Zone 2 Cardio | Heart Rate Training Zones

Let’s talk about zone 2 heart rate training

Zone 2 cardio heart rate training has become more and more popular lately in the sport of fitness.

For the advanced athletes and coaches we know that building an aerobic base if priority #1


Most people aren’t willing to put in the “boring” work temporarily to build your aerobic capacity.

Especially when the average person is popping into a gym for an hour a few times a week.

Today I’m going to talk about:

I’ll give you some cardio examples of what workouts look like in each zone as well.

We believe that aerobic training is a missing training component from a lot of athletes. We also know that it’s difficult to keep adding more and more training on top of your workouts. That’s why we created our K2 Engine program. It’s built to increase your aerobic capacity. Learn more here.

Zone 2 cardio training is about breathe control.

Zone 2 Cardio Training

Zone 2 training is staying within a specific heart rate during your training session.

Cardiorespiratory endurance is probably the most misunderstood and underrated.

Most athletes fail to understand WHY building an aerobic base is such an important part of a complete training program.

Without a proper aerobic base, an athletes performance may decrease over time, opening a door for underperformance and possible injury.

Exercise is a form of stress.

Stress can be by physical, mental, emotional, etc essentially your body doesn’t know the difference.

Too much stress leads things going south…

…injured and or sick.

Most Common Goals

  • Improve performance. Delay the onset of fatigue during competition.
  • Weight Management. Proper cardio can help with weight loss. To meet these goals both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems must be trained.

Zone 2 cardio training is great because it promotes recovery and also can raise your “aerobic threshold”.

To understand what I’m talking about lets break down the different heart rate training zones so you can have a better understanding of what this

both feels like and also where your heart rate should be when training this way.

crossfit workouts
Heart rate training is about attention to detail

Aerobic Vs Anaerobic Energy System

I’m not trying to give you a lecture but since you are interested in heart rate training I’m confident that you would like to understand more.

The more you can understand = the more buy in to what you are doing.

^^^we love to have athletes like you on our team :)

Learn more about our daily cardio training by clicking here.

Aerobic System

This energy system is roughly up to 75% of your max heart rate and helps to build your aerobic base which is critical to improving your heart and lunge capacity.

at home workout
You want to do both.

Anaerobic System

Interval training.

This type of training we are working on increasing speed, power, metabolism and your top end capacity with repeated efforts of high intensity training.

I’m going to provide specific examples as we break down the different heart rate training zones below.

Let’s dive in.

Heart Rate Training Zones

When we training with specific heart rate training we are working on the fine details.

I’ll provide:

  • how to calculate your target heart rate
  • targeted heart rate for each zone
  • example workout

How To Calculate Your Target Heart Rate For Zone 2 Or For Any Zone

There are a couple of different formulas that are out there.

I’ll share two with you two.


The Karvonen Method

[(220 – age) – resting heart rate] x desired % of training

+ resting heart rate = Training heart rate

Let me give you an example for a 25 year old with a resting heart rate at 60

220 – 25 (age) = 195

195 – 60 (resting heart rate) = 135

135 x 70% (zone 2) = 95

95 + 60 (resting heart rate) = 155 targeted heart rate for zone 2 training.


Maffetone Method (very popular)

180 – age

Both of these formulas can be thrown off by 10-12 beats based on a few things:

  • being in fantastic shape (+5 to your heart rate)
  • recovering from being sick (subtract your target heart rate by 10)
  • injured, can’t recover, feel like you are worn down (subtract target heart rate by 5 beats per minute)

Cardio Training Zone 1 (Warm Up)

50-60% of your max heart rate.

Zone 1 is your warm up/recovery zone.

Sample workout:

  • 30 minute walk
zone 2 cardio
Just getting loose.

Cardio Training Zone 2 (Easy)

60-70% of your max heart rate

Zone 2 cardio training is quite honestly the type of cardio that you just check out during.

You aren’t pushing the pace, breathing super heavy, it’s actually pleasant.

I like to challenge myself to do nasal breathing so I still have an added level of “focus” so I’m challenging myself in some way.

Because that’s just who I am :P

If you want to get in better shape, get back into shape, and or elevate your elite performance thennn you are going to want to have zone 2 cardio

as a part of your training.

Sample zone 2 cardio workout:

30-45 minutes at a zone 2 heart rate 2 -3 times per week.


Just get it done.

zone 2 cardio
Zone 2 cardio we are cruising at conversational pace

Cardio Training Zone 3 (Aerobic)

70-80% of max heart rate

Here is the deal with this zone.

Your working hard but in the honest truth is…

…you actually aren’t working hard enough to create change.

You’re in a bit of no mans land.

