Zone Training: How To Use Heart Rate Training For Performance

The multitude of ways you can program your workouts and training, are essentially endless. Heart rate training, or zone training, consists of using and tracking your heart rate to gauge your exercise intensity. We’re going to talk about how to monitor your heart rate intensity and why this type of training can be beneficial to achieving your goals.

What Is Zone Training 

Zone training, or heart rate training, consists of tracking how hard you work out, to guide your endurance training and progress. Zone training can be a very effective way of increasing muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance, for running, high-intensity functional fitness programs and CrossFit. An effective functional training program will include constantly varied movements, at different prescribed reps schemes and intensities. By optimizing your heart rate whether it be while rowing, running, or cycling, you can measure your progress and effectively improve your performance.

How To Calculate Your Heart Rate

The first step in zone training, is to determine your maximum heart rate. A basic formula you can use, is to simply subtract your age from 220. Thus, if you are 30 years old, your max heart rate is 190 beats per minute. However, this equation does not take several variables into account, like gender, genetic predisposition, etc. Once you determine your max heart rate, you can establish your heart rate training zones.

There are 5 different heart rate training zones, each is a percentage of your Maximal Heart Rate (MHR) which is the maximum number of times your heart can beat within a minute. Heart rate zones are good benchmarks for developing heart rate training and metabolic energy system training programs.

Zone 0 [Rest] – This means your body is at complete rest, with no physical strain.

Zone 1 [Very-Low Intensity] This could be a dynamic warm up stretch, or cool down. Light walking.

Zone 2 [Low-Intensity] – This is what’s known as your “fat-burning zone”. This zone is comprised of low intensity, and steady state exercise between 60-70% of your MHR. Think low intensity cardio.

Zone 3 [Moderate] – This zone is between 70-85% maximal heart rate and is used to increase anaerobic and aerobic capacity.

Zone 4 [High-Intensity] – Between 85-95% maximal heart rate intensity, zone 3 is primarily used in interval training. It can increase speed, power, and anaerobic capacity through high-intensity functional training modalities and exercise. This is the best zone to increase endurance capacity.

Zone 5 [Max Effort] – Zone 4 is an all-out sprint. At this zone, most athletes will only be able to maintain it for a relatively short period of time.

 

How To Effectively Use Your Heart Rate For Zone Training 

Now that we’ve determined what zone training is and how to calculate your heart rate, how do we use these zones, to build an effective training plan.

1. Field Test

The first step is to conduct a field test. Put on your running shows and get on the pavement to see where your heart rate is during strenuous activity.  You may know what your maximum heart rate is, but now, we need to determine what types of training will put your heart rate in specific zones.

Go through a dynamic warm up and lightly jog for 10-15 minutes. Track your heart rate and see what zone you’re in.

Next, aim for a more challenging test. Find a hill that will take more than five minutes to run. Run up the hill at a moderate pace, then run back down. Now, turn it up a notch and run at a faster pace, that you can hold the entire way up and down. The increase in intensity should raise your heart rate by 10-15%.

I would also recommend doing a sprint test, at 100 meters and 200 meters, and guage your heart rate at a Zone 4-5.

Now that you have some personal metrics and thresholds, you can apply these zones, to your training.

2. Build A Training Plan

Dependent upon your goal, now you can start building a training plan. For example, let's say you're training for a 10K. You can spend different amounts of time, based percentages in certain intensities to improve performance. 

10K is 6.4 miles, therefore, you can train in Zone 2 for 40-50% of your time, Zone 3 for 15-20%, Zone 4 for 15%, and Zone 5 for 15%. That way you are running, yet constantly challenging yourself to build more endurance. 

This same methodology can be applied to cardio based machines, such as the air assault, assault runner, echo bike, ski-erg, or concept-2 rower. 

3. Track Your Progress

The last and final step, is to track your heart rate while training. Without a way to track your heart rate, you won't get very far with zone training, unless you go old school and use the 2-finger pulse method. I would suggest looking into a Whoop or Polar strap.

Zone Training: Takeaway 

Zone training can be an effective training methodology to accurately track your progress and improve cardiovascular or aerobic training. Measuring your heart rate can provide key performance metrics, to progressively improve your training. 


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