How To Calculate Your HIIT Heart Rate Target Zones

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High intensity interval training heart rate zone calculations

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m showing you how to calculate your HIIT heart rate target zones, so you can burn fat faster.

I’m also going to talk about high intensity interval training, and how you can incorporate it into your workout program, regardless of your current fitness level.

Seriously, if you’re looking to take your fat loss goals to the next level, I want you to start incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) into your weekly routine.

What is high intensity interval training (HIIT)?

High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is an exercise training style that significantly increases your heart rate for a short period of time, followed by a rest to allow your heart rate to decrease.

In its most simplistic form, HIIT training alternates between high intensity intervals followed by low intensity intervals. This way you train your heart in different training zones.

One of the best ways to track your heart rate is by wearing an activity tracker that includes a heart rate monitor.

The heart rate monitor then calculates your heart rate during your HIIT workout.

I’ve used many heart rate monitors in the past.

In this video, I’m using this polar heart rate monitor with a chest strap.

I now use an Apple Watch 3 synced with a Polar heart rate chest strap.

Using a chest strap provides a more accurate and timely heart rate reading, compared to just using a watch with a built in heart rate monitor.

How To Calculate Your HIIT Heart Rate Target Zones

During your short, but intense high intensity interval training set, the goal is quickly elevate your heart rate into your high intensity target zone.

Here’s a simple formula to calculate your HIIT heart rate target zones (in beats per minute – BPM):

High intensity interval training heart rate target zone calculation:

  • (220 – your age) * 0.85

For example, I’m 37 years old, so my HIIT heart rate target zone would be calculated as follows:

  • (220 – 37) * 0.85
  • My high intensity heart rate zone = 155 beats per minute (bpm)

Once you’re finished your high intensity sprint, fast jog, or fast walk, the goal is to rest or perform “active rest”, to allow your heart rate to drop down to a low intensity interval training heart rate target zone.

Active rest includes a slow walk.

Low intensity interval training heart rate target zone calculation:

  • (220 – your age) * 0.65

My low intensity interval training heart rate target zone would be calculated as follows:

  • (220 – 37) * 0.65
  • My low intensity heart rate zone = 119 beats per minute (bpm)

My HIIT heart rate target zones:

Based on the above calculations, here are my HIIT heart rate target zones:

  • High intensity interval training heart rate target zone: 155 bpm
  • Low intensity interval training heart rate target zone: 119 bpm

What does this mean?

Well, after each high intensity interval sprint, the goal is to elevate my heart rate to 155 bpm.

Then I will begin my active rest, by just walking around, and allow enough time for my heart rate to drop back down to 119 bpm.

Once my heart rate reaches my low intensity interval training zone, it’s time for my next sprint.

Follow this simple formula to calculate your HIIT heart rate target zones.

HIIT training for beginners

If you’re a beginner to HIIT, don’t be intimidated as the intensity of HIIT depends 100% on what your current fitness level is.

Regardless of your current fitness zone, you can do HIIT training.

HIIT may sound like a scary workout that only advanced athletes can do, but it’s not.

You do not need to to sprint all out like Usain Bolt to achieve the same fat loss benefits.

As a beginner, your goal is to find out what level of exercise takes your heart rate into your high intensity interval training zone.

If you’re currently overweight, you may only need to complete a fast walk or jog to hit your high intensity interval training heart rate target zone.

Yes, for some people, a fast walk at an incline, for a short period of time, can raise your heart rate into your high intensity interval training zone.

You can walk at an incline right?

Of course you can.

Depending on your fitness level, a fast walk at an incline may be enough to help you burn fat faster and strengthen your heart.

If you’re more advanced

To hit your high intensity heart rate target zone, you may need to complete an all out sprint, like you see in this video.

After your sprint (or fast walk or jog), you should check your heart rate monitor to ensure you’re training at a high enough intensity, so your heart rate reaches your high intensity target zone.

Once you reach it, your goal for active recovery is to allow your heart rate to drop back down to your low heart rate target zone.

When you reach that zone, it’s time to sprint again.

Note: if you’re a beginner and new to high intensity interval training, it’s important to be safe in the beginning.

