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Heart Rate Zones Heart

Heart rate training zones are calculated by taking into consideration your Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) and your Resting Heart Rate (HRrest). Within each training zone, subtle physiological effects take place to enhance your fitness.

The Energy Efficient or Recovery Zone - 60% to 70%

Training within this zone develops basic endurance and aerobic capacity. All easy recovery running should be completed at a maximum of 70%. Another advantage to running in this zone is that while you are happily fat burning you may lose weight and you will be allowing your muscles to re-energise with glycogen, which has been expended during those faster-paced workouts.

The Aerobic Zone - 70% to 80%

Training in this zone will develop your cardiovascular system. The body's ability to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, the working muscles can be developed and improved. As you become fitter and stronger from training in this zone it will be possible to run some of your long weekend runs at up to 75%, so getting the benefits of some fat burning and improved aerobic capacity.

The Anaerobic Zone - 80% to 90%

Training in this zone will develop your lactic acid system. In this zone, your individual anaerobic threshold (AT) is found - sometimes referred to the point of deflection (POD). During these heart rates, the amount of fat being utilised as the main source of energy is greatly reduced and glycogen stored in the muscle is predominantly used. One of the by-products of burning this glycogen is lactic acid. There is a point at which the body can no longer remove the lactic acid from the working muscles quickly enough. This is your anaerobic threshold (AT). Through the correct training, it is possible to delay the AT by being able to increase your ability to deal with the lactic acid for a longer period of time or by pushing the AT higher.

The Red Line Zone 90% to 100%

Training in this zone will only be possible for short periods. It effectively trains your fast twitch muscle fibres and helps to develop speed. This zone is reserved for interval running and only the very fit are able to train effectively within this zone.

Heart rate variations for a given intensity

A reduction in heart rate for a given intensity is usually due to an improvement in fitness but a number of other factors might explain why heart rates can vary for a given intensity:

  • Dehydration can increase the heart rate by up to 7.5%
  • Heat and humidity can increase the heart rate by 10 beats/minute
  • Altitude can increase the heart rate by 10 to 20%, even when acclimatised
  • Biological variation can mean the heart rate varies from day to day by 2 to 4 beats/minute

Resting Heart Rate

To determine your resting heart rate (HRrest) is very easy. Find somewhere nice and quiet, lie down and relax. Position a watch or clock where you can clearly see it whilst lying down. After 20 minutes determine your resting pulse rate (beats/min). Use this value as your (HRrest).

If you have a heart rate monitor, then put it on before you lie down. After the 20 minutes check the recordings and identify the lowest value achieved. Use this value as your HRrest.

The heart is a muscle so with regular exercise it will become larger and become more efficient as a pump. As a result, you will find your resting heart rate gets lower so you will need to check your HRrest on a regular basis (e.g. Monthly).

Calculation of a zone value

The calculation of a zone value, X%, is performed in the following way:

  • Subtract your HRrestfrom your HRmax giving us your reserve heart rate (HRreserve)
  • Calculate the required X% on the HRreserve giving us "Z"
  • Add "Z" and your HRrest together to give us the final value

Example: The athlete's HRmax is 180 and their HRrest is 60 - determine the 70% value

  • HRmax - HRrest = 180 - 60 = 120
  • 70% of 120 = 84
  • 84 + HRrest = 84 + 60 = 144 bpm

Training Zone Heart Rate Calculator

Please remember that any equation used to determine your maximum heart rate (HRmax) is only a best guess and not a guarantee of your true HRmax value. The use of an equation implies that anyone of the same age has the same HRmax, which is not the case. To determine your true HRmax you should consider conducting a Stress Test.

The calculator determines your HRmax based on the equation: 217 - (age × 0.85) (Miller et al. 1993)[1]

If you know your true HRmax then adjust your "Age" so that the correct value appears in the "Max Heart Rate" window.

Enter your age, resting heart rate, the lower and upper training zone values (%) and then select the 'Calculate' button.

Age years Max Heart Rate bpm
Resting Heart Rate bpm Reserve Heart Rate bpm
Lower Training Zone % which is a Heart Rate of bpm
Upper Training Zone % which is a Heart Rate of bpm
Estimated VO2 max ml/kg/min

VO2 max - using heart rates

Research by Uth et al. (2004)[2] found that VO2 max can be estimated indirectly from an individual's maximum heart rate (HRmax) and resting heart rate (HRrest) with an accuracy that compares favourably with other common VO2 max tests. It is given by:

  • VO2 max = 15 x (HRmax ÷ HRrest)

Free Calculator


  1. MILLER, W. C., J. P. WALLACE, and K. E. EGGERT (1993) Predicting max HR and the HR-[latin capital V with dot above]2 relationship for exercise prescription in obesity. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 25 (9), p. 1077-1081
  2. UTH, N. et al. (2004) Estimation of VO2 max from the ratio between HRmax and HRrest - the Heart Rate Ratio Method. Eur J Appl Physiol. 91(1), p.111-115

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • FURLAN, R. et al. (1993) Early and late effects of exercise and athletic training on neural mechanisms controlling heart rate. Cardiovascular research, 27 (3), p. 482-488
  • BURKE, E. (1998) Precision heart rate training. Human Kinetics
  • CAMPOS, G. E. et al. (2002) Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones. European journal of applied physiology, 88 (1-2), p. 50-60

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Heart Rate Training Zones [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic:

Heart Rate Monitors from Amazon

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