Workouts have become so high-tech lately that people look more like they are undergoing scientific testing than exercising. The one gadget you should be using if you aren't however, is a heart rate monitor.

Heart-rate monitors are two-piece devices, with a few exceptions from different brands. The strap goes around your chest at sternum height, and the watch goes around your wrist. The sensors in the chest strap send a signal to the wristwatch, as well as some cardio machines, letting you know how fast your heart is beating during exercise.

Tracking your heart rate is important because it tells you exactly how hard you are working at every point in your workout. Intensity can be hard to judge, and without help is subjective, but your heart rate does not lie.

The first time you use your heart rate monitor, you'll enter in your personal stats: height, age and weight. Based on those stats, your monitor will not only let you know how many times per minute your heart is beating, but at what intensity range you are working. Generally, barring no special limitations from a doctor, one would want to work within 65 to 85 percent of one’s maximum heart rate. Maximum heart rate is calculated by subtracting your age from 220.

Your monitor will tell you both what your heart rate is at any given moment and what percentage of your maximum rate you are working at. If you fall below 65 percent, you know to bump it up. If your heart rate has shot into the 95%+ percent range, you know to pull it back for a bit and recover.

Without a heart-rate monitor, you would need to stop constantly and take your pulse, which can get tedious. Or you can go by how you feel, but how hard exercise feels and how hard you are actually working are two very different things.

Heart rate monitors are mostly used for cardio but you can use them to keep your intensity high during any type of exercise. You can use your heart rate monitor for strength training to time your rest intervals and prompt you to move to the next exercise just when you recover, never wasting a second or guessing what your intervals should be. Recovery is subjective, but a heart rate monitor can tell you exactly when to start moving again ensuring you get cardiovascular benefits from your strength training, as well as muscle gains.

 

by Kelly Turner

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