heart rate training

How to Utilize Heart Rate Training For a More Efficient Workout

Originally published June 27, 2017 by Fitness Formula Clubs.

By Tyler Sutphen, FFC Union Station Personal Trainer

Whether you are spending time on the treadmill or time hitting the weights, chances are you might not be using that time as effectively as you could be. Time is of the essence, so let’s get right into it.

heart rate trainingMost exercise routines you see online do not take into account your heart rate during each training session. Most likely, they state something to the effect of doing 30 minutes to an hour on some piece of cardio equipment and a basic strength program stating you should rest for 30 seconds between each set.

While the person who has just started out might see great results due to increased physical activity, they will inevitably plateau. The old-school method of training using 30 second rest periods or steady state cardio sessions needs to be tossed out the window. Steady state cardio is essentially using the same piece of cardio equipment at the same level of intensity (speed, incline, stride, etc.) for the entire duration of the workout.

Instead, I strongly urge my clients to utilize heart rate training to reach their fullest exercise potential. Here’s why:

The 101 On Heart Rate Monitors

When people hear “heart rate monitors”, they often think of them only useful for running, swimming, and other methods of training the cardiovascular system. If used properly, however, they can be used during your weight training sessions too. Your heart rate dictates what hormones and other chemicals the brain calls to action during and after your workouts. In order to build more muscle or burn more fat more efficiently, you need to be within specific heart rate zones.

Heart rate monitors allow your trainer (and you) to know how safe and effective you are during your workouts. When I train my clients, I’ll instruct them how much time I want them to be in each zone depending on their ability and goals, with or without me. You would not drive your car without a speedometer, so why would you train your body without knowing what speed you’re training at?

When you drive your vehicle at different speeds you burn more gas than you would when you travel at the same speed. The same is true for the amount of calories (gas) your body (vehicle) burns when you are constantly changing your heart rate (speed). By changing the intensity (determined by your heart rate) of your workouts (for example, in a PTC class), you keep your body guessing, which will help avoid plateaus and illicit a large EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), better known as the “after-burn”. A larger after-burn equates to a larger amount of calories burned after your workout is completed.

Pros and Cons of Heart Rate Monitors for Exercise

Some potential setbacks with heart rate training include the level of accuracy when first starting out – often, the max heart rate may need to be adjusted according to the individual (your club’s fitness director can do this). Additionally, heart rate monitors that are used on the wrist such as Fitbit or Apple watches are not as accurate as those that are paired with a chest strap.

Finally, people may use a heart rate monitor, but not know how to properly utilize each zone to their max benefit – or stay in one zone too long, which also has limited benefits. For the most accurate measurement for your personal cardio-respiratory capacity, you can go through a VO2 max test (check out more info on the service here).

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