There are many gym goers who think that pushing to the limit is the key to seeing dramatic results, there are also the individuals who stay on the cardio machines doing low-intensity exercise for hours on end. So who is right? Well, it depends on the end result you are seeking. Knowing what the heart rate figures on the cardio machines are actually telling you and being able to accurately calculate your own heart rate at rest and during exercise will allow you to access a whole new level of training where no minute you spend in the gym will be wasted.
Calculating Your Zone Values:
The basic way to calculate Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is to subtract your age from 220. So if you are 25 years old, your MHR would be:
220-25 = 195.
You also need to find your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). The most accurate way to do this would be to take your pulse for 60 seconds but for convenience you can take your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.
To find your Working Heart Rate (WHR) you need to subtract your RHR from your MHR.
Let’s say that your RHR is 60.
195-60 beats per minute (bpm) = 135 WHR.
You then need to decide at which % you would like to train, see below for details of each training zone.
If you want to train in the aerobic zone at 70%, you need to calculate what 70% of your WHR is.
For example, 70% of 135 = 94.5
Add this figure to your RHR (60 + 94.5 = 154.5) to give you the ~bpm you should be training at to reap the benefits of that specific zone.
If you want to monitor your heart rate closely, it is better to invest in a personal heart rate monitor than to rely on the figures provided by cardio machines.
Healthy Heart Zone 50-60%
This is a safe and comfortable zone ideal for recovering from serious injury/operations/to begin exercise if you have been sedentary for an extended period of time. A brisk walking exercise should raise your heart rate to about this level.
This zone will help to improve overall health through improving muscle mass, strengthening your heart and decreasing body fat but it will have little/no impact on endurance performance.
Recovery Zone 60-70%
Training in this zone will begin to develop basic endurance. It is a good heart rate to work at if you desire fat loss as it is optimum for fat burning. This relatively low-intensity training allows for your muscles to re-energise. You can continue to train at this level for extended periods of time. If you want to build muscle and lose weight this is the perfect zone for you.
Aerobic Zone 70-80%
This zone is ideal for endurance athletes or those looking to improve functional cardiovascular capacity. Training at this heart rate will increase your body’s ability to deliver oxygenated blood to the muscles and remove carbon dioxide. Increase lung capacity, promote heart muscle hypertrophy and delay time to fatigue through training in this zone. At this heart rate, carbohydrate and fat metabolism is ~ equal at a 50/50 split.
Anaerobic Threshold Zone 80-90%
If you want to be fitter, faster and more powerful then this is the heart rate you need to be training at. Reduce the longevity of your training, as training at this heart rate for extended periods of time is detrimental to health. The anaerobic threshold refers to the point at which the body is no longer able to provide energy aerobically and has to switch to anaerobic glycolysis to supply the muscles with energy. The body is no longer able to remove lactic acid at the same rate that it is produced. This occurs in most people at ~80-88%.
Redline Zone 90-100%
Working this close to your VO2 max/at your VO2 max is only possible for short periods of time and can only be recommended for experienced athletes or those in peak physical fitness due to the pressure placed on the cardiovascular system while training in this zone. This training zone is used in interval training to develop fast twitch muscle fibres therefore increasing speed and agility.