Heart Rate Monitor: Chest Strap or Watch?

So you’ve finally made up your mind and committed yourself to work out. It’s a significant first step, but it doesn’t mean that your job is done. Although you may not think so, monitoring your body during workouts is equally important. In fact, to get the most out of your training sessions, you need to track your heart rate on a regular basis.

 

running with a heart rate monitor chest strap

Why is it essential to use a heart rate monitor during a workout?

Working out isn’t merely about the amount of exercise you do, but also about the intensity of your training sessions. As technology evolves at lightning speed, ever-more sophisticated heart rate monitors (HRMs) appear on the market, making it possible to measure intensity.

If you’re into sports (and we believe that you are), you’re probably familiar with many heart rate monitors, fitness trackers, and fitness apps. But before we immerse ourselves in the topic, let’s quickly clarify what a heart rate monitor is.

A heart rate monitor is a wearable device that measures and displays the number of your heart beats per minute during a training session. While simpler heart rate monitors display only the average heart rate during a workout, more advanced models are even capable of saving and showing your heart rate on a graph compared to several aspects measured during the exercise. In other words, an ideal heart rate monitor will provide you with a lot of information about your body. Sounds awesome, right?

One thing is for sure: whether you’re a beginner fitness enthusiast or a pro athlete, wearing a heart rate monitor is always a good idea. In fact, it allows beginners to get familiar with how they feel at a given heart rate and monitor their progress accordingly, while advanced exercisers can set goals and better judge their limitations.

Furthermore, by monitoring your heart rate with devices that read your pulse during training, you’ll be able to determine whether you’re pushing your body too hard, indicating that it’s time to take a short break. Similarly, a monitor also lets you know when you need to push your limits further to achieve the goals you set.

So it’s clear that using a monitor is a great idea if you want to keep track of your progress and improve your fitness performance. But only if you know how to use the heart rate data it collects.

Who can benefit from a heart rate monitor?

While using an HRM is not necessary for everyone, if you’re serious about your workout routine, then it’s definitely worth opting for one.

According to experts, two groups of exercisers benefit the most from heart rate monitor gadgets:

First of all, professional athletes who are able to benefit from the heart rate data they collect and use them to improve their performance. Secondly, when you’re working out, chances are good that you want to establish a heart rate zone and stay in that specific zone.

Heart rate zones indicate a range within which your heart beats per minute. Setting a right target zone is the backbone of any proper workout routine. By doing this, you’ll be able to decide how effective your training is, and speed up if you need to work harder or slow down if you pushed your limits too much.

Several target zones measure the effectiveness of your workout. With the help of an HRM, you can quickly establish your ideal target zone, and your gadget will guide you to stay in it.

For instance, if you’ve recently started to run, and you’re still in the lowest zone, then it’s a great indicator to push it harder. As you can see, establishing your ideal zone using a monitor can be a great help in monitoring your progress step by step.

Time to invest in a heart rate monitor, right? Read further, and make sure to find the right solution for you!

Heart rate monitor chest strap vs. wrist-based optical technology

These days, heart rate monitors come in all forms, including chest straps, wrist-based heart rate technology, optical headbands and even headphones with solid sound quality, so it’s no surprise that you don’t know which one is the right choice for you.

When it comes to choosing a proper heart rate monitor, classic chest straps and wrist-based monitors continue to compete for most customers. While the latter uses optical technology to collect data from your body, chest straps use an electrical pulse to read your heart rate.

But how do these smart gadgets actually work? A chest strap heart rate monitor typically measures your pulse via electrical signals and sends the data to a connected device, such as your smartphone. On the other hand, wrist-based monitors, such as an Apple Watch, detect the blood pulsing through your veins with the help of its optical heart rate sensors.

As chest straps are located closer to your heart, it’s generally said that they are more reliable. Furthermore, as chest straps work with old school watch batteries, they definitely outlast almost all optical heart rate watches available on the market. So in terms of accuracy and battery life, chest straps are the winners! At the same time, keep in mind, that this type of HRM is not very comfortable, and you probably wouldn’t want to wear it all the time.

During more extended training sessions, wrist-based heart rate monitors are considered to be a more convenient choice. On the other hand, heart rate watches have always had an issue with accuracy, as they tend to lag behind when it comes to detecting rapid heart rate change. In addition, they are a bit more expensive than chest straps. Despite the few cons mentioned above, you can still have reasonably good results with a heart rate watch.

As you can see, both types have several pros and cons, so the choice between strap and wrist isn’t always black and white.

Discover your heart rate zone!

Training with an HRM device not only allows you to track your progress but also helps you achieve results you never thought were possible. If you choose training with a heart rate monitor, your most important task is to focus on keeping your heart rate between a set training zone.

Although heart rate zones are determined based on individuals’ heart rates, here are the three crucial heart rate zones. But don’t forget, everyone has to find out up their own metrics. This is just a general guide to help you establish your own numbers.

The low-intensity heart rate zone is considered between 40 to 50 percent of your maximum heart rate. The lowest heart rate zone keeps you at a comfortable pace, making it ideal for beginners or as a warm-up session. It is advisable for beginners to start working out in this heart rate zone to build their exercise tolerance and get used to a moderately active lifestyle.

If you’re in the moderate intensity heart rate zone, then your heart rate stays between 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. This means that you’ll be able to build stamina and lose weight effectively. Examples of moderate intensity workouts include easy jogging or fast-paced walking.

The high-intensity heart rate zone gets you out of your comfort zone and helps you to improve your VO2 max (your maximum rate of oxygen use). Experts recommend that exercisers should combine moderate intensity training with high intensity training, preferably spread throughout the week. Running and cycling faster than 10mph are typical examples of high-intensity workouts.

Finally, the highest heart rate zone, also known as maximum effort heart rate zone takes up to 85 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate. Working out at this level means that you’re training at maximum effort, making this zone ideal for pro athletes. Amongst other things, maximum effort heart rate zone workouts include maximum-effort sprints and high-intensity interval training.

Once you’re familiar with the various heart rate zones, it’s time to find the ideal range for you. These days, many heart rate monitors come with a heart rate detector, meaning that by tracking your resting heart rate, they can determine your ideal heart rate zone. Similarly, heart rate detection is now featured in most treadmills and elliptical machines. If you would like to choose the traditional way, you can also establish your ideal zone by calculating your resting and maximum heart rate.

Conclusion

To sum up, heart rate monitors are great and ever-more popular workout tools. As you can see, everyone, from beginners to pro athletes can benefit from using these smart gadgets. Amongst other things, an HRM allows you to pay attention to your body, get a better picture of your training sessions while helping you push your limits and achieve the goals you set.