Training thresholds

Training is effective when it specifically targets the individual athlete. One way of achieving this is by targeting the most relevant training threshold. For many athletes this involves calculating a specific working heart rate.

Maximum heart rate = 220 – age

A 20-year-old athlete might want to calculate their maximum heart rate in order to accurately calculate their training threshold:

Maximum heart rate = 220 – 20

Maximum heart rate = 200 beats per minute (BPM)

Once we have calculated the maximum heart rate, we can calculate the training thresholds.

Graph to show training thresholds

Example 1

A 20-year-old distance runner wants to calculate working intensity within the aerobic zone:

20-year-old woman doing long-distance running on the beach at sunset

Maximum heart rate = 200

Lower training threshold of the aerobic zone = 60% of maxHR

Lower training threshold = 0.6 × 200

Lower training threshold = 120 BPM

Upper training threshold of the aerobic zone = 80% maxHR

Upper training threshold = 0.8 × 200

Upper training threshold = 160 BPM

Therefore the 20-year-old aerobic athlete needs to target their training between 120 - 160 BPM to make the training effective.

Example 2

A 35-year-old basketball player wants to calculate working intensity within the anaerobic zone:

35-year-old basketballer in action

Maximum heart rate = 185

Lower training threshold of the anaerobic zone = 80% of maxHR

Lower training threshold = 0.8 × 185

Lower training threshold = 148 BPM

Upper training threshold of the anaerobic zone = 90% maxHR

Upper training threshold = 0.9 × 185

Upper training threshold = 167 BPM

Therefore the 35-year-old anaerobic athlete needs to target their training between 148 - 167 BPM to make the training effective.

The numbers and calculations above can be replaced for any type of athlete. Highly trained athletes will tend to train nearer the upper limit of the training threshold to gain maximum benefit.