Heart Rate Training: The Basics

April 5, 2010

 

Target heart rates, what are they? What are you supposed to do with it? Target heart rate is defined as the minimum number of heartbeats in a given amount of time in order to reach the level of exertion necessary for cardiovascular fitness, specific to a person's age, gender, or physical fitness. An example of a target heart rate is 150 bpm to burn fat for a woman in her 30s. The general "rule of thumb" is that you're supposed to take 220 minus your age and that should be your maximum heart rate(mhr). Now for the Zones.

"fat burning zone" is 60-70% of your mhr.

"endurance zone" is 70-80% of your mhr.

"Performance(anaerobic) zone" is 80-90% of your mhr.

"Red line zone" 90-100% of your mhr.

 

These are the generalizations. I'm not a huge prescriber to the target heart rate generalizations. I didn't say that there is no benefit to knowing your heart rate and how to maximize efficiency in the zones. I'm just not a fan of the generalizations. Here's the thing, on about every treadmill across every gym, we have the target heart rates plastered all over them. So of course the general population is going to buy into it, after all it's right in front of them. They wouldn't put them there if they didn't mean anything. The truth of the matter is that the generalizations about the target heart rates can lead to overtraining or just not training enough.

 

The flaw in this concept arises because there are few people who actually fall into these generalizations. Ironic huh? On average about 70% of the population is plus or minus 10-12 beats off of the 220 minus your age formula. If we look at it that tells us that 7 out of 10 people don't fit the formula, Even worse 30 % of the population deviates nearly twice that much. So to reword this in easier terms. For 70% of the population, maximal heart rate actually equals 220 minus age plus or minus 10-12 beats per minute. For the other 30% maximal heart rate equals 220 minus your age plus minus 20-24 beats per minute.

 

 

Why is this even a big deal? First, those whose heart rates are on the high end are at little or no risk. All that occurs with them is that they don't get pushed hard enough. The issue arises with the people who have unusually low maximum heart rates. If we were to push a person in the 30% group that is minus 24 beats per minute to 80% of their theoretical maximal heart rate, we could actually be pushing them to 90%. This is a major error that can have significant ramifications.

 

To sum it all up, I recommend to understand more about this for people to get a heart rate monitor and to more importantly begin to listen to their bodies. With the tool of the heart rate monitor push yourself in the different zones and see how you respond. I also want to say something about the supposed "fat burning zone" Once you've crossed the "fat burning zone" threshold into the next zones, your body doesn't magically stop burning fat, It continues. Now all that's going on is that you're burning carbs along with the fat. Also your using the muscle more intensely, which is going to give you a longer metabolic burn effect. Next time you hear someone say "I need to be in the fat burning zone" Please smile at them and refer them to the blog, and say here's to getting a bigger and stronger heart, brain and body!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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