Use Cardio Training to Lose Weight – Using the 3 Zones

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You probably have used cardio training on machines at the gym to lose weight but haven't quite succeeded.  At least not long term so you have given up.

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When it comes to exercise, many books have been written about many different ways to work out.  You also find books on stretching, yoga, and many other forms of exercise except cardiovascular training. Cardio training can give you an amazing workout!  Training this way won't get pumped like you would when lifting weights, but your heart and lungs will thank you!

Cardio training is more than jumping on a piece of cardio equipment and working on a good sweat.  Just because you are breathing slightly hard does not mean you have just done a good cardio workout. (This also goes for going on a run, walk or hike).  I don't blame you for thinking that! That is what we have been taught over the years, and in the end, we end up over training and hurting our body.  When you over train your body you give up from exhaustion.  When you hurt your body, you give up from the pain.  Let's stop that horrible cycle.


For those of you that have to constantly worry about getting pain on your knees or lower back, don't worry.  You can choose cardio training activities that are lower impact, like swimming.  This applies to everyone but especially you, always warm-up and cool down.  Do this by gently stretching and moving your muscles to start off with.


When you go from zero to a full exercise without building up first will cause problems such as stiffness and cramps. Always, ease yourself into any exercise. Then after exercise, the cooldown is basically gently moving the muscles and joints to stretch and relax, as your body returns to its normal pace.

Zone Training

Today, I’m going to educate you on better ways to do cardio training without overtraining through zone training. Zone training is a specific heart rate percentage based on your maximum heart rate. To get your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR), you subtract 220-minus age=Maximum Heart Rate.

Example: 220 - 36 yrs = 184 max hr.

A person at age 36 going over 184 Max rate could cause some serious injuries.

Once you know your zones, you will get your Max Heart Rate times the percentage of the zone to get to the appropriate workload. We have 3 main cardio training zones. Each zone determines the goal that you are trying to achieve.

Cardio Training on Zone 1

Zone 1: 65-76% of MHR

This zone is used for recovery and starts to build an aerobic base.  An aerobic base is critical to improving your heart and lung capacity. Because of its low energy, it is also referred to by people as the fat-burning zone. Zone 1 allows the body to transport more oxygen and nutrients to the body to produce energy.

Once your body gets used to this cardio training zone, you will not burn as much fat as you did in the beginning because you have reached a plateau. So instead of referring to this zone as the fat-burning zone, we will call it the recovery or cardio base zone. This zone will also be used when you are working out and you need to rest in between sets during your cardio training. As soon as your heart hits this target, you can start working out again because your body has recovered all of its energy back.

Cardio Training on Zone 2

Zone 2: 80-85% of MHR

In cardio training, zone 2 is where everyone thinks that just by performing at a high intensity, this is the way to go. The thing is, at this zone the body can no longer produce enough energy for the working muscles with just aerobic training.  This will cause you to go with a mixture of anaerobic training thus burning a mix of sugars and fats.

You can work on both leg strength & cardiovascular capacity by sustaining this zone for long periods of time. Ultimately, a person who trains with just this zone will reach a plateau and be unable to achieve the same results as he/she did in the first four weeks. In turn, it may end up in the person being able to perform a true high-intensity workout.

Cardio Training on Zone 3

Zone 3: 86-90% of  MHR.

This zone is only used to increase power and strength when cardio training. Zone 3 is where anaerobic will come in. Instead of your body metabolizing fats, it uses the carbs in the absence of oxygen. This is referred to as the anaerobic threshold. In this blog, I’m not going to go too much into the scientific part of things cause then I’ll end up writing a book about it.

Zone 3 will only be used for power, such as short sprints and power movements such as power clean. Zone 3 is only used to increase speed, power, metabolism, and anaerobic capacity.


Cardio Training Intervals

When doing cardio training, you want to do intervals with all 3 of these zones.  This will give you great results by burning both fats & sugars in your body! This cardio training method will train your heart and lungs and decrease the chances of overtraining.

By understanding how to use these zones, you will get better results and will rapidly get in better shape and fit.

It is always recommended that you do the obvious and consult with your doctor before starting any exercise. Once you have the go-ahead, be sure to use a heart rate monitor to prevent injuries, and decrease the chances of overtraining.

Online personal trainer and personal trainer for Austin TX - Rafael Ortiz

Rafael Ortiz

Rafael has been in the health and fitness industry since 2006.  He is certified by the NASM & insured.

Areas of Expertise

Joint Pain Relief, Post-Rehab Personal Training, Posture Correction, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Strength Training, Core and Balance, Flexibility and Mobility, Muscle Gain, Posture, TRX, Functional Training, Myofascial Release, Cardiovascular Conditioning, Injury Prevention, Stress Reduction, Corrective Exercise, Golf

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