Do Zones Work for Lifting Too?

Do zones work for lifting too? — a question I was asked this week so let’s dive in 👇🏻

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NOW— I understand why this is asked. You have a heart rate all day, and when you lift it does increase. As I’ve covered before, the stimulus of lifting with a high heart rate ≠ the same as traditional cardio. It is working different metabolic pathways and the physiological response and adaptations are different.

This is NOT me saying lifting is bad for health. It does contribute to improved cardio metabolic disease. Even MORE so with cardio!

There isn’t as complete of a relationship with HR intensity during lifting like there is with cardio and VO2 or even energy expended. This also contributes to your potential frustrations with your fitness trackers.

A high heart rate doesn’t mean you’re doing more work in your lift necessarily or it’s better NOR does a low heart rate mean it’s not a good lift or zone 2. Your lifting fatigue and effort is larger or due to mechanical tension and muscular output in a more powerful manner than endurance.

While these can increase heart rate again, they aren’t cardio. And the degree to which your heart rate increases or recovers is even a reflection of your aerobic fitness and recoverability.

This is because during your rest periods your muscles are using your oxidative system to regenerate the broken down phospho creatine in your muscles. These are the quick immediate energy you use during your lifts. More cardio fitness will likely result in lower lifting heart rates + better intra set recovery. CARDIO IS FOR LIFTERS TOO.

Similarly, this also contributes to your metcon fatigue, ability to maintain lower heart rates or higher oxidative capacity with less fatigue or remaining at or under the lactate threshold during effort.

So don’t ditch your whoops or your fitness trackers quite yet. But understand the utility of zones is more appropriate for cardio where the relationship is more direct vs decoupled. Aka your heart rate at any given point ≠ a specific cardio adaptation, VO2 stress or similar.

Hey, I'm Lyss!

I’m Exercise Physiologist, sports nutritionist, weight lifter, and ultra runner. I am here to bring science to your training in a no-nonsense way. I have helped thousands of women crush big lifting goals, cross race finish lines, and even do both. I’m here to help you do the same!

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Exercise Scientist, ultra runner, lifter, human.