Everyone knows that heart rate training is important because there is a heart rate monitor built into all the cardiovascular equipment at every gym. Lance Armstrong does it, marathon runners do it. However there are very few who know how to use heart rate zone training to achieve weight loss or to overcome the limits of human biology and become like Mark Allen, a six time Ironman World Champion.
“During my 15 years of racing in the sport of triathlons I searched for those few golden tools that would allow me to maximize my training time and come up with the race results I envisioned. At the top of that list was heart rate training. It was and still is the single most potent tool an endurance athlete can use to set the intensity levels of workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance.”
-Mark Allen, 6x Ironman World Champion
The Body’s 3 Energy Zones: Aerobic, Endurance, Anaerobic
There are essentially three energy zones in the body. Two of these three zones; the Aerobic and Endurance Zone use mainly fat as fuel. The third uses carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, protein and ATP as fuel. Below is an outline of how Heart Rate Zone training works and how to apply it in your life.
I. Aerobic Heart Rate Zone: Training your aerobic zone is what separates the lean and super fit from those who throw in a random spin class followed by a seat in front of the refrigerator consuming back all the calories they just burned off. They never seem to shed any fat or make any fitness improvements.
The Aerobic “With Oxygen” Heart Rate Zone is the most important training zone. It is the foundation of both overall health and powerful cardiovascular fitness. Failing to train this zone first is akin to building a house from the roof down and never pouring the foundation.
What Happens in the Aerobic Zone:
Training in the Aerobic Zone, your body works at a pace that mobilizes huge amounts of fat into the blood stream to be burned as fuel. Yes, this is the Fat Burn Zone. What’s counterintuitive about the Aerobic Zone is that you enter it at a VERY LOW heart rate (about 75% of MHR). A good way to know if you are in the Aerobic Zone is to talk while exercising. If you have to stop the chatter to catch your breath, you have exceeded the Fat Burn or Aerobic Zone and should slow down. This is the reason why you hear experts say that walking burns more fat than running.
In many “Aerobic” classes the instructor is screaming at the class to work harder so that your heart rate becomes Anaerobic or “Without Oxygen”. Thus, fat is no longer the main fuel source and the risk of injury increases without the reward of burning fat or gaining cardiovascular benefits. You would not go into a gym to squat 500 lbs. on day 1 so why would anyone want to do this to their heart. Aerobic Zone Training allows your body to align all the various bodily systems; muscle, skeletal, circulatory and connective tissue to building capacity in unison and at an optimal pace set by your own heart. Training in this manner dramatically reduced the risk of injury.
“When I first started my Iron90 Heart Rate Training System my heart rate would spike without much effort. After 3 weeks of Aerobic Zone Training I was riding faster and my heart rate was not going up. Within 180 days, I was riding as fast as my legs would go and I was not even winded.”
Nichole Obman, Iron90 Client
-60 Lbs. in 6 Month
Aerobic Zone Training Summary:
When: At the start of any training plan for at least 90 days OR everyday if you want to strengthen the most important muscle in your body; The Heart
How Much: As much as 50% of overall training should be in the Aerobic Zone
How Long: These are long slow efforts working up to 60+ minutes 4 to 5 times a week
Effort Level: EASY; Theses efforts are done at a heart rate of 60 to 75% of maximum heart rate (MHR)
Objective: Aerobic Zone training is done to promote two main adaptations;
1. To improve the body’s ability to burn fat as a source of energy, and
2. To improve the body’s ability to remove waste products (lactic acid) and bring oxygen and fuel to cells.
Results: Faster and stronger at a lower heart rate.
Greatest Challenge: Going Slow
Best Part: Beating people 25 years younger than you up the hill!
How to apply it to your life: Walk 30 minutes at lunch while talking with a friend
II. Endurance Heart Rate Training Zone
Think of Endurance Zone Training as the new level built on top of the Aerobic Zone. The purpose of this training zone is to expand your body’s ability to use fat as fuel before it switches over to glycogen (carbohydrates are converted to sugar).
What Happens in the Endurance Zone:
The fuel blend in the Endurance Zone is now a mix of both fat and glycogen (vs. mainly fat it the Aerobic Zone). The Endurance Zone is the edge of where the body can still put out maximum efforts without excessive build up of Lactic Acid. Too much Lactic Acid in the muscle creates the “burning” sensation that will only subside by decreasing effort. This zone is often also referred to as Anaerobic Threshold.