What if you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor?

If you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor, one indicator of reaching your high intensity interval zone is if you are so winded, you cannot carry on a conversation with someone.

As you can hear in the video, I’m out of breath after each high intensity interval sprint.

This is how you should sound.

How To Calculate Your HIIT Heart Rate Target Zones

High Intensity Interval Training: HIIT Sprint Workout

Here’s an example of a HIIT sprint workout that will quickly elevate your heart rate into your high intensity interval training heart rate zone, so you can burn fat faster.

The HIIT sprint workout is structured as follows:

Total time:

28 minutes:

  • 20 minutes of sprint intervals
  • 4 minute warm up
  • 4 minute cool down

Type of workout:

HIIT sprints on a treadmill, track, or outdoor field.

  • HIIT Sprint: 30-60 seconds or until you hit your HIIT heart rate target zone
  • Active Rest: 60 seconds or until your heart rate drops back down to your low intensity target zone

Number of sets:

5-10 sets or if you’re basing your sets off of your heart rate monitor, however many you can complete within 20 minutes.

Note: 1 set equals 1 high intensity and 1 low intensity interval.

Exercise:

Click the links below for a step-by-step exercise demonstration of each exercise.

Warm up walk on the treadmill: 4 minutes at 4.0 mph and 2.0 incline

A. Treadmill Sprints

  • Incline: 2.0 for warm up, all intervals, and cool down
  • High interval speed: 10.0 mph (or whatever speed it takes for you to reach your high heart rate zone)
  • Low interval speed: 4.0 mph (or whatever speed it takes for you to reach your low heart rate zone)

Sprint duration: 30-60 seconds (or however long it takes to hit your high interval heart rate zone)

Active recovery duration: 60 seconds (or however long it takes to hit your low interval heart rate zone)

TREADMILL HIIT SPRINTS

Workout notes:

These were my heart rate calculations from this HIIT sprint workout:

High interval #1: HR at end: 146 bpm

Low interval #1: HR at end: 126 bpm

High #2: 156 bpm

Low #2: 136 bpm

High #2: 157 bpm

Low #2: 137 bpm

High #3: 161 bpm

Low #3: 134 bpm

High #4: 159 bpm

Low #4: 135 bpm

High #5: 159 bpm

Low #5: 139 bpm

High #6: 159 bpm

Low #6: 139 bpm

High #7: 153 bpm

Low #7: 140 bpm

High #8: 157 bpm

Low #8: 141 bpm

High #9: 162 bpm

Low #9: 139 bpm

High #10: 157 bpm

Low #10: 137 bpm

Cool down: 4 minutes at 4.0 mph and 2.0 incline (HR finished at 117 bpm)

Workout notes: I completed this HIIT sprint workout based on times, not my heart rate. This is why my heart rates were often outside of my target training zones. Based on this, I should have decreased the intensity, incline, or time of the HIIT sprints to lower my heart rate during the sprint. I also should have allowed a little more time for active recovery to allow my HR to drop before going back into another high intensity sprint.

This is why completing a HIIT workout based on a set duration for high and low intensity intervals, is not as effective as following a customized high and low interval duration, based on your heart rate target zones.

How many calories do you burn doing HIIT?

How To Calculate Your HIIT Heart Rate Target Zones

Note: Although my HR Monitor shows a 42 minute workout duration, this included my 15 minute core work after my sprints. The actual HIIT workout portion only took 20 minutes, plus an additional 4 minute warmup and 4 minute cool down. Including the warm up and cool down, the 28 minute HIIT workout burned over 300 calories.

Although 300 calories may not seem like a lot, looks can be deceiving.

Say hello to the Afterburn Effect of HIIT

HIIT Afterburn Effect

These 300 calories only includes the number of calories burned during the HIIT workout.

The real benefit of HIIT training comes from the increased calorie burning benefits achieved after the workout, for up to 48 hours.

This is called the Afterburn Effect.

When you complete a HIIT workout, your body will be burning MORE calories, for up to 48 hours after you leave the gym!

Regardless of your fitness level, you got this!

Set the timer for 20-25 minutes.

