Train Smarter: Know Your Target Heart Rate Zone

You've probably heard of training according to heart rate. It's based on the idea that you can improve your fitness regimen by matching your intensity with the goals of a particular workout. You do this by determining your heart rate training zones, and then exercising in the zone that fits the goal you have for a particular session.

For instance, if you're a runner and want to work at a fairly high intensity, you might run in zone 3 (see bullets below for more explanation), which is 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR), or 85 to 98 percent of your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR). Conversely, on some days you may want to recover so you train in zone 1 (50 to 60 percent of MHR and 65 to 75 percent of LTHR).

MoreUnderstand Your Target Heart Rate

According to IDEA Fitness Journal, lactate threshold is the point in exercise intensity at which blood lactate concentrations rise exponentially. Your body can no longer get rid of the lactic acid and it starts to accumulate in the blood. The LT is closely correlated with heart rate and breathing rate.

Training with heart rate works by letting you know how hard you are working during a given session, and providing you with the feedback needed to modify your intensity. To train successfully with heart rate, you must first understand the five heart rate training zones. The zones are based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate or lactate threshold heart rate and are divided into percentages as follows:

  • Zone 1 = 50 to 60 percent MHR and 65 to 75 percent of LTHR
  • Zone 2 = 60 to 70 percent MHR and 75 to 85 percent of LTHR
  • Zone 3 = 70 to 80 percent MHR and 85 to 98 percent of LTHR
  • Zone 4 = 80 to 90 percent MHR and 98 to 105 percent of LTHR
  • Zone 5 = 90 to 100 percent MHR and 105-plus percent of LTHR

Each zone serves a specific purpose in your physical development.

MoreCalculate Your Training Heart Rate Zones

MoreHeart Rate Calculator

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About the Author

Tyrone Holmes

Tyrone A. Holmes, Ed.D, CPT, is a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise and a Level 1 cycling coach through USA Cycling. He provides Cycle-Max Coaching for cyclists and multisport athletes who want to improve their performance on the bike and Healthy Life Coaching for individuals who want to lose weight and develop healthier lifestyles. His latest book is The Business of Training and Coaching. Visit his website at and his Fitness Corner blog at

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