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Heart rate zone training is one way to gauge the intensity of your workouts. Understanding the different zone as well as what your Max Heart Rate (MHR), also known as max heart beats per minute, can help effectively plan workouts.

How To Calculate Max Heart Rate: 

There are two ways to do this.

The first and most common:

220 – Your age (years)
So for a 30 year old:
220 – 30 = 190

Dr. William Haskell and Dr. Samuel Fox developed this formula in the 1970’s.  They used data from published studies where people were tested to find their MHR, so this formula has been adopted as the main way to measure MHR. However, the population used in the studies was never intended to represent the general population. Dr. Haskell has even “laughed about it over the years” because the formula was not meant to “be an absolute guide to rule people’s training.” The formula (though flawed) is better than nothing.

The next method takes a bit more work – the Karoven Formula.

The Karoven Formula gives you your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR). HRR is the difference between a person’s MHR and their Resting Heart Rate (RHR), or heart rate at rest.

To figure out your RHR, take your pulse in the morning before getting out of bed. This can be done with a heart rate monitor or by taking your radial pulse.

To take your radial pulse, place your index and middle finger on the radial artery on right wrist just below your thumb. To find the artery place your fingers on the base of the thumb and slide down a few centimeters until you find a groove. Apply light pressure until you can feel a pulse. Count the number of beats in 60 seconds, or count to 30 and multiply beats times two.  For adults, this number should be between 60-100.

Once you have your RHR (let’s say 60) you subtract from MHR to get your HRR. Using the above example we found that MHR was 190 for an individual that is 30 years old. So to find their HRR:

190 – 60 = 130

After finding the HRR you multiply that number by the desired Hear Rate Zone:

Warm Up – 50-59%
Fat Burning – 60-69%
Endurance – 70-79%
Hard Intensity – 80-90%

So if the same individual wanted to stay in the Heart Rate Zone for Fat Burning it would be found by multiplying 130 and .60, then by .69 and then adding your RHR back in.

Low end of the zone:
130 * (.60) = 78
78 + 60 = 138

Higher end of the zone:
130*(.69) = 89.7
89.7 + 60 = 149.7

So 138 – 150 would be the Heart Rate for a 30 year old to stay in the fat burning zone.

Though subject to the same fallacies of the original formula, using the Karoven Formula allows for a bit more individualization.

Between the two given, using the latter formula is the best option. Keep in mind that we are not striving for perfection here. If this won’t cut it for you, ask your doctor for a stress test. What you want are baseline numbers that you can go off of and track to make sure of forward progression.


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