Your going too hard for the benefits of zone 2 cardio:

  • flushing lactic acid
  • improving your V02 max
  • teaching your body to use fat as fuel
  • put your body into a recovery state

But you also aren’t going hard for the benefits of zone 4:

  • increased power output
  • burning a ton of calories and primarily from carbohydrates
  • boost your lactate threshold (delay that horrible feeling in your legs)

Sample workout:

2 sets:

Run x 400 meters @ fast pace

Walk x 90 seconds

Run x 800 meters @ faster pace

Walk x 90 seconds

Run x 200 meters @ fastest pace

Walk x 3 minutes

Run x 400 meters @ moderate pace then go straight back to the top (run x 400 meters @ fast pace)

However maybe if you did 3 sets that might start to get you into a zone 4 because then your body is really starting to fatigue. (this obviously depends on your fitness level)

heart rate training zones
Zone 4 is painful.

Cardio Training Zone 4 (Threshold)

80-90% of max heart rate

Now you are getting into really challenging work.

This is is where a lot of “race pace” work is done.

Work really hard, rest and recover or your legs are going to feel like they have concrete in them.

Not a fun feeling.

Goes back to why zone 2 cardio training is important.

If you are deconditioned and you try and do a challenged speed workout.

The person who has a better aerobic system is going to be able to delay when their legs begin to feel like concrete.

Believe me. You want to delay this feeling as much as possible.

Sample workout:

5 sets

Bike x 25 calories @ fast pace

10 x moderate weight front squats

rest x 2 minutes

zone 2 cardio

Cardio Training Zone 5 (Max Effort)

90%+ of max heart rate

You can’t stay here long.

It doesn’t matter how fit you are.

The only thing that comes to mind is bike sprints.

Bike sprints at max effort for short durations will get you to this level of intensity.

If you are asking yourself why would you want to reach this level of intensity:

  • increases your bodies mitochondria which can help you produce more fast twitch muscle fibers
  • training at race pace or preparing for a competition
  • looking to maximize peak power output

Also –if you just do the same thing day after day, week after week, your body will adapt. You need to shock the system every once in awhile.

You don’t want to spend a ton of time doing zone 5 training.

I have even heard other experts say that your training should be built on 80/20.

80% of aerobic training & 20% of intense training (zone 5 being only a fraction of that maybe 5%)

Sample workout:

Bike x 30 calories x sprint

Rest x 5 minutes

Bike x 25 calories x sprint

Rest x 4 minutes

Bike x 20 calories x sprint

Rest x 3 minutes

zone 2 cardio
Check out our engine programming. Daily cardio 20-30 minutes a day.

So Why Is Zone 2 Cardio Training So Important?

Most athletes don’t spend enough time actually developing their aerobic system.

Also it’s a perfect training zone to flush out “waste” in your muscles form your hard training sessions.

Think of it this way:

  • If Athlete A can do a workout at an average heart rate at 150.
  • Athlete B does the same workout at an average heart rate at 140.
  • Athlete B has a higher threshold because they can perform the same amount of work with a lower heart rate.

The more you spend working on your zone 2 cardio it will increase your threshold.

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Zone 2 cardio training is great for recovery, improving your aerobic capacity and delaying muscle fatigue when you get into higher intensity training.

The easiest formula to calculate your zone 2 cardio targeted heart rate is the Maffetone method:

180 - your age

I shared another formula above if you want to check that out.

I gave you some sample workouts for each of the heart rate training zones and if you have any other questions feel free to comment below.

If you want to improve your cardio whether for performance or for weight management then check out:

Our K2 Engine program that is designed to help improve your engine so you can go longer.

zone 2 cardio
Your coaches Kevin & Katie

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you do Zone 2 cardio?

I recommend people adding zone 2 cardio to their training to build aerobic capacity and promote recovery 2-3 days a week. Go through a warm up, then spend 30-45 minutes at a zone 2. Based off your fitness level you may have to slow down to walk if your heart rate gets too high. Goal is to stay within your targeted heart rate (180-age) for that duration.

What is my targeted heart rate for zone 2?

The simplest equation is the Maffetone Method (180-age).

Is Zone 2 best for fat burning?

During lower intensity exercise your primary source is from fat (the more you can do this the better actually) however you don't burn as many calories. Higher intensity exercise burns primarily carbs but burns a ton of calories. This is why a mix of high intensity training & aerobic training is important for weight management.

Do I need to run for my zone 2 cardio?

No. If you are within your target heart rate you are doing zone 2 training :). That being said running is the most demanding on your body because you have to support your own bodyweight compared to a machine. But if you prefer to run, row, bike or even mix this in with a workout that's fine as long as you are within your target heart rate.

Any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments below :)

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