Cardio exercises, such as brisk walking, running, and biking, are designed to increase your heart rate, metabolic rate, and fat-burning rate. But did you know that you can enjoy the benefits of better and faster cardio training with instant feedback?
Welcome to the world of heart rate interval training, an increasingly popular training method in commercial gyms across the United States including Gold’s Gym. Just be sure to consult with your doctor before engaging in heart rate interval training since you may have an underlying medical condition that precludes radically increased heart rate.
What It Is
Heart rate interval training is similar in many respects to high-intensity interval training in that there are alternating periods of low activity and high activity. In high-intensity interval training, the period for each type of activity is pre-determined, such as work hard for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, and then repeat the cycle. But in heart rate interval training, the heart rate determines the period in which the alternating periods of low and high activity will happen.
For example, you will work hard until your heart rate reaches 85% max and then rest until it reaches 65% max. You can rotate between the low and high activity with two or more exercises, such as kettlebell swings, jump rope, sled pushes, and battling ropes, as well as choose to do more or fewer movements.
The best part about heart rate interval training: Periodization is already built into the program. As your physical fitness improves, you will be able to perform more rounds, adopt more exercises, and recover faster. Your body basically dictates who many rounds you can complete and how much rest you can take – a form of automatic adjustment that your body makes.
Be sure to invest in a heart rate monitor, which can be set to “beep” at your desired high and low limits, for the training. A heart rate monitor measures the rate of your heartbeat through sensors built into a strap worn around your chest with feedback displayed on a screen.
Yet another advantage of heart rate interval training: You can adapt virtually all types of exercises for it. Just keep in mind, nonetheless, that a few exercises like brisk walking and running will not result in a significant jump in heart rate within a short period. You just have to adapt by performing longer intervals between low and high activities.
Shuttle runs, step-ups, and bikes as well as rowers are great options especially for beginners. Kettlebell swings are usually reserved for the advanced levels.
Furthermore, heart rate provides a more objective measurement of the cardio-respiratory system’s performance. The more intense your workout, the higher your heart rate will be and the more health benefits you can get from it. You can also gauge the work intensity and then make adjustments, either increase or decrease the intensity of the workload.
How to Do It
Your first step is to acquire information about the heart rate zones, which represents the percentage of maximum heart rate. Each zone offers slightly different benefits.
There are five heart rate zones used by trainers today, namely:
- Zone 1: 50-60%. This is the most comfortable effort usually applicable to the warm-up, cool down and recovery periods between the higher intensity activities.
- Zone 2: 60-70%. This requires average effort such that maintaining a conversation is possible. Use Zone 2 for either cardiac output or training aerobic maintenance.
- Zone 3: 70-80%. This is above-average effort, which trainers use for improvements in aerobic capacity.
- Zone 4: 80-90%. This is considered as hard effort although it is still sustainable for physical fit individuals, thus, its suitability for the maintenance of anaerobic capacity.
- Zone 5: 90-100%. This is as hard as the body can go, which means it is an excellent platform for the development of anaerobic capacity.
Your next step is to determine your maximum heart rate, which is the highest heart rate you can achieve through exercise stress without overstraining your body. You can have it measured via a treadmill test administered by an exercise physiologist or you can use the equation recommended by the American College of Exercisers.
208 – (.7 x your age)
For example, if you are 46 years old, your maximum heart rate will be 176 beats per minute (BPM). If you want to improve your aerobic capacity, you should keep your heart rate during the training between 123 and 141 BPM (176 BPM times 70% and 80%).
The following aerobic development training session can be used by a middle-aged active individual on a treadmill. You can revise the workout depending on your own goals although suggestions from a personal trainer experienced in the program are also recommended.
- Warm-up for 5 minutes.
- Work-recovery interval #1: 2 minutes at 146-159 BPM and recovery to 115 BPM
- Work-recovery interval #2: 2 minutes at 146-159 BPM and recovery to 115 BPM
- Work-recovery interval #3: 2 minutes at 146-159 BPM and recovery to 115 BPM
- Work-recovery interval #4: 2 minutes at 146-159 BPM and recovery to 115 BPM
- Work-recovery interval #5: 2 minutes at 146-159 BPM and recovery to 115 BPM
- Cool down for 5 minutes
Get on the treadmill and start your heart rate interval training now!
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