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Polar Heart Rate Zones

The range between 50% and 100% of your maximum heart rate is divided into five heart rate zones. By keeping your heart rate within a certain heart rate zone you can easily control the intensity level of your workout. Each heart rate zone carries its own main benefits, and understanding these benefits will help you achieve the effect you want from your workout.

Just like your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, your heart rate zone limits are individual, and this is why they’re generally defined as percentages of your maximum heart rate.

Heart rate zone 1
Very light
50-60% of HR max

Training in zone 1 improves your overall health and helps you recover from more demanding training.

Benefits: Helps to warm up and cool down and assists recovery.
Feels like: Very easy, little strain.
Recommended for: For recovery and cool-down exercises throughout the training season.

Heart rate zone 2
Light
60-70% of HR max

Training in zone 2 develops your general endurance: it improves your body’s ability to utilize fat as an energy source, or in other words to burn fat.

Benefits: Improves general base fitness, improves recovery and boosts metabolism.
Feels like: Comfortable and easy, low muscle and cardiovascular load.
Recommended for: Everybody for long training sessions during base training periods and for recovery exercises during competition season.

Heart rate zone 3
Moderate
70-80% of HR max

Training on zone 3 improves your aerobic fitness. On zone 3 lactate starts to build up in your bloodstream, but your body can reuse it as energy, and it won’t yet affect your performance.

Benefits: Enhances general training pace, makes moderate intensity efforts easier and improves efficiency.
Feels like: Steady, controlled, fast breathing.
Recommended for: Athletes training for events, or looking for performance gains.

Heart rate zone 4
Hard
80-90% of HR max

Training on zone 4 improves your speed endurance, and your body gets better at using carbohydrates for energy. It also improves your body’s ability to withstand higher levels of lactate in your blood.

Benefits: Increased ability to sustain high speed endurance.
Feels like: Causes muscular fatigue and heavy breathing.
Recommended for: Experienced athletes for year-round training, and for various durations. Becomes more important during pre competition season.

Heart rate zone 5
Very hard
90-100% of HR max

Training on zone 5 improves your maximum performance. A lot of lactate is building up and you won't be able to continue for long.

Benefits: Maximal or near maximal effort for breathing and muscles.
Feels like: Very exhausting for breathing and muscles.
Recommended for: Very experienced and fit athletes. Short intervals only, usually final preparation for short events.

HRmax = Maximum heart rate (220-age). Example: 30 years old, 220–30=190 bpm.

Training in zone 1

Training in heart rate zone 1 is done at very low intensity. The main training principle is that performance improves when recovering after, and not only during, training. Accelerate the recovery process with very light intensity training.

Training in zone 2

Training in heart rate zone 2 is for endurance training, an essential part of any training program. Training sessions in this zone are easy and aerobic. Long-duration training in this light zone results in effective energy expenditure. Progress will require persistence.

Training in zone 3

Aerobic power is enhanced in heart rate zone 3. The training intensity is higher than in sport zones 1 and 2, but still mainly aerobic. Training in sport zone 3 may, for example, consist of intervals followed by recovery. Training in this zone is especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles.

Training in zones 4 and 5

If your goal is to compete at top potential, you will have to train in heart rate zones 4 and 5. In these zones, you exercise anaerobically, in intervals of up to 10 minutes. The shorter the interval, the higher the intensity. Sufficient recovery between intervals is very important. The training pattern in zones 4 and 5 is designed to produce peak performance.

The Polar target heart rate zones can be personalized by using a laboratory measured HRmax value, or by taking a field test to measure the value yourself. When training in a target heart rate zone, try to make use of the entire zone. The mid-zone is a good target, but keeping your heart rate at that exact level all the time is not necessary. Heart rate gradually adjusts to training intensity. For instance, when crossing from heart rate target zone 1 to 3, the circulatory system and heart rate will adjust in 3-5 minutes.

Heart rate responds to training intensity depending on factors such as fitness and recovery levels, as well as environmental factors. It is important to look out for subjective feelings of fatigue, and to adjust your training program accordingly.

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