Cycling heart rate zones

The heart rate training method, leading to real results, has gained popularity among athletes. But, in fact, training in different heart rate zones works in any sport. Together with experienced athletes, we find out how and why to monitor the pulse while cycling.

Why is it important to monitor your heart rate while cycling?

The pulse is an accessible and understandable indicator of how the body reacts to the load and where the athlete leads his preparation. Tracking heart rate zones during cycling is necessary in order to determine the degree of load on the heart and to achieve specific goals.

With this knowledge in mind, athletes create a training plan and work on specific heart rate zones – whether it’s long-duration endurance training, building aerobic capacity or interval training.

In general, for cycling training, the heart rate indicator performs the same tasks as in other types of sports loads:

  • it is an objective indicator of the effectiveness of training and physical development;
  • for beginners – a guideline for a better understanding of the work of your body;
  • helps to track insufficient recovery over time and its consequences – overtraining;
  • helps to correctly distribute the forces in the race.

Read more: Resting heart rate: how to measure and why you need to know

Cycling heart rate zones

Cycling heart rate zones

Athletes introduced the division into pulse zones so that during training there was a guideline leading to the achievement of a specific goal:

  • development of endurance and cardiovascular system, fat burning;
  • development of strength, endurance and speed;
  • increased lactate threshold.

Each objective is promoted by working in a specific impulse zone. In order to understand in which pulse zones work is done during training, you need to know your own indicator of maximum heart rate (HRmax). In the classic division system, there are five pulse zones.

Aerobic training

This type of training is considered easy, during which you can speak calmly in full sentences and not choke – this is called “conversational rhythm”. As a rule, such training lasts a long time: 2-3 hours or even more. The body uses lipids, or fats, for fuel.

This type of training is the basis of training and all athletes devote 70-90% of their training plan to it. The same zone is suitable for amateurs who are not looking for high-speed results and for those who want to burn fat and lose weight.

In the first and second intensity zones, the most efficient use of fat as energy sources occurs. In other words, we use fat as efficiently as possible in the process of metabolism and energy exchange during training – but after training we continue to burn fat.

So, if you want to lose weight, long workouts in zones 1-2 for 2-3 hours or more will help, – says Viktoria Shubina, head of the triathlon division of the WorldClass club network. Victoria has 9 iron distancesmone and 6 world championships.

First heart rate zone

The first zone is a pulse of 50-60% of the maximum heart rate. In the first zone, the release of lactic acid into the blood does not exceed 2 mmol per liter of blood, lactate accumulates slowly and has time to be excreted from the body. Oxygen consumption is about 50% of maximum (VO2max).

Second impulse zone

The second zone is a pulse of 60-70% of the maximum heart rate. Here, decay products accumulate more intensively and are not all excreted from the body at the same rate as in the first zone. You can still speak comfortably in full sentences. Oxygen consumption is about 70% of maximum (VO2max).

“The aerobic zone is such a balance point when the muscles use the produced lactate, and its accumulation does not occur, which leads to a drop in performance,” says Ilya Slepov, master of sports, founder of the RunLab Running Laboratory. Ilya entered the top 5 of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

Anaerobic training

Training of this type should be included in athletes seeking to develop speed, strength, increase lactate threshold and maximal oxygen uptake. Training in these areas will help you develop a faster running pace. When crossing the anaerobic threshold, energy production occurs without access to oxygen, carbohydrates are used as an energy source – a faster energy source in terms of fractionation.

It is impossible to work long in these areas, they are rather competitive areas. Athletes give them a total of about 20% of the training plan.

Third pulse zone

The third pulse zone is 80-90% HRmax. This is a threshold workout that includes tempo workouts lasting up to an hour and competitions lasting around an hour. In this area, you don’t really want to talk anymore, but you can still exchange short sentences. This is where general stamina develops.

In this zone, there is a more intensive accumulation of lactic acid, in the order of 3.5-5 mmol per liter of blood, oxygen consumption is 80-85% of VO2max.

— If the preparation concerns short distances, it is preferable to shift these tempo training sessions towards the upper threshold of the third zone. If it is long, it is better to be in lower values ​​​​of the third impulse zone, explains Viktoria Shubina.

Cycling heart rate zones

Fourth pulse zone

The fourth pulse zone corresponds to 90-95% of HRmax. In it, the athlete trains to develop speed endurance and increase maximal oxygen uptake and TAN level. This is the basis for improving racing results.

Oxygen debt increases, it is difficult to stay in this zone for a long time, so training is always at intervals. Oxygen consumption – 85-100% of the maximum, lactate level – 5-10 mmol per liter of blood.

Intervals are 6-10 minutes at the bottom of heart rate zone 4 and 2-6 minutes at the top with 2-6 minutes rest until full recovery.

The fifth impulse zone

The fifth pulse zone is close to 100% HRmax, 100% also reaches the level of maximum oxygen consumption. The level of lactate in the blood becomes 8 mmol per liter of blood. These training sessions do not represent more than 1% of the overall training plan.

It is also an interval training zone: maximum effort intervals last 10 to 15 seconds, followed by a rest of 1.5 to 3 minutes until full recovery.

How to Determine Heart Rate Zones on a Bike

First you need to know your own maximum heart rate (HRmax). There are several formulas to calculate it. The most accurate result, as well as data on individual indicators of maximum oxygen consumption, are provided by laboratory tests.

  • One of the formulas that will only roughly help you determine your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. This is called Cooper’s formula or Karvonen’s method.
  • A more complex formula makes distinctions between the sexes. For men 220 minus age, for women 226 minus age. This is Astrand’s formula.
  • The exact calculation is believed to be given by Tanaka’s formula: 208 – (0.7 x age).
  • For women, there is also Marta Gulati’s formula: 206 – (0.88 x age).

But the most accurate result gives a laboratory analysis. These are stress tests – a treadmill test on a treadmill or a bicycle ergometry on an exercise bike.

– If you approach this problem correctly, you can determine the pulse zones during a medical examination in a medical center, during a test on a treadmill or on a bicycle ergometer. These are submaximal tests. On their basis, as well as on the basis of lactate intake, pulse zones are determined. This is a scientific method, – says Ilya Slepov.

How to Monitor Your Heart Rate While Cycling and Exercise Bike

To do this, you definitely need a sports gadget – and the better, more complex and more expensive it is, the clearer the result will be.

  • Many amateur sportsmen use sports watches. They track heart rate at the wrist. They are suitable for training in pulse zones, but keep in mind that the indicator will not be clear. The clock begins to “lie” once the pulse is over 100 beats per minute, and the differences can be 10-20 beats.
  • The chest straps that come with the watch are the most accurate training heart rate gadget available, and athletes looking for accurate heart rate zone training need this gadget.
  • The best proven heart rate monitor brands are Polar, Suunto, Garmin.

Good to know

The pulse is different when running and cycling. On a bicycle it will be about 5 strokes lower because the person is in a seated position.

On an exercise bike at the same speed as on a classic bike and cross-country, the heart rate will be lower.

The effort on the bike is much greater when using contact pedals, where the legs are inserted into cycling shoes – the legs work in a circle and different muscles are activated.

– The training process is a combination of different types and intensities of training, which are aimed at achieving the desired result. And that includes effective recovery. The more hours you train, the more important a good recovery is, explains Viktoria Shubina.

Combine different workouts and proper recovery to get the best results.

Read next: 4 main ways to recover in amateur sports