Get Fit: Find Your Perfect Cardio Zone
What’s the best cardio style to achieve your goals?
Speed walking, intense intervals, “fat-burning” or “heart-healthy?”
When it comes to cardio, you have lots of choices. And while some of us get a rush of positive adrenaline when we hear “cardio,” others get a dreadful loathing. To maintain our health, cardio is an essential “evil.” And no matter what, we all want to make sure we invest our cardio time wisely.
Do you have an athletic goal in mind? Perhaps you’re looking to lose weight or simply achieve a new “look.” Manipulating the different heart rate training zone is the tool to achieve any of these goals.
Jim Ryno, founder of LIFT personal training studios and a nationally recognized personal trainer in New York, uses the following heart-rate zones with his clients:
- the “heart-healthy” zone (50-60% of maximum heart rate [MHR]; typically beginners and elderly)
- the “fat-burning” zone (60-70% MHR)
- the “endurance training” zone (70-80% MHR)
- the “red-line” zone (90-100% MHR)
How Do You Know Which Cardio Zone Is for You?
Ryno explains that he uses zone 1 the least because its primarily used to get someone healthy and strengthen their heart but not get them fit. “Zone 2 and Zone 3 get used more often because your functional capacity is greatly improved. Besides fat burning, you’re really developing your cardiovascular system.” For endurance training, Ryno recommends Zones 2 and 3.
But for the vast majority of his clients, Ryno utilizes Zones 4 and 5.
These are shorter overall workouts in which subjects go from 80% MHR all the way up to their maximum heart rate with all-out effort. “My philosophy is to train hard, heavy and fast because it’s going to make you fitter, faster, stronger,” Ryno states, “I really don’t promote a lot of steady-state cardio because I just think it’s a waste of time unless you’re training for a marathon.”
While you can still breathe fairly easily in the anabolic zone, pushing yourself to the “red-line” zone means you’re working all-out – “even top athletes are only getting there for a few seconds. And it’s huge for strength building and power.”
For maximum weight loss, Ryno and other top trainers recommend short rounds of high-intensity training. Growing bodies of research are showing that this cardio burns more fat while keeping and building muscle than hours of steady cardio.
Try 20 minutes, 3 times a week alternating between 2 minutes in the anaerobic zone and up to 1 minute in the red-line zone.
As Karla Dial so eloquently states “don’t fear cardio. Just identify your goal – and then get in the zone.”