The Formula of Karvonen

The formula of Karvonen is a relatively simple way to calculate your heart rate zones for training.  There are many ways to do this, from simply taking your max heart rate and calculating percentages to doing intense performance tests, in which the doctor increases resistance, measures your oxygen intake and tests your blood lactic acid levels.

I find the formula of Karvonen to be pretty accurate and simple to use.  However, I also believe in listening to your body so if for a cycling endurance workout heart rate 135bpm feels right but the formula tells you to go to 142, you should do what you feel is right.  Assuming you are experienced enough and know what should feel right.

The formula of Karvonen is the following mathematical formula:

Target Heart Rate = ((max HR − resting HR) × %Intensity) + resting

Garmin heart rate strapA while ago, I measured my resting heart rate.  I actually measured it while I was sleeping because when I try to calculate it when resting (awake), I get too worked up and nervous which leads to a higher heart rate.  Since I was sleeping, I won’t be taking the absolute lowest number but a heart rate which was pretty stable during my sleep (which was 50bpm).

I have not tested my max heart rate lately time since I did not want to stress my body so much at this point in time which is meant to work on my basic endurance.  If we go very basic, we can calculate this: 220-age (28 at the time): 192.  There are other calculations as well but I believe this is probably very close.

So if I calculate my heart rate zones:

Recovery (less than 60%): Less than 135bpm

Extensive Endurance (60-70%): 135-149bpm

Intensive Endurance (71-78%): 150-161bpm

Tempo (79-81%): 162-165bpm (although impossible to be accurate without lactate test)

Extensive Interval: 166-178bpm

Intensive Interval: Higher than 178bpm

Looking at these numbers and knowing how my body reacts to different intensities, these numbers seem to be pretty accurate.  Perhaps the tempo seems a bit high (I would say my feeling would be high 150’s) but considering this is a simple calculation without any lab work/ performance testing, this is pretty darn good!

If you are wondering about heart rate zones, and I would very much recommend you do, then try out the formula of Karvonen!  I will be using my updated heart rate zones for my training purposes without a doubt.  You can also take a further look in my blog to find out more about the training zones, intensity etc.



personal trainer fitness programs FitGuanaBy Sander Vanacker for FitGuana

Sander Vanacker is a personal trainer, CEO of Bring Back Nature, Inc. and founder of FitGuana.  He believes in improving health and wellness by incorporating more nature into our lives, being active and spending more time outdoors.