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Heart Rate Training - Hitting the "Sweet Spot"

Hitting the Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot is the effort zone just below threshold, where you get maximum aerobic benefit with minimum stress on your body, also commonly referred to as the Training Heart Rate (THR). Endurance and interval training within the sweet spot, is the most effective way to increase your ability to train faster, longer and easier. Try to maintain 75-80% percent of your threshold effort. You should be able to talk, but only in short statements, and you should be able to finish your intervals with good quality.

Finding your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR), Resting Heart Rate (RHR), and Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)

Based on the goals of your workout, athletes can maximize the effectiveness of their training by utilizing specific heart rate ranges, and adjusting effort within those values. The following formulas can be used to determine your approximate THR. For more accurate calculations, visit your physician and have a stress test done.

To determine your THR you need to first determine the following values:

  • Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

  • Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

Finding your MHR can be difficult without using an electrocardiograph (ECG). The rule of thumb for MHR used to be 220 minus age. However, recent studies have shown 205.8 - (0.685 × age) to be a more accurate guide*.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

To determine RHR, take the pulse first thing in the morning, before engaging in any significant activity (ideally, before getting out of bed). For greater accuracy, do this for several days and take an average of the results.

Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)

After establishing approximate Maximum Heart Rate and Resting Heart Rate, an athlete’s Heart Rate Reserve can be found using the following equation.


Training Heart Rate

To determine your THR, take percentages of your HRR and add them to your RHR. The percentage you take depends the training goals and whether the emphasis is aerobic or anaerobic threshold training:

  • For aerobic training, take 60–75% of your HRR and add it to your RHR

  • For anaerobic threshold training, take 80–85% of your HRR and add it to your RHR


A 35 year old with an RHR of 65 results in the following values:

  • MHR: 205.8 - (0.685 x 35) = 182

  • HRR: 182 - 65 = 117

  • THR for Aerobic Training: 135–153 beats per minute (bpm)

  • THR for Anaerobic Threshold Training: 158–165 bpm

*The Surprising History of the "HRmax=220-age" Equation, Robert A. Robergs and Roberto Landwehr, Journal of Exercise Physiology Volume 5 Number 2 May 2002.

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