based heart rate formulas; Do they work?
here to listen to a 60 second summary of this article
by Cris LaBossiere
rate is one of the most important variables to pay attention
to during exercise, but do heart rate charts really account
for all the differences between people and peoples fitness
goals? No. It's one of the biggest urban exercise myths ever.
Many aerobics instructors, spin class instructors, and personal
trainers point to these charts. But none of the top fitness
pro's do. Find out why.
is an example of the typical heart rate charts found on exercise
equipment, in magazines, even doctors offices. The numbers
are based on population averages, but can't be accurately
applied to any one individual because of differences in fitness,
genetics, and health. For instance, there is no research showing
that a persons heart will be more "healthy" when
exercised at 50% of maximum heart rate as opposed to any other
zones 50% to 75% will all be largely aerobic for the average
exerciser, so why does only one zone get the "aerobic"
label? An untrained person may become anaerobic at as little
as 60% of max HR, where a fit person may need to push above
90% of their max to become predominantly anaerobic. Also,
to burn fat you must be aerobic. If there are separate aerobic
and fat burning zones a person who doesn't know any better
might believe that being aerobic is exclusive of fat burning.
These charts don't educate people, they misinform people.
"fat burning zone" is misleading. When I ask people
why they exercise in the charts fat burning zone, they look
at me as though I've just asked the most stupid and redundant
question possible, "to lose fat of course!". Uh
hu. Good luck with that. Fat loss occurs when you burn off
more calories than you eat. It has nothing to do with a "fat
burning zone". That idea went out the window long ago.
may be true that in terms of using fat as a fuel there is
a "zone" where the body uses more fat compared to
lower and higher intensities, (which by the way is specific
to each individuals level of conditioning, and is not accurately
captured by these charts), but using fat as a fuel does not
translate into losing fat. If you burn off 500 calories
exercising in your fat burning zone, then overeat by 500 calories
on the same day, you gain fat, not lose fat. Calories in -
calories out, that's what matters for fat loss.
Heart rate does provide a real time update to how your body
is responding to exercise. Heart rate can help determine when
you are fatigued, recovered, increasing fitness, losing fitness,
exercising too hard, or too easy. A heart rate monitor is
a critical piece of exercise equipment, just as critical as
a pair of runners is for jogging. Once you know your target
heart rate, heart rate alone isn't enough, you must compare
heart rate to speed or power, and where available, blood
lactate to monitor progress.
example; if you exercise at your regular target heart rate,
but are slower than usual, how are you going to interpret
that comparison? What if you're faster at the same heart rate?
How do you use your heart rate information to tell you how
you are responding to exercise? Your heart rate has something
to say to you, but if you use heart rate formulas you'll never
fully understand how to benefit maximally from monitoring
heart rate during exercise.
a heart rate monitor? Get trained by Rhino Fitness to learn
how to get the most out of your exercise! Click
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at the same heart rate does not mean you are stimulating your
body the same way. Did 30 minutes at 75% of your max hr yesterday?
Exercising at the same heart rate today won't be the same
stimulus if you're fatigued. The fixed formulas don't account
for day to day fluctuations in fatigue or recovery.
common heart rate formulas
- age x 65% to 85%
- age x 65% to 85%
is also reference also to a 55% to 80 and 85% range as the
multipliers for both 220 and 210 - age, as well as 206 - age.
In 2001 Hirofumi Tanaka et al suggested a new formula: 208
- 0.7 X age to estimate maximum heart rate. However Tanaka
cautioned that this formula has a 10 beat margin of error.
