Understanding Heart Rate Target Zones

Understanding your heart rate and why you need to exercise within a certain target zone is imperative to getting the most out of your workouts, whether you’re looking to burn fat, or improve fitness and performance.

What Does Maximum Heart Rate Mean?

Your maximum heart rate refers to the highest number of times your heart can beat within a minute, and this number is the key to determining your heart rate target zone. Many people don’t realize that their maximum heart rate is unsustainable for longer than three or four minutes at a time—and that’s for a professional athlete—as attempting to go any longer than that would result in falling over due to exhaustion! This most likely stems from the fact that they don’t know what the term means and is why you might often hear people claiming that they had a grueling workout and sustained a maximum heart rate for an extended period of time, which is impossible.

It’s important to understand that your maximum heart rate cannot be trained, in other words it’s not affected by your fitness level. You’ll have the same rate whether you are a couch potato or a performance athlete. It might take you longer to reach your maximum heart rate if you are fit, but there’s no way you can exceed this number.

However, while you might not be able to train to get your heart rate higher than you maximum, as you become fitter, you will find that you can exercise longer at your maximum heart rate. In other words, you’ll be able to go faster for longer, regardless of the activity.

Since maximum heart rate is very important in determining target heart rate zones, it’s important to note that if you are taking any beta blockers, such as Lopressor, Lopid, Atenolol, or Tenormin, your readings might not be accurate. This is because these types of drugs lower your resting and maximum heart rates.

Determining Your Maximum Heart Rate

To determine your maxim heart rate, you need to undergo an exercise test that pushes you to your maximum capacity, which is why you need your doctor’s approval before doing it.

To figure out your rate, you need to get on a treadmill and increase the speed or incline every minute until you feel you’re ready to drop from exhaustion. You need to watch your heart rate at this point, because you’ll have to continue increasing the speed and incline every minute but once your heart plateaus—you have the same number of beats and it doesn’t increase—for two minutes, then that’s your target heart rate zone.

This test is very taxing so it’s a good idea to have someone present to help you not only record your heart rate every minute, but to be there in case something happens, like you falling off the treadmill. Note that some people claim that the formula of deducting your age from 220 is sufficient to determine your maximum heart rate, however it’s rarely accurate and this formula should be used more as a guideline than a precise determination of your maximum heart rate.

Of course, the most precise way is to determine your maximum heart rate is by having a doctor perform an EKG stress test. This test is used to determine if a person has cardiovascular problems, so you’ll have to explain to your doctor why you want to take it because otherwise the test is generally stopped before your heart reaches its maximum rate.

How to Determine Your Heart Rate Target Zone

Generally, you want to keep your heart beating between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum rate to be in the zone. Your heart rate will tell you whether you’re working hard enough to get the benefits you want from your exercise session, and it’s been proven that staying in the aforementioned range offers the best results.

Thus, keeping your heart rate in this zone means that you will are guaranteed to be burning calories and fat during your workout. If your heart rate is below the 60 percent, then you need to step it up a notch because you’re exercising for nothing. Being above 80 per cent will not increase the number of calories you burn because it’s a matter of diminishing returns. You won’t be able to exercise for long at a higher pace and you’ll have to cut your workout short, which means less fat burned overall.

Determining your maximum heart rate is essential to figuring you the right target heart rate zone for you. Since this is the range you need to be in to get the most out of your workout, whether you want to burn calories or improve fitness and performance, it’s vital for you to know what it is so you aren’t wasting time. A heart rate monitor might be a good idea to aid you in this process.