Target Heart Rate Chart -
3 Different Training Zones

Just about anywhere on the web you can find a target heart rate chart that suggests the "best" HR you should use when trying to lose weight.

A chart can give you a rough estimation of different training zones based on your heart rate. 

Or you can do it on your own, but it sounds awfully confusing…Heart rate reserve, lactate threshold, oxygen uptake, 220 – age x .65…blah blah blah. 

(I just yawned)…and even then you still have just an estimation. 

And what is this “target heart rate chart” anyway? 

For years, people have been told to aim for a certain heart rate range called “the fat burning zone”.  This is working out at a certain level of moderate intensity where FAT is supposed to be the main fuel source. 

The confusion about the fat burning zone

It is true, when you are working out at a slow and steady pace, your primary fuel source is fat.  But once you are done, so is the increased fat burn.  

If you are working out in a low aerobic zone, your body does not have to work too hard to keep up changing fat into energy. 

In other words, it is not much different than when you are sitting at your desk at work, or walking through the grocery store!  

Do not misunderstand me – you will see results by working out in this fat burning zone…but they will be moderate at best and it may take a while.

And long, slow workouts are boring. 

Better and faster results

Life is short. 
It is too short to spend 30-60 minutes a few times a week on a cardio machine.  If you can get the same results in a third of the time, wouldn’t you rather do that?  

Does it have to be this complicated?

No, it does not….it can be a lot easier!  I am going to show you a target heart rate chart that will make figuring out your target heart rate zones personal, not just estimations. 

Measuring your heart rate is just one way to find your different training zones.  

You can gauge your exercise intensity with two other methods: Your Ratings of Perceived Exertion and your breathing.

Ratings of Perceived Exertion.  With “zero” being nothing at all, 5 being “strong” and 10 being “very, very strong” - your personal feeling of maximum effort.  

0    Nothing at all
1    Very weak
2    Weak
3    Moderate
4     Somewhat strong
5    Strong
7    Very strong
10    Very, very strong
10+    Your very maximum

Talk it out

Your breathing increases when you work out just like your heart rate.  This can also be measured in a lab with you hooked up to machines and breathing in a mask…but talking is much easier.

You can use the Talk Test to more accurately mark your different training zones on the target heart rate chart below.  At the same time you are using the talk test, you can check your HR.

This is probably a better estimation of your training zones because it is based solely on YOU!

As your heart and lunges get healthier, your HR and training zones may slightly change – most charts will not show that.  I have a target heart rate chart below that will. 

Using the talk test, you can always monitor your zones.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”

How to do the Talk Test:
Go for a walk, jog or jump on your favorite cardio machine like a treadmill or an elliptical machine.  Slowly and steadily keep increasing your heart rate. 

When you feel like your intensity level is at a 3/4 out of 10, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, or anything else that you can say nonstop for at least 30 seconds or so.

If it was easy, you are still in the aerobic (fat burning) zone. 

Increase your heart rate a little more and recite your piece again.  Once it gets challenging and you find that you cannot finish without gasping for air, this is the crossover point.

This first crossover point is called Ventilation Threshold 1….VT1.

See what your heart rate is by using the built-in heart rate monitor that’s on most machines, or take your own pulse.  That number is YOUR custom heart rate.  It is the point at which your body is crossing over from the mostly aerobic zone to the anaerobic zone.

A good aerobic base: Phase 1

If you are just beginning a cardio exercise program, this is how you use your VT1 heart rate:

Your goal should be to work up to a point where you can work out for 20-30 minutes, 3-5 days out of a week at or just under this heart rate.  Your RPE should be 3/4.  

If you are not there yet, it will not take long!  Once you get there, you will feel better, move better, have more energy, better endurance, and your body will be better at burning fat! 

The next level: Phase 2

Phase 2 on the target heart rate chart is where you will spend most of your work out time. 

In order to continue seeing aerobic benefits beyond Phase 1 (like even more fat burning) you will soon need to crank it up a notch!

Once you can keep your heart rate at VT1 for 20-30 minutes, use interval training to venture above that HR. 

Example: If your VT1 HR is 135, sprinkle some intervals in your normal 20 minute routine where you speed it up to for 15-30 seconds every two minutes.  

These intervals are like sprints where you speed it up to a point that you can only maintain for 15-30 seconds.  Your RPE should be 7-10. You should feel a burn!  This will force your body to continue to adapt and get better at burning fat.

You can stay in Phase 2 for weeks, months or even years without reaching a plateau as long as you continue to change things up. 

Not changing things up is a mistake…an exercise routine should not become “routine”.  Not only will your results cease, you will become bored as well.

Change things up by:

  1. Using different types of cardio (different machines, running, rowing swimming, etc.);
  2. Vary the length of the work/recovery intervals;
  3. Increase the intensity by different ways (speed, incline and resistance).

The upper level: Phase 3

Only venture into this zone of the target heart rate chart if you are physically fit and you have already built a solid cardio foundation in Phase 2.  

How to find the crossover to Phase 3:
Pick your favorite form of cardio.  Wear a heart rate monitor or use a cardio machine with a build in heart rate monitor.  

The goal here is to work out at the highest pace that you can for 20 minutes; try to keep it as steady as you can, making small adjustments as needed.  

Take your pulse at 5, 10, 15 and 20 minutes.  Average them all together and multiply by .95. 

This is your anaerobic or lactate threshold, or Ventilation Threshold 2, VT2.  (You may want to test yourself again on a different day and/or on a different machine). 

When to use Phase 3

Do these simple steps to to find your OWN training zones and you have your very own target heart rate chart!

Use interval training and high intensity interval training to cross over into Phase 3…training at this level will raise your anaerobic threshold, which will benefit you in sports and many other ways AND it will force your body to become a FAT BURNING MACHINE! 

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