All the formulas have a 10 beat or greater margin of error.
is another formula called the "Karvonen" formula,
also referred to as "Heart Rate Reserve". This one
is thought to be more precise because it considers a persons
resting heart rate.
formula (Heart Rate Reserve):
heart rate - resting heart rate = A (maximum heart rate estimate
of 220 - age is used)
x 65% and 85% = B and C respectively (B = low range, C = high
and C + resting heart rate = heart rate range from low to
- 30 (age) = 190
- 60 (resting heart rate) = 130
x 65% = 84.5 + 60 (resting heart rate) = 144.5
x 85% = 110.5 + 60 (resting heart rate) = 170.5
formula is intended for athletes. Using the Karvonen formula
a 30 year old person with a resting heart rate of 60 beats
per minute would have an exercise heart rate range of 144
to 170 beats per minute. That is a large range with tremendous
variability in intensity.
formulas are really supposed to use a persons true maximum
heart rate multiplied by 55% to 85%. However the physical
exertion required to establish a persons maximum heart rate
is, well, maximum. For well trained individuals and healthy
athletes, the maximum heart rate test is very hard, but within
the means of the athlete. For the non-athletic population
the test for maximum heart rate is so strenuous that it is
dangerous for the untrained or sedentary population, and certainly
should never be done on a person with hypertension (high blood
pressure) or any type of heart or lung disease. A doctors
note is required to take such test.
these formulas were created at a time when technology did
not allow for portable lactate analyzers, like the Lactate
Pro that Rhino Fitness and virtually
all top end training facilities around the world use.
There are over 15,000 Lactate Pro analyzers in use worldwide.
In the end it turned out that maximum heart rate wasn't really
a good variable to use in determining individual exercise
intensity because there was so much variability between persons
with genetics, gender, fitness, and fatigue factors. People
exercising with these heart rate "formulas" have
invested in a red herring.
chart compares the results of these heart rate formulas to
reality, and to Rhino Fitness founder Cris LaBossieres' actual
training and racing heart rate values:
Target Heart Rate Zones BPM (beats per minute) For 30
Year Old Person (65% & 85% of Max Heart Rate)
(Heart Rate Reserve)
to 170 BPM
to 161 BPM
to 153 BPM
et al 2001 208 - .7XAge
to 154.19 BPM
from 115 to 190 BPM
each formula produces different "target heart rate zones"
for the age 30 comparison used above. This same inaccurate
variability applies no matter what your age is. It can be
seen in Cris's real life comparison that the formulas are
I were to actually use heart rate formulas to determine my
training values, my training would be destroyed. The same
goes for anyone who exercises. There is no possible reason
for any person to subject themselves to these irrelevant formulas."
- Cris LaBossiere
essence, those who actively promote heart rate formulas most
likely DO NOT have experience in the critical analysis of
heart rate during exercise, otherwise they would know about
these obvious facts. A 5 BPM difference in heart rate can
mean the difference between a sustainable pace and burning
out. The formulas use estimates based on averages, based on
estimates, and any fitness Professional should know this.
try to make the heart rate chart look more attractive for
athletes with high performance goals, a chart such as below
is quite popular.
popular but erroneous graph assumes a 30 year old person and
the 220 - age X 65 to 85% formula broken into five "training
- 133 BPM
Easy Aerobic Base
- 143 BPM
- 153 BPM
- 171 BPM
- 190 BPM
graph looks official and scientific, but is anything but scientific.
Not one relevant measurement would be taken of an individual
to produce the above graph, which is quite popular. Why
"ten" beat zones? Sounds like a nice round number
most likely. In fact blood lactate concentrations increase
exponentially after a certain point, so if anything these
"zones" should reflect this reality by being smaller
at the upper limits, but they don't. Even though these "zones"
seem to have further clarification, the zones themselves are
still merely estimates. The formulas assume a certain
blood lactate concentration or oxygen utilization to coincide
with each heart rate "zone" but again this correlation
changes with training and is different between individuals.
These differences are not accounted for with this heart rate
We use heart rate "zones" to train, but we define
the zones through continual clinically accurate testing, and
should not use speculative one size fits all formulas.
are the results of a regularly active 45 year old male (Rhino
Fitness client). It can be seen that he can burn more calories
for lower lactate levels as he becomes more fit. The 220-age
formula for this male gives him a lower limit of 114 and an
upper limit 149 BPM. It can be clearly seen that in fact lactate
values do not have a fixed relationship with heart rate. Further,
the formula estimated "top end" heart rate is in
fact a very easy pace now that he is fit.
heart rate formulas do not account for the known response
to exercise; an increase in fitness.
