Heart rate is likely the most frequently used method for prescribing aerobic exercise intensity. The reason is a close relationship between heart rate and oxygen consumption, especially when the intensity is between 50% and 90% of functional capacity (VO2 max), also called heart rate reserve (HRR), which is the difference between an athlete’s maximal heart rate and his or her resting heart rate.
The most accurate means of regulating intensity using this method is to determine the specific heart rate associated with the desired percentage of VO2 max or the heart rate associated with the lactate threshold. There are three general ways to monitor or prescribe Aerobic Training intensity: 1) HR,
2) Percentage of Vo2max or reserve,
3) Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE).
Training intensity Zones based on Heart Rate:
Using the Karvonen formula, a HR zone of 121–180 bpm is shown based on 40%–85% of HRR. Low-, moderate-, and high intensity aerobic training zones are identified. Age only explains ∼75% of the variability of HR so other variables such as training status and exercise mode are critical.
The ACSMhas recommended 40%–85% of HRR and 50%–90% of HRmaxfor intensity prescription during Aerobic Training. The wide range of values takes into consideration fitness level such that unfit populations begin at the lower end of the spectrum and fit athletes benefit from training at the opposite end. It is important to point out that HR is a self-correcting variable (changes with improved fitness) for intensity prescription.
Submaximal exercise HR is reduced as a CV adaptation. It takes greater effort to reach a target HR as aerobic capacity improves. Thus, maintaining a targeted HR percentage as an intensity guide can still be progressive because the athlete will have to work harder in order to reach the targeted level. The use of HR monitors makes it easy to monitor HR.
For example: An athlete can be given a 12-week aerobic training program with intensity prescription of 60% of HRR for the first 4 weeks, 65% ofHRR for the second 4 weeks, and 70% of HRR for the last4 weeks. Although the athlete maintains the same target HRR value for 4-week periods, progression takes place within each cycle as it becomes more difficult to reach the desired HR as conditioning improves. Thus, the athlete is forced to continually work harder to maintain the target HRR value.
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