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  • Clem Duranseaud


Learn how to use heart rate zones for your training and weightloss

Heart rate zones are specific intensities at which your heart beats during workouts.

Each heart rate zone can help you achieve different training goals including increased endurance, increased workout tolerance, strength or weight loss.

Having an idea of which zone you train in will help you workout more efficiently and reach your fitness goals faster.

Table of contents

Understanding heart rate zones

Heart rate intensity refers to the percentage of your maximum heart rate that you reach during your workouts.

Different intensities will have different effects on your body which is why knowing which intensities you reach during your workouts can help you make smarter training decisions. If your your goal is to lose weight, you might not want to train at the same heart rate intensity as if you were trying to increase your training capacity.

The first thing to do is to calculate your maximum heart rate

Calculate your maximum heart rate

Simply subtract your age from 220. This is a general approximation and this may change a little bit from person to person.

For example, I am 32 years old so 220 - 32 = 198.

198 is my theoretical maximum heart rate.

Now you can start calculating which heart rate intensities you reach during your workouts. Take your heart rate, divide it by your max heart rate and you have it.

Example: During a run, you see that your heart rate is at 130. You calculated that your max heart rate is 190, so you do the following formula: 130/190 = 0.68. You heart is beating at 68 percent of it's maximum intensity.

Thankfully, your wearable will do all the calculations for you.

Now let's look at the different heart rate intensities, or zones.

Heart rate zones

The table below summarizes the five training zones and then we will chat more about each of them.

Heart Rate


What does it feel like

Zone 5 - 90%-100%

Develops maximum performance and speed

Extremely tough, you cannot talk

Zone 4 - 80%-90%

Improves work capacity (speed endurance)

Very tough, you're breathing hard and can respond to questions with one word answers

Zone 3 - 70%-80%

Lactic acid starts to build up, improves cardio

Manageable, you can form sentences

Zone 2 - 60%-70%

Improves cardio

Easy, you could do this for hours

Zone 1 - 50%-60%

Warm up and cool down pace

Very easy

Zone 1: 50-60% max heart rate

This is the intensity you want to be at for warm up and cool down. Feels very easy.

Typical workout

This is usually the intensity you are at 5-10 minutes before your workout. You can really focus on your technique.

Zone 2: 60-70% max heart rate

The intensity here is comparable to going on a easy jog. You can hold this intensity for a very long time if needed, you break a light sweat. You can hold a conversation with someone.

This intensity is very good to build your cardio base and the best to burn fat.

Typical workout

Any form of cardio for over one hour.

Zone 3: 70-80% max heart rate

Things are starting to get spicier here.

You are breathing faster and are improving your body's ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles and remove carbon dioxide. This helps you build up your workout tolerance.

Good for tempo workouts, longer intervals (work intervals longer than 3 min), and the starting intensity for our HIIT workouts.

Typical workout

10 minutes warm up

4 x 8 minutes run with 4 minutes recovery


10 minutes warm up

3 x 10 minutes AMRAPS with dumbbells with 5 minutes recovery

Zone 4: 80-90% max heart rate

You are breathing hard and your muscles get tired quick.

You reach your anaerobic threshold at this intensity. This is when your body can't remove the lactic acid as fast as it produces it. You start the breathe very heavily, your body starts to use more carbohydrates for fuel.

This is our classic HIIT training zone.

Typical workout

Any high intensity interval training workout


10 x 30 on 30 off any form of cardio

Zone 5: 90-100%

Cannot be sustained for much longer that 8 seconds. You are breathless.

You are gong as hard as you can, producing as much work as possible.

This is great for sprint training and for our HIIT finishers.

Typical workouts

Sprint intervals workouts


The fat burning zone

When you exercise, you body uses a combination of fats, carbohydrates and a molecule called ATP to produce energy.

These three different energy sources are used in different proportion depending on the intensity you train at.

Having said that, the zone that will theoretically allow you to burn the most fat is zone 2.

Zone 2 is where you body will be working easily enough that it doesn't need to use carbohydrates or ATP for energy.

That intensity is also low enough that you can sustain it for a very long time.


The main drawback of this style of training is the sheer duration that it takes burn a significant amount of fat and calories.

Because you are training at a low intensity, your will be burning fats slowly and may need to do this for 1-2 hours for you to burn a large amount. Since this blog is mainly addressed to busy people who want to get fitter, I understand that not everyone has 2 hours to spare on a regular basis for this type of training.

I recommend trying to set aside one day a week to do one zone two session. Remember that one top of burning fat, this intensity is terrific to build your cardio base and is important to your overall training routine.

For the days that you are tighter on time, you can do a shorter, more intense workout that will give you other fitness benefits (who doesn't want to become stronger, more resilient), and also burn fat.

Sample fat burning schedule for beginners:





Zone 2 training 1-2 hours





Zone 2 training 1-2 hours


Rest or stretching

Which wearable is best

Wearables are the devices you either wear on your wrists or chest to measure your heart rate.

In my opinion, anything you wear on your wrist gives you a good enough reading. The chest ones may be a bit more accurate, but unless you are an elite athlete, I don't think they offer a much better option than wrist wearables.

I use the Garmin Forerunner 45. I've had it for 5 years, it's easy to use, the data it gives me is accurate and I love it.

Other options like a Fitbit or apple watch are popular as well and will do the trick.

The most important thing for your wearable is that it gives consistent data that you can compare workout after workout. From that information, you can see if you need to push yourself harder or not.

If you do the same workout twice, feel the same twice, but your wearable gives you two drastically different sets of data, then consider getting a better one.


Heart rate zones help us make informed decision with our training. Each zones offer different benefits that make us fitter.

Each zone burn three types of fuel and although zone two will burn the most fats, it's time requirement doesn't always make it ideal for most of us.

Finally, having a wearable that gives you consistent data is the best solution when it comes to incorporating technology for the purpose of determining our heart rate.

Happy training,



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