The Benefits of Heart Rate Monitors

Tia Norris, Mountainside Fitness

Are heart rate monitors useful or not? The short answer is yes, heart rate monitors are very useful.

Let me ask you some questions:

–Do you want to know exactly how many calories you’ve burned in a workout?
–Do you want to know exactly how hard you’re working by seeing an objective number to reflect your effort?
–Do you want to know exactly how long you should rest between sets?

You should have answered yes to all of those questions. More precision equals faster results. Period. Do you like wasting time in the gym? Probably not. Don’t guess when you can know.

By now, you can tell how serious I am about heart rate monitors. These devices are probably most beneficial to people who want to lose weight and generally shrink in size. But they can provide specificity and other benefits to virtually any fitness goal, including bodybuilding, cardio-centric (did I just make that word up?) training and even basic, everyday maintenance training.

Let’s talk about why having a heart rate monitor is most important for weight loss. First of all, weight loss is very simply calories in is less than calories out. It’s science–eat less than what you burn off and you will lose weight. A heart rate monitor will track your calorie burn as a product of your height, weight, age, sex and heart rate.

If you know exactly how much you’re burning, you have a much clearer picture of how much you can take in. Sure, we have nice equations and general estimates of your daily calorie burn, but why just guess when you can know? Having a heart rate monitor brings specificity to your program, and, when it comes to your health, I prefer being certain rather than guessing, checking and wasting time.

Even if you don’t want to lose weight–even if your goal is to build muscle, improve your cardio or just maintain your current physique–don’t you think you could benefit from an extra touch of accountability? Here’s what I mean: You might think you’re working hard in the gym, but your rate of perceived exertion can sometimes be a little distorted. If you’re stressed, tired, or it’s the end of your workout, things are going to feel way more difficult than they actually are. Having a heart rate monitor provides an objective, specific gauge of how hard you’re working. Are you at 130 beats per minute? You might want to step it up. Are you at 150? Not bad, but try a little harder. 180? That’s better–you’re really working now. By knowing your number–which directly reflects your cardiovascular output–you have instant accountability on how hard you’re working.

Heart rate monitors also help you gauge how long your rest periods should be. Are you trying to lose weight, but you’re resting for three minutes between sets? Nice try, but you’re slacking. Your heart rate probably recovered after something like 30 to 60 seconds. Depending on your age, fitness abilities, health conditions and goals, you should have a set beats per minute count that serves as your exercise floor. When you hit that floor number, it’s time to get back to work because you’ve adequately recovered. Most healthy 20- to 30-year-olds have a beats per minute floor of about 120 to 130. Rest, recover and watch your heart rate–once you’ve hit 130, it’s time to get back to work. Don’t watch the clock, which is probably overestimating your rest time. Instead, watch your heart rate monitor and bring more precision to your training.
Heart rate monitors, in my mind, are almost as essential as having the proper footwear and the correct diet approach when it comes to training. They tell you how many calories you’re burning, how hard you’re working and how long you should be resting. These three tools are absolutely invaluable in structuring an effective workout program. Don’t just guess about your training–know!