Then complete 5-10 sprints or however many you can within that time limit.

But be sure to train hard enough, and allow enough time between sprints, to properly recover so that you can hit your target heart rate zones.

That’s all it takes to trigger the afterburn effect and elevate your fat burning for the rest of the day.

If you enjoyed this post on how to calculate your HIIT heart rate target zones, click the social media logos to share it with your friends.

Also, subscribe to our Live Lean TV YouTube channel and leave a comment below on what you’d like to see on future episodes.

If you missed it, check out our fat burning “Jump Around” Tabata workout.

NOW ON SALE: Live Lean Sprint HIIT Workout Program!

Click here to get my premium progressive 18 week sprint HIIT program that is guaranteed to TRIPLE your fat loss in 3X less time, with no equipment.


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42 responses to “How To Calculate Your HIIT Heart Rate Target Zones

  1. Please fix the typo. It should be

    Low intensity interval zone (active rest) calculation:

    (220 – Your Age) x 0.65

  2. Hey Brad! Should I do HIIT and weight traning on different days? I´m lifting weights 4 days a week and after each workout I do one of your Tabata workouts and I love the burn but I want to try one of these HIIT workouts 😀

  3. i’ve always included at least 1 HIIT cardio session a week regardless of goal. However if you’re really looking to add size quick, and aren’t concerned about excess fat, you may want to skip cardio until you’re looking to lean down.

  4. dude what about some of us who are weight training to add some size, will 2 to 3 HIIT sessions per week hurt my muscle gains??

  5. are you working in any weight training? if not, stick with 3 days of HIIT and the other days stick with weight training. trust me, weight training will do so much for your body…and i promise you won’t get big and bulky!

  6. I had another question Brad – I know you recommend doing 3 HIIT sessions a week, but would it be hurting more than helping me to do 5 days a week? I’m feeling really good body/pain wise, but I don’t want to hurt my progress.

  7. great question but it’s so hard to even make a guess since it depends on so many different factors that are specific to you. i burn between 300-400 calories. if you’re really interested in knowing how many calories you burned during 6 intervals, I suggest you pick up a HR monitor. the after burn is what you should really get excited about although scientists are still uncertain how to calculate that exact number…keep it intense and consistent and you will see awesome changes. good luck 😉

  8. How many calories on average would I be burning per HIIT session? And what about the afterburn? This morning I did a warm-up, 6 sets of high and lows and a cool down. I’m 5’0, 112 llbs, 22 y/o… if that helps get a range. BTW, just started this workout routine on Monday, I’m pretty excited about it. Hope I get the results i’m looking for! Thanks for this video!

  9. true, it’s just meant to be a calculation…it’s always best to listen to your body. that beats a calculation any day.

  10. Those calculations are only for about 1/3 the population, or the norm.My heart rate goes way above the number you put up, I used to worry SO much about it, that my heart would blow up.A slow jog for me puts my heart rate over 170, my heart rate max is supposed to be 183. If i sprint for 30 seconds, my heart rate goes over that,In fact, while doing HIIT it isn’t uncommon for it to go above 190 at least a couple times. I recover quickly,so I don’t worry about it.I just don’t want others to worry!

  11. i highly suggest you pick up a copy of my book/program, “Awaken The Abs Within”…all my secrets to jump start fat loss can be found in this book. Just search for it on Amazon or get the e-book from my website. Also be sure to subscribe to this Live Lean TV channel and follow the workouts and especially the cooking shows.

  12. well i am about 143pds and 5’6tall, female…
    i wanna have smaller tighs and flater tummy….
    please suggest what can i do to improve myself…. 🙂

  13. you should be fine at 180…if you were upwards of 200, I’d be concerned. thanks again for the support…glad you’re liking the channel.

  14. all my secrets to jump start fat loss can be found in my book, “Awaken The Abs Within: 7 Secrets To Lose Fat”. Just search for it on Amazon. Also be sure to subscribe to this Live Lean TV channel and follow the workouts and especially the cooking shows.

  15. Hi. I weigh about 238pds, and 5’5 tall, female. I would like to know what can I do to jump start weight loss.

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