Working Out in Your Optimal Heart Rate Range

Posted on: January 12th, 2012 by paul

Whether you are working out at home, at your gym or on vacation, a good tool to monitor your level of exercise intensity is to calculate your optimal heart rate range. By knowing your target heart rate range, you can determine your exercise intensity to achieve your exercise goals.

The first step is to calculate your maximum heart rate. This can be done most easily (although not always accurately) through the age-predicted maximum heart rate equation. The reason it is not always accurate is because if we are testing an elite athlete, they will always exceed these numbers. Therefore, for extreme groups, a lab test must be used in order to calculate more accurate results. However, for an average individual, the following equation will work just fine:

APMHR = 220-age

Now that you have calculated your maximum heart rate for your age, you must measure your resting heart rate. So, as soon as you wake up in the morning, count your heart rate for 60 seconds. This number is your resting heart rate (RHR).

Next, to find your heart rate reserve (HRR), you can subtract your RHR from your APMHR.

Next, you want to find out at what percentage of your maximum heart rate you want to work at. This depends on what stage of training you are in. For example:

Recovery zone: 60-70% of max. heart rate.
Aerobic zone: 70-80%
Anaerobic zone: 80-90%
Red line zone (only possible for short periods): 90-100%
From here, to calculate your target heart rate, you want to calculate your lower and upper limits. First, start with the lower limit and multiply your HRR by your lower percentage, then add back in your RHR.

THR (lower limit) = (HRR * %) + RHR

To calculate the upper limit, use the higher percentage.


For example, a 40 year old individual is working in their aerobic zone. He measured his RHR to be 63.

APMHR = 220-40
= 180

HRR = 180 – 63
=  117

THR (lower limit) = (117 * 0.7) + 63

= 145 beats per minute

THR (upper limit) = (117 * 0.8) + 63

= 157 beats per minute


So, this man’s Target Heart Rate Range for his aerobic workout is: 145 – 157 beats per minute.


Gillian Johnson, BA CSCS


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