DAYP 29: All About Zone 5 Training

Here’s what’s on the healthspan menu today:

  • What is Zone 5 Training
  • The Benefits of Zone 5 Training
  • How to Structure Zone 5 Training Sessions

What is Zone 5 Training

High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) or Zone 5 training is considered to be 90-100% of your maximum heart rate. If your max heart rate is 200 BPM then to train in Zone 5 you need to get your heart rate to 180 to 200 BPM.

Another way of defining Zone 5 is an “all-out” effort where you push your muscles to their maximum capability. Pushed so hard that your muscles produce so much lactate that your body can’t clear it.

This results in that burning sensation, which forces you to slow down, no matter how hard you push.

For those of you who have trained at this heart rate, you know how difficult and painful it can be. It hurts so much you don’t want to do it again.

So why put yourself through this torture? Training Zone 5 is one of the best ways to improve your muscle’s ability to utilize oxygen during exercise or VO2 max.

The Benefits of Zone 5 Training

The primary benefit of HIIT or Zone 5 training is in increasing your VO2 max or maximum amount of oxygen your body utilizes during exercise.

It should be noted all exercise zones can contribute to improving your VO2 max, however, Zone 5 is the most effective.

What are the benefits of an improved VO2 max?

  • Improved quality of daily life. Climb a set of stairs without feeling like you ran a marathon.
  • Better sport and exercise performance. One study found a 5% increase in VO2 max equated to a 5-minute faster 10K running time.
  • Lower your risk of death. Researchers found a 10% increase in VO2 max could decrease all-cause mortality risk by 15%
  • Prevent age-related brain decline. Multiple studies have linked higher VO2 max numbers with reduced instances of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

While there are great benefits to Zone 5 training, it should be noted that it’s probably best for trained individuals and not beginners.

How to Structure Zone 5 Training Sessions

The good news is that there are almost endless ways to structure Zone 5 training. 

In terms of equipment, you can use anything where you can easily and safely put out an all-out effort at 90 to 100% of your maximum heart rate.

Equipment like a Stairmaster, rower, stationary bike, air fan bike, or incline treadmill. My favorite is the Rogue Echo Bike, a fan bike.

In terms of intervals, many people make the mistake of not taking enough rest and recovering. You want to recover enough so you can try to match the performance of your previous intervals. 

Dr. Attia has a great Zone 5 HIIT protocol I’d recommend.

It’s a 4-minute pattern where you do:

  • 3 minutes of Zone 2 (easy conversational pace)
  • 1 minute at your Zone 5 (all-out effort)
  • Repeat for 20-30 minutes (for beginners maybe start with 4 intervals and increase from there)

What I like about this protocol is that there is a good amount of rest built-in by having you spend 3 minutes in Zone 2 before increasing your effort to Zone 5. This still will hurt, but it’s much more sustainable.

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