Polar Three Heart Rate Zone System

I'm noticing that Polar is now promoting a three heart rate zone system.

Welcome to the party Polar!

I subbed this morning and saw the sign on the right displayed. At first I didn't give it any notice, but then I did a double take; they're showing the five zones grouped into three... very interesting.

When I got back to my office I did an image search to see what else I could find. I haven't paid much attention to Polar, so some of this could have been occurring and I'm only seeing it now.

At Polar's website they have a specific area titled: Improve Fitness and then a sub-page: The Three Exercise Zones

Exercise zones are ranges between the lower and upper heart rate limits expressed as beats per minute (bpm) or as percentages of your maximum heart rate (HRmax). HRmax is the highest number of heartbeats per minute during maximum physical exertion.

Heart Rate Target Zones

Exercise can be divided into three different: intensity zones. Each of these intensity levels corresponds to various health and fitness improving mechanisms in your body.

Here's what I found.

Personal Training Polar Heart Rate training zones

ACE promotes a Two Threshold & Three Zone System. Polar's personal training area clearly reflects this in the chart above.


Polar Heart Rate Training Zones for kids and young adults

Ignoring the fact that all of this is based on the antiquated Max Heart Rate - instead of a being based on aerobic or anaerobic thresholds - I see this as very good news for any of us trying to cut through the confusion and complexity caused by branded 5 or more zone systems. Instead we promote the simple and effective 3 Heart Rate Zone system anchored by both aerobic or anaerobic thresholds.

It's great to have Polar aboard - except they have a long way to go... please forgive my rant here 🙁

It defies explanation, how a company as large as Polar, can be so utterly clueless. Make sure you've completely swallowed whatever you're drinking before reading their page about; Determining Maximum Heart Rate.

Your heart rate has an upper limit, or maximum rate, called HRmax. HRmax is not a good predictor of fitness level or performance (it's mostly genetic), but it is used to quantify levels of intensity (as a % of HRmax). If HRmax isn't good for anything, why are you using it? It's like saying; this scale is wildly inaccurate... so go ahead and weigh yourself with it and we'll base your weight loss program on it.

You can determine maximum heart rate a number of ways:

1. Have your HRmax measured in a laboratory during a stress test. In a laboratory? OK sure, I have one down the street.

2. Do a maximal effort and record the highest heart rate (not recommended for untrained individuals). This will give you a fairly accurate maximum heart rate, but is difficult to do properly. Remember that HRmax depends on the activity, so establish HRmax in the sports you do most often. Huh? What's your definition of the word "fairly"?  So if I'm "untrained" what do you suggest I do? 

3. HR max-p score predicts your individual maximum heart rate. This feature is included in several Polar computer models. I get it - marketing types wrote this nonsense. 

4. Estimate your maximum heart rate based on the formula 220 - age. This will give you a rough estimate, but is not nearly as accurate as the other methods described above. That's it? Those are your only choices?

For most individuals, maximum heart rate declines with age and values are usually between 170-200 bpm. This has been disproven years ago - why do they continue to say it?

We've been proponents of the Two Thresholds /Three Heart Rate Zone system for years here at ICI/PRO. We're not alone. ACE ( the American Council for Exercise) recommends this system as the most appropriate for the typical participant we see in class.

Here are links to past articles and Podcasts.

I've discussed the need for standardised heart rate zones to cut through all the marketing B.S.


This is the first in a three part series that includes a video produced by ACE that demonstrates an aerobic threshold assessment


Originally posted 2013-05-21 14:52:43.


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