What is my target training heart-rate?

I'm 32 M 184 lbs. My Resting HR is 76. My Maximum HR is 156.

  • How did you get your "maximum" heart rate? Also, giving weight without a height is meaningless.
    – JohnP
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


This is a common and a good question. But, it is not an easy question. This is because there are several factors that influence what the "target" heart rate (HR) should be. These factors include:

  1. Goal (e.g. lose weight, race a sprint triathlon, race a half ironman).
  2. Activity (e.g. biking or running).
  3. Time (i.e. as you gain fitness, your heart rate zones will change).
  4. Method used to determine training zones.

I will attempt to address each of these four factors concisely in reverse order:

METHOD USED TO DETERMINE HR ZONES There are many methods to determine HR zones. Some of these methods derive the zones based on a "maximum" heart rate (e.g. 220 - your age). Then, a formula is used to determine the HR zones based on a percentage of the maximum HR.

Other zone determination methods are based off of a "lactic threshold heart rate" (LTHR). Maximum HR is NOT equal to one's threshold LTHR. Simply put, one's LTHR for a given activity is the average HR during the last 20 minutes of an activity that the individual can sustain for 1 hour. Zones are then calculated based on a percentage of the LTHR. One's LTHR will be different for different activities.

Calculating zones based on threshold is much more accurate and useful than calculating zones based on "maximum" HR.

TIME As an individual gains fitness, their biological energy producing systems (heart, circulatory system, capillaries, etc.) will become more efficient. This is why athletes get faster over time and, for a given work load, their heart rate will drop over time. This fact necessitates recalculation of one's HR zones every 4 to 8 weeks are so.

ACTIVITY One's heart rate range for a given training zone will be different for different activities. As a general rule, an individual's heart rate will be approx. 10 beats per minute (BPM) lower for cycling than for running. For example, my Zone 2 running heart rate is 148 - 158 BPM, but my Zone 2 cycling heart rate is 141 - 151.

GOAL Most (not all) HR training zone calculation methods use a 5 zone system. I personally use a 5 zone system because it is simple. Training in a given zone produces a specific training effect on the individual and produces aerobic and anaerobic adaptations.

Depending on an individual's fitness goals, he or she may desire specific adaptations that are best achieved by spending most of the training time in a specific zone. Below, I have listed the five zones, along with some descriptive language indicating the types of adaptations that will occur by training in the zone and how some coached athletes use the zone.

  • Zone 1: Active Recovery. Increases blood flow throughout the body without additional stress that comes from training in higher zones. This promotes faster recovery than just resting.
  • Zone 2: Aerobic Efficiency. Trains the body to use the aerobic systems more efficiently. Also trains the body to metabolize fat instead of carbohydrates. Most fat loss occurs by training in this zone.
  • Zone 3: Endurance. A mixture of effects between Zone 2 and Zone 3. Many athletes avoid training in this zone.
  • Zone 4: Threshold. Trains the body to process the byproducts of anaerobic metabolization (lactic acid) more efficiently. If the body cannot process these byproducts as quickly as they are generated, then athletic performance quickly drops. The "burning" sensation in the muscles is the result.
  • Zone 5: Anaerobic. Promotes the efficient use of the anaerobic system. Can also increase (slightly) one's VO2-Max.

Given the preceding, we should have sufficient background information and context for a meaningful answer to your question: First, here is the zone calculation method that I recommend. These formulas are credited to Joe Friel:

Run Zones

  • Zone 1 Less than 85% of LTHR
  • Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR
  • Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR
  • Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR
  • Zone 5 100% and up of LTHR

Bike Zones

  • Zone 1 Less than 81% of LTHR
  • Zone 2 81% to 89% of LTHR
  • Zone 3 90% to 93% of LTHR
  • Zone 4 94% to 99% of LTHR
  • Zone 5 100% and up of LTHR

Now, without actually knowing your fitness goal, but only knowing your resting heart rate, and age, I would suggest that you spend the next 8 weeks exercising mainly 80% of the time in Zone 2, 15% of the time in Zone 1, and 5% of the time in Zone 4. This will give you a stronger aerobic base. You will notice that your resting HR will drop way down, probably by 10 BPM.

Trying to determine your LTHR can be hard without actually running for an hour, but here is a useful guideline: While running in Zone 2, you should be able to talk easily.

One other tip: Most people work out WAY TOO HARD. Remember that consistency is MUCH MORE important than intensity.

Good Luck!

  • Trying to determine your LTHR can be hard without actually running for an hour, but here is a useful guideline: While running in Zone 2, you should be able to talk easily. Zone 2 Able To Talk Easily Sounds Like The Simple But Right Answer Thanks. Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 3:56

Target heart rate is overrated. I prefer rate of perceived exertion. If 10 is running for your life, you want to work in the 8 to 9 range for 10-30 seconds followed by 20-40 of rest and repeat for 7 to 12 intervals. To answer your question, I would try and keep your heart rate in the 85%-90% range during the 'work' segments. That will deliver the best results in terms of heart health and body composition.


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