Why (and How) You Should Heart Rate Train

Heart Rate Monitor MeFitness training the heart rate training way…

…means to track your heart rate during all fitness workouts. So it doesn’t matter if you are cycling, running, swimming, climbing, sprinting, jumping, lifting weights or any combination you will most effectively reach peak fitness by heart rate training.

How Do I Do Heart Rate Training?

Very simple really: Get a heart rate monitor and start training with it. The link I just provided is to an awesome heart rate monitor reviews website. Most heart rate monitors, these days, provide you with many features to assist with heart rate training.

For example Polar has an OwnZone feature on some of their watches. The feature tracks your resting heart rate (knowing your absolute resting heart rate) and can then give you daily heart rate zones to stay within during training.

Overtraining will cause your resting heart rate to stay elevated the next morning. The fastest way to reach peak fitness is not to overtrain. The heart rate monitor with OwnZone will thus reward your fitness training.

What Sort of Fitness Training Should I Do?

The simple answer is do everything. I have written articles on the specific training you should do.

High Intensity Interval Training. Is about doing intervals of all out (sprinting or lifting) with short breaks between the high intensity intervals.

Sprinting . Is about reaching maximum exertion (max heart rate) for short periods of time (20-60 seconds) with short breaks. You can sprint on a bike, while running, swimming or by some other means – be creative.

Long and Slow Walking. Is about staying at 60% of your max heart rate for hours at a time. Think about walking, hiking or playing team sports once a week.

A Benefit of Heart Rate Training (Or How To Only Train 1.5 Hours Per week)

One major benefit of heart rate training is that if you know your heart rate you know how hard you are actually training. If you stay above 80% of your max heart (top 2 heart rate zones as described below) for 30 minutes at least 3 times per week: you will see all the benefits of max effort exercise. One of which is the less time you will have to exercise.

Learn to Push Yourself For 30 minutes, 3 Times Per Week

  • Do HIIT training 1.5 hours a week. HIIT is shorter, harder exercise (body weight and free weight lifting and/or sprints) all mixed into 3 x 30 minutes per week.

There are several ways to do HIIT. What I find the most affective is:


  • Do 10 minutes of sprinting (3 minute warm up then do 30 second all out sprints with 90 second rest periods, repeat 3 times)
  • Then do 3 minutes abs (2 min normal abs plank and 30 seconds of each side plank)
  • Then do 7 min of HIIT (7 different moves using body and free weights pushing, pulling, jumping etc. for 1 minute each, or until failure each time)
  • Repeat abs and HIIT.

And then as above, but mix the order:

Wednesday. 3 min abs, 7 min HIIT, repeat abs and HIIT, 10 min sprinting

Friday. 7 min HIIT, repeat HIIT, 10 min sprinting, 3 min abs, repeat abs

Changing up the order each day keeps you from slacking off one exercise, say the abs or the body weights each day, because you are pooped from the sprinting you did first.

How Do I Interpret The Heart Rate Data From My Heart Rate Monitor (Or How Do I Know I Am Making Progress)?

Your heart doesn’t lie. Heart rate training with a heart rate monitor, therefore, will give you a window to your training performance. If you see your heart rate stay pretty low (always below 50%-60% of max hr) then you know you are probably not training hard enough and are not experiencing much performance enhancement.

Essentially you can interpret your heart rate data as fitting into one of the scenarios below.

Always Heart Rate Training Above 90% Of Your Max Heart Rate

If you always see your heart rate in this range you know you’re training for performance enhancement. Constantly training in this range means you are training at your VO2 max and will thus see a gradually improving VO2 max. I am guessing you are the type of person that goes sprinting lots and does high intensity interval training. Fitness training in this heart rate zone is very hard work and can almost never be sustained long enough to over train. Still sometimes people push themselves too hard.

A heart rate monitor, if worn when at rest, can help you to pinpoint over training. If you train in this zone too many times per week and for too long you have a high chance of overtraining. Check your heart rate each morning right when you wake up even before you get out of bed. If it is consistently elevated (10 beats per minute more than your absolute resting heart rate) you are overtraining. The method isn’t sterling but it is simple and fairly accurate.

To prevent overtraining you can mix up your heart rate training by sometimes staying in the below range of heart rates.

Heart Rate Training Above 80% But Below 90% Of Your Max Heart Rate

If you always see your heart rate in this range you know you’re training at your anaerobic threshold. Training at your anaerobic threshold over time also increases your VO2 max, which is a good measure of overall physical fitness.

If you only weight train you should try to see if you can do exercises in succession while staying in this heart rate range the whole time. Doing the exercises in succession has the added benefit of doing more things in less time. And you get the heart benefits of training at your anaerobic threshold.

Heart rate training in this range is hardcore and most people would not be able to train at this level for more than 30 minutes (talking most people here because I know all athletes can for longer).

Like I said above – use your heart rate monitor to check for overtraining each morning.

Heart Rate Training Above 70% But Below 80% Of Your Max Heart Rate

If you always see your heart rate in this range you know you’re training for endurance. Endurance training will definitely cause your resting heart rate to decrease over-time. The reason for this will be because your heart has gotten more efficient at pumping blood to your body.

Training in all the above heart rate zones will cause your heart muscle to get stronger and better at pumping blood. And, for this reason, will beat less times per minute.

Lance Armstrong is said to have a resting heart rate of 32 bpm.

Training4cyclists.com has a page asking the question: What is your lowest heart rate ever? And has 182 responses (July 2011). If you want to know what other people’s resting heart rate is go and see at that link.

I’d say the vast majority of people who like to  walk, hike, slow jog or bike will be in the below heart rate zones while fitness training.

Heart Rate Training Above 60% But Below 70% Of Your Max Heart Rate

If you always see your heart rate in this range you know you’re training for general fitness, which means general health and well-being.

You will still be burning a good amount of calories which is good for weight control. And you will still be increasing your general cardiovascular performance, which is good.

However, if your choice of exercise is to do sprinting or high intensity interval training but you always see your heart rate in this range then you are not sprinting or HIIT hard enough. It is not necessarily a bad thing to not go hard enough. You should just know that training in this heart rate range means you will not be improving your anaerobic threshold and thus VO2 max.

You would definitely see a benefit if you experiment fitness training in the above higher heart rate zones once in a while. Just saying, the research can’t be wrong (if link doesn’t work go to scholar.google.com and type in: benefits max effort exercise).

Heart Rate Training Above 50% But Below 60% Of Your Max Heart Rate

If you always see your heart rate in this range you know you’re not seeing the performance enhancing benefits of the above heart rate zones. Think of this heart rate range as the warm up – nothing more.

Warm ups are good don’t get me wrong, but know that you would see awesome benefits if you experiment getting into the above heart rate zones while heart rate training.

I’ll leave it up to you.

I hope you can now gauge your fitness training the heart rate training way.

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