Endurance Zone Training Summary:
Who: Those who have built an Aerobic base
When: As part of a daily training plan.
How Much: As much as 25% of overall training should be in the Endurance Zone
How Long: Moderately challenging efforts working up to 60+ minutes 2 to 4 times a week
Effort Level: MODERATE/DIFFICULT; Theses efforts are done at a heart rate of 75 to 85% of maximum heart rate (MHR)
Objective: Endurance Zone training is done to promote two main adaptations;
1. Improve the body’s ability to use oxygen (i.e. to increase VO2 maximum).
2. Increase the number and size of blood capillaries.
Results: Faster and stronger at lower heart rate.
Greatest Challenge: Keeping your Heart Rate at 80% of MHR for 60 minutes
Best Part: Evidence that all your Aerobic Zone Training paid off.
How to apply it to your life: Walk 1 minute, jog 1 minute, repeat
III. Anaerobic Heart Rate Zone Training :
This is the last level of your cardiovascular powerhouse. This arduous training resides at the top of the heart rate rage from 86% to 95% of MHR (i.e Painful!) Anaerobic Zone training consists of both short and long intense intervals where the body is challenged to carry and deliver oxygen to muscle cells for intense periods as lactic acid builds up.
What Happens in the Anaerobic Zone:
Intervals will build up your heart rate to near its maximum thus the pain. This type of training is designed to improve the body’s ability to work at levels of intensity where oxygen cannot be delivered to muscle cells fast enough. The cells will use fuel stored within them called ATP. This causes lactic acid to build up and begins to fatigue muscle. Research suggests that in order to push mitochondrial densities and size to their maximum it’s important to include 15 to 20 hard second intervals into a regular training program. This will gradually increase oxygen utilization so that you can go even faster at a lower heart rate.
Anaerobic Zone Training Summary:
Who: Those who have built a solid aerobic and endurance base
When: Twice a week as part of an ongoing program;
One day of 4-6 very hard intervals of 15 seconds each with 1-3 minutes of recovery in between.
One day of 2-4 longer intervals of 2-10 minutes each with 1-3 minutes of recovery in between.
How Much: At much as 25% of overall training should be in the Anaerobic Zone
How Long: These are very hard efforts of 15 seconds to 10 minutes
Effort Level: VERY DIFFICULT; Theses efforts are done at a heart rate of 85% to 95% of maximum heart rate (MHR)
Objective: Anaerobic Zone training is done to increase the body’s ability to utilize oxygen more efficiently
Results: Very fast and fit
Greatest Challenge: Intervals are painful
Best Part: The second the interval ends
How to apply it to your life: Walk, jog, hike or cycle up stairs, hills or another incline.
We strongly recommend that anyone engaged in a fitness program use a heart rate monitor with a calorie burn function similar to the one included in every Iron90 Program. Heart Rate Zone Training has been proven effective by over 30 years of research and results. It is a fundamental tenant of the Iron90 System, our clients use it to defy the limit of their own biology to increase their overall fitness and shed unwanted pounds. Please contact us for more information on our programs or our proven method of heart rate zone training for weight loss. It’s important to consult your physician before starting any fitness training program.
About the Author; Robert is a recognized Heart Rate Training Expert specializing in weight loss and cardiovascular strength improvement. He is the founder of Ironbody Lifestyle Fitness™, LLC and the Heart Rate Training Institute. He is a regular health and wellness media contributor and has been featured on AZ-3TV, FOX News, NPR and Forbes.com. Robert applied his heart rate training expertise to solve what many dieters describe as the “Weight Loss Guessing Game” by creating the revolutionary personal “fitness math” at the heart of the Iron90 Workplace Wellness System. He designed this formula to offer individuals a guaranteed, scientific approach for establishing permanent weight loss and lifelong fitness. The Iron90 heart rate training method has delivered lasting results to 1,000′s of clients worldwide. Robert has tested and proven his heart rate zone training principals in 100′s of endurance events from multiple Ironman Triathlon finishes to hiking over 480 miles in the Grand Canyon. Robert is an active volunteer for Wounded Wear, Camp Patriot and Sentinels of Freedom, three non-profit organizations that empower wounded service members and their families. Robert is the lead trainer for the Camp Patriot’s Summit Challenge Team of wounded service members. Each year the team takes on one of North America’s most challenging climbs to the summit of 14,411 foot Mt. Rainier. Robert resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and two children.