those whose fitness goals are to improve speed for performance. The reason to spend time in Zone 4 is to create training changes that lead to improved aerobic capacity. When the muscles’ ability to tolerate lactic-acid concentrations increases, endurance can improve.
  • Zone 5: Red Line. At 90%–100% of HRmax, this zone requires a near all-out effort and can be sustained for only short periods of time. For competitive athletes, low Zone 5 heart rate numbers can be sustained for 20–35 minutes (5K race). For less fit individuals who enjoy hard training, Zone 5 places a very high metabolic stress load on the body and can be sustained for 2–5 minutes.



Edwards, S. 2008. The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook to Heart Zone Training. Sacramento, CA: Heart Zones. on: https://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/heart-rate-training

BCRPA Strength Training Manual