Are You Keeping a Pulse on Your Workout? Why Your Target Heart Rate is a Big Deal
As you work out, it is so important to make sure you are hitting that ideal area of medium to high intensity so you can burn a good deal of body fat. This may seem like a foreign language if you don’t know how to properly measure your target heart rate.
Well that term “medium to high intensity” seems so abstract doesn’t it? So how do you find it for yourself?
Initially it is hard to know where that sweet spot is and you may push yourself too hard to the point it causes injury or you are getting limited results for the time you are investing.
One of the best ways to figure this craziness out is by doing a heart rate test, which is counting how often your heart is doing that pitter-patter thing.
You are going to spend a ton of time figuring and acting out your exercise plan. By measuring your heart rate you will get a better feel of how much you should push yourself or pull back on the reigns. You will also be extremely effective with your time to get the results you need.
So let’s figure out what is that right zone for you so you can walk away from any exercise knowing you got the most out of it.
Karvonnen Target Heart Rate Formula
The Karvonnen Formula can be one of the best ways to calculate target heart rate. In order to find this ideal “fat-burning zone” or “target heart rate zone” where you can sustain fat loss and continue for long endurance exercises, your target heart rate should be 70-85% of your age predicted maximum heart rate.
That might sound mind-blowing at first, but let’s use a well-tested formula known as the Karvonnen Formula to figure out your target heart rate.
Figure out your resting heart rate, similar to the basal metabolic rate, in the morning by counting your beats per minute on your wrist or neck. Ideally do this right when you wake up in order to get a very accurate number for your resting heart rate. You could also do it after taking a decent nap for an hour or so.
You can either count the number of beats on your neck or wrist with the pointer and index fingers for the full 60 seconds or you can count to 30 seconds and multiply by 2. You can also count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply it by 6. You get the point. It’s like a Schoolhouse Rock video.
Here is some important data when considering where your resting heart rate is at:
- 72 Beats Per Minute (BPM) is an average resting heart rate
- 80-90 BPM is high and a sign that you have been spending too much time at McDonalds.
- 60-70 BPM is a solid range that shows that you are taking care of your health. Ask a friend to pat you on the back.
- 40-50 BPM is a range where you will find long distance runners or many professional athletes. It is almost like sleep running.
Here is how to calculate target heart rate. First figure out your estimated maximum heart rate based on your age.
- 220-age = Estimated Max Heart Rate
A 27 year old male
220-27=193 Estimated Max Heart Rate (EMHR)
Next you find your heart rate reserve, which is the difference between your resting heart rate and your max heart rate. Again do the resting heart rate when you wake up or after a nap.
- Estimated Max Heart Rate (EMHR) – Resting Heart Rate (RHR) = Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)
Next you need to determine your estimated fitness level or how aggressive you will be with your exercise. In order to hit the ideal sweet spot, you should be at 60-80% of your Heart Rate Reserve.
- 60-65% moderate fitness level (I’m breathing)
- 65-70% moderately hard fitness level (I’m breathing hard)
- 70-75% hard fitness level (I’m breathing harder)
- 75%-80% very hard fitness level (I’m breathing pretty hard, but not dying)
Knowing I want to be within the range of 60-80% I am going to create a general spectrum of where my Heart Rate Target for fitness should be within that range and 80% is the number you will use to calculate maximum heart rate. You may narrow this down to a 5-10% range to be more focused on your exercise.
- Heart Rate Reserve x .6 = Heart Rate Reserve Target for fitness
- Heart Rate Reserve x .8 = Heart Rate Reserve Target for fitness
131 X .6 = 78.6
131 X .8 = 104.8
79-105 is HRR Target for fitness
Add your heart rate reserve target range to your resting heart rate to get a target heart rate range of beats per minute.
- HRR Low Target + RHR = THR (Low End)
- HRR High Target + RHR = THR (High End)
79+62=141 at 60% Target heart rate
105+62=167 at 80% Target heart rate
141-167 target heart rate beats per minute
So in this example for a 27 year old with a resting heart rate of 62 beats per minute, it is ideal to work out in a target heart rate range between 141 to 167 beats per minute. So there is your target heart rate calculator.
Most Important Measurement
This formula will never be as accurate as simply how you feel. You may want to adjust your target heart rate higher or lower depending on how impactful you feel the exercise is personally or the results you see in measuring body fat percentage.
There is nothing wrong with going slower than what you think that target heart rate range is. If you feel uncomfortable, then chances are that you are exceeding that sweet spot. You also may want to consult a physician in order to find effective and safe results.
After a couple weeks you will know where your target heart rate zone is and how aggressive you can be. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t speak in complete sentences while working out, then chances are you are too high out of your target zone.
Some options include, “Oh I love working out!” or “Are you not entertained!?!?” or “Boom! There goes the dynamite!” At the same time you want to breathe heavily to know your body is taking in oxygen and blood is flowing.
Finding a Wristwatch to Measure Your Heart Beat
The easiest way to make sure you are in that target zone is to have a wristwatch that can measure your heart beat. If you want to geek out, then you can order a body chest strap that can connect to fitness equipment you may be using. The wristwatch is cheap and easy, while the chest strap is more accurate and comprehensive. Depending on the type of body strap, it can also connect to different equipment you are using like treadmills, stair steppers, and elliptical machines.
Beachbody provides a Bowflex Strapless Heart Rate Monitor Watch and a Bowflex Heart Rate Monitor Watch with the Strap. If you are looking to go all out, then Polar USA provides an exceptional heart rate monitor called the Polar USA G3 Multi Sport Heart Rate Monitor Watch. It comes with Polar ProTrainer 5 software that can be used for analyzing, planning and keeping a training diary.