How important is your Heart Rate When You Workout?

This topic has been a common one among trainers and clients for many years. There is the common thoughts of various heart ratepolar-heart-rate-monitors zones targeting different fuel sources. I have not used these in a long time but when I used to use heart rate as a major training tool I used 65-75% of your max heart rate to “burn fat” and 75-85% to “burn sugar”. Your Max heart rate was determined by taking 220 and subtracting your age.

Now that I have had significantly more time to learn about the performance of the human body and getting a more complete understanding of the 4 Laws of Training, I realize that these numbers can prove to be very misleading. Just like everything else in relation to our ability levels in fitness, our heart rate is completely dependent on the amount of muscular efficiency you have in your body.

The way our body moves is determined by several key factors. First and perhaps the most predominant is our genetics. At conception I think our body has a predisposition to have a certain body type. Different body types will react different to the stimulus of exercise. Some will react better to strength training, others are more adept at cardiovascular training, and some even respond best to stretching. This is of course being very general. We have discussed body types in the past so follow this link if you want more specifics.

The next major component of our bodies that can impact our heart rate when we exercise is the current level of efficiency in our bodies. The muscle patterns we develop can either work for us or against us. When we are young (1-6 yrs old) and consistently putting a tremendous amount of stimulus to our muscular systems we typically are able to go for hours without getting tired. Many people think this is youth, I think it is that they have a high enough level of muscular efficiency that the act of playing is not very challenging to them. Think about this, when is the last time you went out and played on a playground? When was the last time you asked your body to climb things and crawl under things? The way we exercised at kids kept our bodies working extremely well. We consistently asked our joints to go through their full range of motion and we consistently trained every muscle in the body to work together as a unit, not isolated training on over priced machines.

I feel this can also have a very major bearing on how our heart rate is impacted by our efficiency. If you have a body that due to poor training habits such as not warming up or doing very isolated muscle training is no longer capable of taking our joints through their full range of motion and keeping our skeletal system aligned, you will have to work much harder than necessary to perform basic exercises such as running.

The less efficient you are, the higher your heart rate will be to accomplish whatever task you give it. So when you are training at a certain target heart rate zone, are you in that zone because it is truly appropriate for your training goals or are you in it because your body is quite inefficient and unable to perform the task you are giving it? I realize there are many important reasons to check your heart rate, especially if it is regards to a specific health issue such as blood clots or many major heart issues. If however you are just looking to get in shape, stop allowing your heart rate to determine your effort level and instead focus on getting your body more efficient. Once you attain this, the Heart rate training will be much more applicable.


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