Year Old Male, Exercises Daily; Rhino Fitness Client:
are the results of Bonita
Cobb, 57 year old female with arthritis. The changes in
lactate represent both fatigue and increased fitness. Heart
rate formulas assume lactate is the same when fatigued and
when more fit; clearly it is not.
Year Old Female, Shift From Sedentary To Active; Rhino Fitness
in fact heart rate zones calculated with an age based formula
are completely useless as they don't measure what is actually
happening with an individual. Let's be clear here, it is critically
important to both monitor heart rate and know what your target
zone is, however, heart rate formulas are a useless method
of determining your target heart rate. The best ways to discover
individual target heart rate is to test Blood Lactate. There
are other tests such as Vo2 Max and graded exercise tests
that record heart rate and speed, but sampling blood lactate
is the most precise.
the power punch
from the heart rate formulas is a correlation with speed or
power output. The runners, cyclists, and triathletes I train
not only have target heart rate and lactate zones, but also
speed and power zones. It takes knowledge and experience to
properly interpret speed/ power, heart rate, and lactate values.
If you're being trained by heart rate charts, not only is
your training imprecise because of the lack of validity of
the chart, but your speed/ power, and lactate are not being
graph from PowerTap hub and PowerAgent software:
chart of a cycling training session shows power in watts,
heart rate, cadence, speed, and torque. The data is from a
special power measuring system made by PowerTap, built into
the rear hub of a racing bike. The information from a bike
ride can be downloaded to computer. Over time the coach looks
for changes in the relationship of power, heart rate, and
lactate. For many coaches analyzing this type of data has
been a normal daily activity for over a decade. For the average
personal trainer.. They may not even know this technology
exists. Who do you think will understand adaptation to exercise
better; someone who analyzes charts like this every day, or
someone who doesn't even know the technology exists? If you
don't have this technology, don't worry about it. What you're
looking for is a trainer/ coach who understands the technology
and can apply the concepts to you. The coach who knows this
stuff also knows how to apply complex concepts in a simple
way without technology. The ones who don't know this stuff
are limited in what they can apply to you.
vast majority of "trainers" do not actually test
blood lactate, power, heart rate, or use any other test method;they
rely on oversimplified formulas. Formulas are easy money.
You don't have to test anyone and you can make yourself sound
really smart with "special" formulas. Any increase
in fitness people experience with these formulas is the natural
result of continuous exercise, but all persons using these
formulas fall well short of achieving maximum results. Rhino
Fitness supports fitness industry peers who use legitimate
methods of testing individuals to determine target heart rate.
It is the position of Rhino Fitness that those who sell
exercise programs using only heart rate formulas are either
inexperienced, only provide low quality service, or are shysters.
scrutinized it becomes clear these formulas are not reliable,
and most importantly they don't account for fatigue, recovery,
change in fitness, or gender.
Rhino Fitness we like to say, "if you're not measuring,
you must be guessing". Use a trainer that can test you
with lactate sampling, heart rate profiling, or VO2 max testing.
If you don't have access to lactate testing or heart rate
monitors, don't let that stop you from exercising. Although
far more subjective, perceived exertion is the next best thing
to clinical measurements:
following is a basic example of how "perceived exertion"
For more information on perceived exertion do an Internet
search on "the Borg scale"
increase in breathing rate. Able to speak continuously
with no problem
not feel strenuous. Can continue for at least 30 - 60
minutes with no fatigue, endurance athletes can sustain
for many hours. Not much sweating
breathing rate, but not huffing and puffing. Speaking
can be done in somewhat broken sentences
not feel overly challenging, but does feel like constant
work. Able to continue for 30 - 90 minutes. Endurance
athletes can sustain for many hours. A light consistent
sweat is normal
Light jog or brisk bicycle ride
breathing, huffing and puffing. Speaking can only be done
at one or two words at a time.
very challenging. Focus required to continue. Does not
feel sustainable to most people. Endurance athletes
tire within one hour but can push for up two hours but
not without losing speed, pro endurance athletes slightly
longer. Profuse sweating is normal
Fast run, fast bicycle ride
for air. Speaking not possible
like you're at your absolute limit. Not sustainable
for more than 5 to 60 seconds.
