When it comes to heart rate training, we can all get a little overwhelmed with the ins and outs of the whole process. You have to know your resting heart rate, max heart rate, and something about zones. It’s already hard enough to find time to workout, let alone find time to workout AND track your heart rate. So why even bother with heart rate training? Because heart rate is arguably the most important workout metric to track. Heart rate is the best indicator of our body’s response to a workout. Plus, it can make your workout more efficient and effective, help determine recovery time, and provides the most accurate calorie burn data.

Also, heart rate training is not nearly as complicated as it seems. There are many tools out there that take the hard work out of heart rate training. It is no longer only for athletes and fitness instructors. We broke down the basics of heart rate training, so you can begin to get the most out of your workouts.

What is heart rate training?

Heart rate training consists of tracking your heart rate during exercise. It can be tracked manually or with a heart rate monitor, which can be in the form of numerous wearables, such as chest straps, armbands, watches, or even headphones. This type of training uses zones (more on those below) that determine the highest and lowest limits of your exercise intensity. By measuring your heart rate, you can optimize your workout to get the best results and in turn train your heart.

Why should you train with heart rate?

Heart rate training is essential to staying safe and getting the most out of your body. Without heart rate monitors, you can struggle to know if you are exercising at the right or wrong intensity and how much recovery time you need. At too high a heart rate, you can do serious damage to yourself. At too low a rate, you won’t see the results you are looking for. Heart rate training is a great way to avoid plateauing during your workouts.

What are my heart rate zones?

The most well-known way to predict your maximum heart rate zone comes from the equation 220 minus your age.  However, this method gives you an approximate maximum heart rate and should not be used for an exact measurement. So, how can you find your maximum heart rate without going to a lab and taking a treadmill stress test? To find your resting heart rate it includes taking your pulse when you wake up, before getting out of bed. For most children and adults, the average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM). For well-trained athletes, that number decreases to 40-60 BPM.

A Breakdown of the 5 Zones


Zone Maximum Heart Rate Effort Duration
1 50-60% Very Light 20-40 minutes
2 60-70% Light 40-80 minutes
3 70-80% Moderate 10-40 minutes
4 80-90% High 2-10 minutes
5 90-100% Maximum 0-5 minutes

Zone 1

This zone is great for losing weight. While it might be low intensity, this level is exactly what is necessary to burn fat, as it is the primary fuel source when exercising. Zone 1 is recommended for that initial transition from a sedentary lifestyle to an active lifestyle and includes exercises like fast-paced walking.  It can also be used as a recovery zone from higher intensity workouts.

Zone 2

Like the first zone, Zone 2 is great for weight loss. It is also effective for building up to higher intensity workouts as well as building your endurance levels. You can also use Zone 2 as a recovery zone from higher intensity workouts. Examples include long-distance running or strength training.

Zone 3

Workouts for this zone include tempo runs or strength training. This zone is known to improve, maintain, and strengthen aerobic fitness and training.

Zone 4

Includes exercises like HIIT (high-intensity interval training), introduce anaerobic fitness, and is the point at which lactic acid occurs. Say hello to those burning muscles. By working through the burn, you will become faster and stronger.

Zone 5

Ideal for athletic training to maximize power and speed and should only be sustained in bursts, like HIIT or sprints. Advanced athletics will often push themselves to this uncomfortable level to become better and stronger. You generally wouldn’t train at this level every day, as your body will need some much-deserved downtime after being pushed to this level.

Don’t forget the most important part of heart rate training: the heart rate monitor. Let us know how your heart rate training goes!


  1. Ben

    June 8, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Will it give me an audio signal if I got outside of zone two for example? Unless I’m looking at my phone i wouldn’t be able to tell.


    • Wahoo Fitness

      June 27, 2016 at 9:35 am

      You can set up voice notifications in the settings of the Wahoo Fitness app. You will just need to manually enter the HR zone BPM you wish to make a notification for.


  2. David Wehrle

    June 23, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Very nice article!

    I came to take a look because I’ve tested my max HR from time-to-time as well as recording HR ALL the time when cycling. (I think max HR can be different from sport-to-sport… I think I read that somewhere.) For the last several years, my max HR has pretty much stayed the same – 187. At 45, that is higher than predicted by the 220 – age equation, but I guess it’s just a genetic thing. I’ve observed 187 when trying to find max HR on my own, when using the Wahoo Fitness app’s routine to check HR zones, and when looking over cycling data.

    Today, I looked down while trying to beat a personal record on a particular hill and saw 192 on my RFLKT. It scared me a little, actually. I felt great. I recovered well from the effort and went on to ride another 25 miles with no ill effects.

    What should I make of this? Is this a new max HR for me? Have I done something in wrong in the past when testing?

    My understanding was that max HR doesn’t change.

    Do you have any ideas? Do you think I should be concerned?


    • Wahoo Fitness

      June 27, 2016 at 9:34 am

      Max HR can change a bit as you get in better shape and the heart muscle gets stronger. you just will not see dramatic changes to the max HR. Some people have a higher HR and can push a higher than average max as well.


  3. Lossame

    August 8, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Nice article. Can thhis device track my steps as well as my calorie burnt if I’m trying to shed some weighht


    • Wahoo Fitness

      September 2, 2016 at 10:27 am

      It is not a step counter but will measure cadence and efficiency of your stride


  4. Marcelo

    August 12, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Great article,
    How does the wahoo burn and burst compare with the 5 zones. Is the burn wahoo zone between 50-75% of HRM and the burst between 75-100%?
    It will be nice to have that comparison


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