Heart Rate Training – Zones & Benefits

Heart Rate Training Zones
Heart Rate Training Zones

I’ve covered elsewhere on this site how to work out heart rate zones...there’s probably 50 ways of doing it with 50 different sets of zones. Your heart doesn’t work in ‘zones’ but these zones approximate the changes/responses happening in your body because of exercise/stimuli.

Well I wondered exactly what these zones do to your body. I found the answer to that on the WATTBIKE website. They use the methodology used by British Cycling…so, er, it’s probably right. Evidence: UK dominance of cycling at 2012 Olympics.

Use this spreadsheet Calculator.

They determine training zones by percentage of maximum heart rate, percentage of maximum minute power and duration. Each training zone has a different purpose as defined in the following table:

Training ZonePurpose% MHR%MMPRPE (1-10)/How you feelDuration
RecoveryRegeneration and Recovery< 60< 351 Very relaxed. Able to carry on a conversation.< 60’
1. BasicEstablish base endurance60-6535-452 Relaxed. Able to carry on a conversation.90’-360’
2.BasicImprove efficiency65-7545-553 Working. Feel warmer. Heart rate and respiration up. May sweat.60’-240’
3.IntensiveImprove sustainable power75-8255-655 Hard work. Heart rate and respiration up. Carbon dioxide build-up. Sweating. Breathing hard.45’-120’
4.IntensivePush threshold up82-8965-756 Stressed. Panting. Sweating freely.30’-60’
5.MaximalSustain a high percentage of maximal aerobic power89-9475-857 Very stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily.14’-40’
6.MaximalIncrease maximum power output> 9485-10010 heavily stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily.4’-10’ intervals
Supra-maximalIncrease sprint power outputN/A> 10010 extremely stressful. Gasping. Sweating heavily.Short intervals

Your HRmax for cycling could be 5-10 bpm lower than your running HRmax so you need to either do a proper test or accept the consequences of not so doing!

Calculate your zones <here>. I based mine on 189 (5 lower than my run HRmax) and 390w. I’ve never hit 189 on  bike but the zones that come out seem sensible.

Training ZoneHR (bmp)Power (w)
Recovery< 113< 137
Zone 1 Basic114 – 123138 – 176
Zone 2 Basic124 – 142177 – 215
Zone 3 Intensive143 – 155216 – 254
Zone 4 Intensive156 – 168255 – 293
Zone 5 Maximal169 – 178294 – 332
Zone 6 Maximal> 178333 – 390
Supra-maximalN/A> 390

The following table summarises the purpose and physiological adaptation of each of the training zones.

Training ZonePurposePhysiological AdaptationsRace fitness
Zone 0Regeneration and recoveryIncrease blood flow to muscles to flush out waste products and provide nutrientsPromotes recovery and therefore training response
Zone 1Establish base enduranceImproves fat metabolism, gets muscles/tendons/ligaments/nerves used to cycling. Increases economyMore efficient use of energy. Prepares body for harder training, works on technique/skill
Zone 2Improve efficiencyImproves the ability to use oxygen, produce power and increases efficiencyAble to produce more power with the same level of effort, works on technique/skill
Zone 3Improve sustainable powerImproves carbohydrate metabolism, changes some fast twitch muscle to slow-twitchImproved sustainable power, good for all cycling events
Zone 4Push threshold upImproves carbohydrate metabolism, develops lactate threshold, changes some fast twitch muscle to slow-twitchImproved sustainable race pace, useful during tapering or pre-competition periods: too much time in this zone can cause staleness
Zone 5Sustain a high percentage of maximal aerobic powerDevelops cardiovascular system and VO2max, improves anaerobic energy production and speeds turnover of waste productsImproved time trialling ability and resistance to short-term fatigue
Zone 6Increase maximum power output
Supra-maximalIncrease sprint power outputIncreases maximum muscle power, develops neural control of pedalling at specific cadenceDevelop race-specific skills at race pace, starting power, sprint speed, and the ability to jump away from the bunch

Use this spreadsheet Calculator.

Estimating Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and Maximum Minute

Reader-Powered Content

This content is not sponsored. It’s mostly me behind the labour of love which is this site and I appreciate everyone who follows, subscribes or Buys Me A Coffee ❤️ Alternatively please buy the reviewed product from my partners. Thank you! FTC: Affiliate Disclosure: Links pay commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

1 thought on “Heart Rate Training – Zones & Benefits

  1. Hi,
    I’ve been looking for a broader breakdown of heart rate zones and I really like the way you have outlined the 8 different zones and their purpose.
    Would you recommend choosing one pace for a training session or vary the pace over a broad range of zones?



Comments are closed.