exertion alone relies on how you interpret how difficult exercise
feels in combination with how fast you are breathing. It is
a "no technology" method of monitoring exercise
those new to exercise and those doing base or recovery exercise
would do "light exercise" as defined above and would
completely avoid hard exercise. As a person becomes more fit
they will be able to tolerate and benefit from gradually introducing
increased intensity as gauged by perceived exertion. One of
the problems with perceived exertion is that your speed or
power will drop without you knowing. Even if you're confident
you are good at feeling what intensity you are at, over the
course of an hour of exercise you will be going slower at
the end even if you think you are going at the same pace.
Accuracy from one day to the next is also unreliable. You
may feel like you are exercising at the same intensity, but
fatigue is making you slower. Without being able to accurately
gauge fatigue and recovery, fewer workouts will be quality
you use a heart rate monitor and perceived exertion you will
be able to quantify how you feel at a given heart rate. How
fatigued or recovered you feel at a given heart rate can allow
you to compare your exercise sessions.
clinically tested to discover your personal heart rates for
exercise is much more precise than perceived exertion, but
perceived exertion with heart rate monitoring is more effective
at determining appropriate exercise intensity than using age
based heart rate formulas.
you want the best results possible from training, drop the
tired and irrelevant magazine style formula based training.
Rhino Fitness will take you to the next level with real scientific
training based on your personal clinically accurate measurements.
WANT PROOF? SEE OUR RESULTS
Fitness coaching services
here to listen to a verbal summary of this article by
H, Monahan KD, Seals DR: Age-predicted maximal heart rate
revisited. J Am Coll Cardiol 2001;37(1)153-156
comments on this article to email@example.com
is a partial list of the users of the Lactate Pro. Clearly
Lactate testing is used by top training facilities.
courtesy of FACT
Canada, North American distributor of the Arkray Lactate
Pro LT-1710 portable blood lactate analyzer.
National Cross Country Ski Teams
Canadian Olympic Kayak Team
USA Skiing - Downhill and Cross-Country
US Biathlon Teams
US National Canoe and Kayak Team
US Olympic Training Center, California
US Olympic Training Center, Lake Placid, New York
Adidas National Running Team (Canada)
UC Davis Medical Center - Sports Medicine
Sports Medicine Institute, Intl - California
Mt. Sinai Hospital, School of Medicine, New York
Canadian Space Agency
Canadian Forces Base, Kingston
Canadian Forces Valcartier, Biathlon
United States Air Force
US Naval Academy Aquatic Club
Pacific Sport National Sport Centre - Vancouver
Pacific Sport National Cycling Centre - Victoria
Pacific Sport National Triathlon Training Centre - home of
Canada's elite triathletes such as Olympic Gold Medalist Simon
Wall Aquatic Center at Northern Arizona University
Total Performance Institute, Colorado
Ironman Institute (www.IronmanInstitute.com)
Whittom & Boucher - Sports Performance Technologies, Quebec
Pointe-Claire Club de Canoe, Quebec
Green Mountain Valley Ski Academy, Vermont
Stratton Mountain School, Vermont
Michigan State University
University of Scranton, Pennsylvania
Hope College, Michigan
University of Miami
University of Southern Mississippi
Pepperdine University, California
Marquette University, Wisconsin
University of Vermont
Meredith College, North Carolina
Truman State University, Missouri
St. Lawrence University, New York
University of Indianapolis
University of Texas
Arizona State University
University of Quebec
University of Montreal
University of Prince Edward Island
University of New Brunswick, Aquaculture Research
Concordia University, Montreal
University of British Columbia
University of Calgary, Alberta
University of Manitoba
University of Waterloo, Ontario
Laurentian University, Ontario
Geoff Kabush, Ryder Hesjedal
- Pro Mountain Bikers (Geoff was 9th and the top North American
at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Ryder was Silver Medalist
at the 2003 World Championship)
Lidia Simon - Silver medal in the Women's Marathon at the
2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Rhino Fitness Winnipeg, Manitoba
comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org
2003-2007 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness