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Whether you are just starting out or have been doing strength training for some time, it’s fair to assume that you know quite a bit about exercise and other fitness related matters already. What you may not know, however, is how handy a quality heart rate monitor can be, no matter what kind of workout you’re aiming for. They’re great for keeping track of your MHR and HRV, which are very important.
What Are Your Max Heart Rate (MHR) and Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?
Both your max heart rate and your heart rate variability are very important, particularly if you are an athlete or serious fitness enthusiast. Your max heart rate is the highest that your heart rate can safely be at for extended lengths of time.
As coach and writer Doug Dupont explains in one of his most recent articles, there is a change in the length of time between heart beats. There is a lot of research that strongly indicates that a higher heart rate variability suggests a strong, healthy heart.
Determining the maximum heart rate that is healthy and reasonable for you personally is actually really easy. You just subtract your age from the number 210. That’s it, 210 – your age.
Determining your heart rate variability is an entirely different matter however. This requires several complex calculations. Fortunately for us, modern technology has made it drastically easier. There are many apps available that can determine your HRV from the data that is recorded by your heart rate monitor.
Why It Is Important to Monitor Your Heart Rate & Heart Rate Variability
It is important for you to monitor your own heart rate and heart rate variability while you are working out. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study confirms that heart rate variability reflects an athlete’s ideal training load as well as their psychophysiological status. In other words, it helps you determine your own ideal training pace.
As far as exercise and training programs go, strength training is one of the most notorious for elevating your heart rate above your recommended max heart rate. The more effort that you exert in your set, whether pushing or pulling, the faster your heart rate accelerates.
The very nature of strength training demands that you push yourself as far as you can go so that you can continue to conquer your own personal bests. This can be incredibly dangerous to your health if you do not monitor yourself appropriately however.
Exercise physiology expert Andrew Flatt explains in his article how HRV provides us with critical information about the function of our autonomic nerve system. Your HRV can tell you how well your reflexes are working, for both exercising and recovering. The time it takes to recover is just as critical as the time it takes your body to kick it into gear and go.
A Higher Heart Rate Variability is Associated with Good Health
While it isn’t necessarily true for everyone, the average individual is considered to be in better health if they have a higher heart rate variability. Higher heart rate variability is linked with better exercise performance and better recovery time. Having a good recovery time is critical in weight training. You need to be able to give it your all during your training sessions.
On the opposite side of the coin, poor heart rate variability is commonly linked to diseases such as diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease. The lower your heart rate variability is, the more slowly your body recovers. The more slowly the body recovers, the more inefficient it is at completing normal functions.
What You Can Do to Avoid Elevating Your Heart Rate above Your MHR
The first thing you should do is get a quality heart rate monitor. Once you choose a heart rate monitor, you should begin recording your HR and HRV consistently, several times each day.
This will help you to determine whether you are under or over training, and to adjust your routine accordingly. The data will show you what changes you need to make in order to either increase or decrease your heart rate.
Other things that you can do to improve your heart rate during your workouts include regulating your breathing and giving yourself regular breaks. If you don’t want to slow down enough to actually take breaks, you can also set up several training stations that you move between in order to give yourself short rest periods in combination with light aerobic movement.
There are a broad variety of heart rate monitors that are available on the market right now. However, there are a few Bluetooth models that definitely stand out in particular. The following are the five best Bluetooth heart rate monitors that we could find. Each is impressively handy in its own way.
Personally, we prefer the armband design to the chest strap design. If you also prefer the armband style, this is one of the best Bluetooth heart rate monitors that we can recommend.
For starters, the Scosche RHYTHM+ is a sleek, attractive model that is hardly even noticeable when you wear it. If you like to match from head to toe however, it is available in a variety of different colors, rather than the standard, boring white or black you see with other brands.
This heart rate monitor is compatible with all of your favorite fitness and health apps, and syncs easily with your phones and tablets. And the battery charge lasts 8 hours.
These features allow you to track your HRV more frequently throughout the day, so that you can make sure that you’re where you want to be, whether you’re in your recovery zone or prepping for a competition.
Another of our favorite things about this particular Bluetooth HR monitor is that it keeps track of more than just your heart rate and calories burned. When you’re doing your runs for cardio it can also track your distance and pace.
While we admit that we’re not usually a fan of the chest strap while working out, the Polar H7 is definitely an exception to the rule. It’s actually very comfortable; formfitting, low profile and waterproof. It is great even when you’re just working up a good sweat.
Again, this model is also compatible with all of your favorite apps, but has the additional benefit of also being compatible with several of the favorite machines at the gym.
We use the Polar H7 exclusively for strength training because of its simplicity and efficiency. It’s a no-nonsense heart rate monitor that’s great for keeping track of your HR and calories burned, with no additional information to distract you from what really matters during your training sessions.
Third on our list of recommendations is the Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor. This one is another arm band design. We really like this model, however it isn’t compatible with as many of our favorite health/fitness apps.
It does however come with access to the Wahoo brand apps, which are great. We would have just preferred to keep using the apps that we already had, but these apps did have some unique features worth checking out.
The Wahoo TICKR does sync up with our phones and tablets without any problems however. It’s really easy to transfer your heart rate, training zone range, and calories burned data to either device so that you can check out your HRV and recovery.
Last on our list, but certainly no slouch, is the Zephyr HxM BT. We almost didn’t check this model out because it is a chest strap design, but we’re glad that we did. It’s comfortable, washable and breathes.
Our absolute favorite thing about this model, hands down, is the battery life. The Zephyr HxM is powered by rechargeable batteries that hold an amazing 26 hour charge. None of the other Bluetooth heart rate monitors that we’ve used have had that long of a battery life. Very impressed.
This HR monitor only monitors heart rate and calories burned, but it’s more than enough to keep track of your heart rate during intense training sessions, and then throughout the rest of the day and evening to check your recovery progress and HRV.