What Are the Five Heart Rate Zones?
Your heart rate is the best indicator of how hard your body is working during a training session. Whether you run, swim, cycle, lift weights, or do bodyweight HIIT workouts, training with heart rate zones can help you hit specific intensity targets.
In this article, learn the benefits of using heart rate training zones and how utilizing data can help you reach your fitness goals faster.
Defining the Heart Rate Zones
There are five heart rate zones, all of which correspond to different percentages of your max heart rate (MHR), which you’ll learn how to calculate later. In each zone, you’ll experience a different level of exertion and your body will use carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for fuel in specific ways.
- Zone 1: 50 percent to 60 percent of MHR
- Zone 2: 60 percent to 70 percent of MHR
- Zone 3: 70 percent to 80 percent of MHR
- Zone 4: 80 percent to 90 percent of MHR
- Zone 5: 90 percent to 100 percent of MHR
You can also think of these in terms of effort level:
- Zone 1: Very light
- Zone 2: Light
- Zone 3: Moderate
- Zone 4: Hard
- Zone 5: Very hard
All of these zones have specific purposes and they’re all important. The goal is never to max out every workout or stay in zone 5 for an hour.
An effective workout plan will include different types of workouts with different intended stimuli. This is the only way to continue to progress and avoid facing fitness burnout or overtraining syndrome.
Why You Should Use the Heart Rate Zones
Here are a couple of scenarios when heart rate zones really come in handy:
- Many runners tend to run too fast on recovery days. Paying attention to heart rate zones ensure they avoid overtraining.
- Beginners may overestimate their intensity level. Using heart rate zones, they can see how hard they’re really working and make adjustments to reach their fitness goals.
- Advanced exercisers may underestimate their intensity level. Heart rate zones provide data so they can remain in the intended intensity range of their programming and continue to see results.
- Fitness enthusiasts sometimes overdo it. Having heart rate data handy, they can see if their body is overworking during a session that should be easy or moderate. This way, they can scale back to avoid overtaxing their bodies.
Which Zone Should You Work Out In?
Your weekly workout routine should include some variation of all of the zones. If you only work out in one heart rate zone, you risk hitting a plateau or sustaining overuse injuries, esepcially if your main mode of exercise is a high-impact activity.
Here’s a sample weekly schedule of what heart rate training zones can look like:
- Monday: Zones 2 and 3; moderate intensity activity such as jogging or lifting moderate weights
- Tuesday: Zones 3, 4, and 5: intervals of hard-hitting, intense activity paired with slower, more moderate active intervals
- Wednesday: Zones 1 and 2: very light and light activity to rest your central nervous system and prepare your muscles for another tough day tomorrow
- Thursday: Zones 2, 3, and 4: moderate to somewhat difficult activity paired with very light rest intervals
- Friday: Zones 1 and 5: bursts of extremely vigorous activity followed by intervals of complete rest
- Saturday: Zones 3, 4, and 5: intervals of hard-hitting, intense activity paired with slower, more moderate active intervals
- Sunday: Zone 1; rest, stretching, yoga, light walking
How to Calculate Your Heart Rate for Training
Step 1: Calculate your max heart rate.
For World Gym Athletics, we use the Hunt Method: 211 – (your age x 0.64). For instance, if you’re 25 years old, you would multiply 25 x 0.64 to get 16, then subtract 16 from 211 to get 195.
Step 2: Calculate your heart rate zones
To find your heart rate targets for each zone, simply multiply the low and high percentage of each zone by your MHR. To calculate Zone 1 ranges for a MHR of 195, first multiply 195 by 0.50 to get 97. Then multiply 195 by o.60 to get 116.
You won’t always land on a whole number, but that’s okay. Here are the approximate heart rate zones for a MHR of 195:
- Very light effort: 97 to 116
- Light effort: 117 to 135 BPM
- Moderate effort: 136 to 154 BPM
- Hard effort: 155 BPM to 174 BPM
- Very hard effort: 175+ BPM
For World Gym Athletics, we use MyZone, a heart rate training program that determines your max heart rate and tailors experiences specifically to your effort levels. To learn more about the benefits of training with heart rate zones, talk to a World Gym Athletics coach.