Heart Rate for HIIT: The Easiest Way to Tell if You're in the Zone

When most of us start high-intensity interval training (HIIT), we're not too worried about achieving the ideal heart rate for HIIT—we're just focused on making it through the workout without passing out!

However, once you've made your peace with these short and sweaty workouts, it's a good idea to try to get your heart rate in the ideal zone for HIIT.


Because the power of HIIT rests in its ability to help your body burn more fat, build more muscle, and increase cardiovascular health in as little as seven to 30 minutes a day. HIIT uses short periods of work (e.g. 50 seconds) followed by short periods of rest (e.g. 10 seconds) to push your body into its anaerobic zone, which is where it uses fat as fuel instead of glucose and glycogen.

Learn more about how HIIT works: The HIIT Zone We Call Home.

Understanding Heart Rate for HIIT

You don't need to workout long, you just need to workout hard. So, HIIT workouts aren't going to be a rambling walk in the park. More like a short, panting sprint up a mountain. As such, you want to challenge your body which will increase your heart rate.

Here’s a free HIIT workout from BR+ to help you see what we mean. BR+ is our online fitness library with thousands for workouts for all fitness levels that you can do anytime, anywhere. Hosted by BodyRock Trainer Sean Light, this sweat ‘sesh is a mere 23 minutes and will rival any longer gym workout. Try a month of BR+ for absolutely free! Sign up for your free trial now. No risk. All reward. 

Finding Your HIIT Heart Rate

There are ideal heart rates for HIIT and while it is neat to know them, experts agree you don't have to invest in the latest tech to track your heart rate. The easiest and equally accurate way to monitor you HIIT heart rate is as simple as talking. Or trying to. 

How to Measure Your Heart Rate for HIIT

HIIT requires that your heart rate be at 80-90% of your max heart rate for the duration of the working parts of your workout (for example, that 50 second interval). So, 100% of your effort would be something you could only sustain for a few seconds and you want to work at a level slightly less than that. You’ll know you've reached this threshold if you have difficulty finishing a simple sentence.

That's it. That's the easiest way to measure your heart rate for HIIT and it's an incredibly effective gauge because it is based on YOUR current fitness level—not some arbitrary number. 


Here's what we mean: the general recommendations for HIIT heart rate vary based on age. 

Age             Max Heart Rate      80% Target Heart Rate

20-29           200 to 191 BPM      160 to around 153

30-39           190 to 181 BPM      152 to around 145

40-49           180 to 171 BPM      144 to around 137

50-59           170 to 161 BPM      136 to around 129

60-69           160 to 151 BPM      128 to around 121

70-79           150 to 141 BPM      120 to around 113

These numbers are all well and good, but a fit 50 year old might very well have a healthy cardiovascular system than a out of shape 20 year old, and therefore have a higher max heart rate. As such, these numbers can be useful for the general population and as guidelines, but at the end of the day, you are your own best gauge. 

So, take the talk test to check your heart rate for HIIT. If you can spout off a sentence, no problem, then it's time to push harder. But if you are huffing and puffing and can barely utter a syllable, you're in the zone.


Sign up for your free trial of BR+ now!

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