Heart Rate Exercise – Calculating your Maximum Heart Rate

In-order to increase the efficiency of your workouts it is important to know what your maximum heart rate is. This allows us to calculate what you heart rate should be at different levels of intensity.

The calculation is very simple and goes as follows:

220 – (Your Age) = Maximum Heart Rate

It is possible to exceed your maximum heart rate however it isn’t advised and could potentially put your health at risk. During a workout it is handy if you can monitor your heart rate and adjust your workout to reach your desired heart rate. There are quite often heart rate monitors built into the gym equipment, however not all do and some can be inaccurate. You could press your two inside fingers gently against the carotid artery in your neck or blood vessels in your wrist and start counting, but that would be rather difficult in the middle of a workout! This has resulted in a huge amount of heart rate monitors being developed that have a massive range of features.

heart rate running

Finding Your Resting Heart Rate

You will also need to find out what your resting heart rate is. All you need to do is go have a lie down somewhere peaceful and relax. After 20 minutes of relaxing make sure you can clearly see a clock and press your fingers against the carotid artery in your neck just enough so you can feel your heart beat. Don’t push so hard you cut the blood flow off! Once you feel the heart beat start counting the beats as a minute passes on the clock.

Heart Rate Training Zones

If you want to take your workout to the next level you can take the calculations one step further and target specific heart rate zones that have slightly different effects on the body. They go as follows:

The Recovery Zone/ Energy Efficient Zone – 60% to 70%

  • This zone helps to improve endurance

The Aerobic Zone – 70% to 80%

  • This zone helps to improve your cardiovascular performance increasing your body’s ability to take oxygenated blood to the working muscles.

The Anaerobic Zone – 80% to 90%

  • Training between 80% and 90% will result in the lactic acid being produced. The amount of fat being burnt will decrease as your body starts using the glycogen stored in your muscles.

The Red Line Zone – 90% to 100%

  • Red lining your body doesn’t sound particularly good but training in this zone is possible for short periods of time. This area tends to only be used for interval training developing your fast twitch muscle fibers and improve your speed.

How to calculate a zone

To calculate a zone heart rate you need to do the following:

  • Subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate, leaving you with your reserve heart rate.
  • Multiply the reserve heart rate by the percentage of the intensity zone you desire.
  • Add this figure to your original resting heart rate and this is your final target heart rate.

I shall use myself as an example and calculate 75%. My maximum heart rate is 191 and my resting heart rate is 60.

  • Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate = 191 – 60 = 131
  • 131 x .75 (75%) = 98
  • 98 + resting heart rate (60) = 158 bpm

If you are just getting back into exercising I would recommend starting off between 60% and 70% until you feel confident enough to push yourself harder and progress into the next zones. At first it can be quite tricky to maintain a consistent intensity and requires a great level of discipline. Therefore set aside some time to just get used to the change in workout system.

Your heart is a muscle therefore you will find as you become fitter your heart rate will change a little bit as it becomes stronger and more efficient at working as a pump. So it can be good to retake your resting heart rate every now and again.