Heart rate monitoring has always been an accepted tool used by trainers. Traditionally, the masses have resorted to taking a pulse at various intervals during a workout, utilizing Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE), or grasping the grips of a treadmill, cycle or elliptical trainer with built in sensors. While helpful, these options obviously have their limitations. But with the exploding market of heart rate monitors that not only provide accurate chest strap monitoring, but options of wrist strap devices, should we consider how and why trainers ought to consider incorporating heart rate based training zones into routine workouts?
When individual zones are defined by a measure of oxygen uptake, precise heart rates are determined at a person’s Respiratory Exchange Rate, Anaerobic Threshold, and VO2 Max. What are the unique payoffs for using this information?
Effectively Burn Fat. Respiratory Exchange Rate allows a person to track the heart rates that are most effectively burning fat. While increasing intensity might give the impression of working harder, gradually a person begins to burn carbohydrates for energy. Because carbs are a fuel source that must be replenished, burning them often drives you to eat more, undermining your attempt to lose weight. Keeping your client in a range that is burning the most fat possible will bring a return on their exercise investment that will dislodge even the most stubborn fat cells.
Develop Endurance and Power. As you push clients toward their anaerobic threshold (AT), their body is challenged as it maximizes its aerobic capacities. Training to increase this threshold increases ones endurance and gives athletes the peak heart rate that will maximize performance in distance racing. Interval training that pushes above AT into the max zone develops strength, speed and power.
Avoid Overtraining. Many people train day in and day out at the same heart rate, doing the same routine. Whether it is running, cycling, or walking the dog, we are creatures of habit. Effectively utilizing personalized zones allows you to push clients to their peak at some intervals and allow their bodies to recover at others while still achieving maximum results.
Zone training allows you to be specific to the goals of the individual. Even within a group workout, those with vastly different fitness levels can participate on equal footing. Systems that project personal heart rate zones on the wall defined by color can allow a trainer to bring these same benefits to a room full of clients. As they call out each zone, individuals can work out with the group while continuing to adhere to their unique heart rate zones.
Whether your goal is to help clients lose weight, get in shape, or provide sport specific training, heart rate based zone training makes sense. With those zones based on a VO2 Max test, you will assist your clients to work out smarter, not harder.