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How to train with a heart rate monitor?

by Philippe Baudoin © Copyright
Sportsman programming his GPS cardio

Tame your heart!

Measuring in real time the value of an effort during physical activity and use this information to optimize training, evaluate fitness, calibrate an effort, track and evaluate progress or even lose weight, some people have dreamt it, others have made it: the heart rate monitor or cardio-frequency meter fulfils this mission. Explanations.

Basics of heart rate monitoring

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The heart is a pump that ensures the circulation of blood in the body, supplying the muscles with oxygen and nutrients and allowing the elimination of the waste products formed, the toxins. During an effort, the needs of the muscle increase as well as the toxins evacuated. The heart must therefore beat faster to meet its needs. The value of the pulse is therefore closely linked to the level of effort made.

Observation has shown that the heart rate is a linear function of the workload. A continuous measurement of its value thus makes it possible to estimate in real time the intensity of the effort made. This data is useful for evaluating the caloric expenditure during an exercise, for dosing an effort and adapting it to the limits determined by the trainer or for assessing the capacity for recovery after the effort.

What is a heart rate monitor or cardio frequency meter?

A heart rate monitor is an electronic device the size of a wristwatch that measures in real time, continuously, reliably and accurately the frequency of your heart beat. It gives an idea of the effort produced during an exercise.

It comprises:

  • A transmitter chest strap worn around the chest. Its sensor pads are in contact with the skin and transform the cardiac pulse into electrical signals that are broadcasted to the receiver unit.
  • A receiver unit worn around the wrist like a watch or placed on a bike.

Besides heart rate, heart rate monitors can indicate, depending on the model, other information such as:

  • Average hear rate during the workout
  • Calories burnt
  • Percentage of fat consumed
  • Estimation of the maximum heart rate (HRmax or MHR).
  • Estimation of the VO2max (Maximal Oxygen Uptake/consumption)
  • Fitness test and evaluation of the capacity to recover
  • Heart rate zone definition and time spent in a target zone
  • Pre-programmed workouts
  • Timers, alarms, clock, interval timers, speed and distance system, altimeter, etc.

Some sophisticated devices allow the data to be recorded instantly in memory throughout the exercise and displayed as a graph on a computer. Most models have a coded transmitter belt that avoids any interference with other heart rate monitors. There are also heart rate monitors that can store the profile of 2 users and thus be shared.

Un bracelet connecté

Un objet intelligent pour vous aider à rester en bonne santé !
Il détecte vos mouvements (marche, saut, course, sommeil, etc.), enregistre votre activité physique (nombre de pas, distance parcourue), en déduit les calories dépensées et synthétise le tout sous forme graphique. Il permet de programmer des objectifs, note vos progrès, vous encourage à bouger, prodigue des conseils utiles et peut même être contrôlé à partir d'un smartphone. Tout cela dans le but de vous garder en bonne santé. Une petite révolution technologique qui envahit actuellement le marché et vise principalement les non-sportifs.

In a completely different category, there are connected bracelets or watches called "activity trackers" or "activity bracelets" that detect your movements (walking, jumping, running, sleeping, etc.), record your physical activity (number of steps, distance travelled), deduce the calories burned and synthesize everything under graphic form. They allow you to set goals, keep track of your progress, encourage you to move, provide useful tips and can even be monitored from a smartphone. All this with the aim of keeping you healthy. A small technological revolution that is currently invading the market and is mainly aimed at non-athletes. To learn more, check out our Connected objects: the activity bracelet.

What are heart rate monitors used for?

As we have seen, the heart rate monitor is not limited to simply measuring the pulse. It is used to evaluate the intensity of the instantaneous effort provided and thus makes it possible to manage its training better. Among the common uses, let us quote:

  • Optimization of training by calibrating the effort and programming target zones.
  • Optimizing fat burning in weight loss exercises.
  • The test of form, VO2max, maximum heart rate, resting heart rate.
  • Managing effort in a race.

By allowing the structuring and personalisation of training, the heart rate monitor makes it more effective. It contributes to the athlete's motivation by providing objective measurement data. It is today the essential ally of the professional for his sports monitoring and is increasingly popular with the amateur.

Testing your fitness with a cardio

Avis et comparatif de montres cardio

Jolie montre cardio Une sélection de 25 montres sportives au meilleur prix

Le cardio-fréquencemètre est devenu un outil incontournable du sportif, que ce soit pour s'entraîner, perdre du poids ou simplement maintenir sa forme. Mais les montres actuelles offrent bien plus que le simple relevé du pouls. Selon le sport pratiqué, elles embarquent un nombre impressionnant de fonctions annexes permettant de tirer le meilleur parti de sa sortie. Comment s'y retrouver ?

Some heart rate monitors offer the possibility of testing one's fitness or recovery status by means of a test lasting a few minutes at rest. The device is based on the instantaneous heart rate, the variability of this rate at rest and the programmed characteristics of the person being tested (sex, age, weight, height).

Measuring the heart rate at rest also gives a good indication of the state of recovery following a major effort. It allows you to detect possible overtraining (cases where the pulse rate taken on waking is more than 10% higher than normal over several consecutive days) and to dose the frequency and intensity of outings accordingly.

The Ruffier test makes it easy to track your fitness from the pulse measurement taken during an exercise. Simple to implement, it requires no specific equipment.

Lose fat with a heart rate monitor

Le saviez-vous ?

3 fois plus de graisses brûlées avec le fractionné !

sportifs pratiquant vélo elliptique en salle On sait depuis longtemps que les graisses sont brûlées plus efficacement si l'on respecte une zone cible d'intensité correspondant à environ 60-70% de sa fréquence cardiaque maximum. Selon des études récentes menées en Australie et au Japon, le fractionné serait beaucoup plus efficace en brûlant jusqu'à 3 fois plus de graisses.

During physical effort, we burn fat and carbohydrates. The percentage of burnt fat depends essentially on the intensity of the effort. The greater the effort, the smaller the percentage. During high intensity efforts, muscles will consume more carbohydrates than fat. Conversely, during a low-intensity effort, the consumption of fat will be greater in proportion. See on this subject our article how to effectively burn fat in excess.

To optimize fat consumption, you must therefore make an effort of sufficient intensity to burn calories but not too intense to make the consumption of fat optimal. An effort of intensity between 60 and 70% of the FCmax is perfect. Thus, walking at a good pace is equivalent to jogging. The use of a cardio frequency meter allowing the programming of effort target zones is ideal for this follow-up. Note that recent studies have shown the interest of interval training to lose even more fat. See our article lose fat effectively through interval training.

How to choose a heart rate monitor?

Before buying a heart rate monitor, choose the brand and model that best suits your needs. There are all kinds, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, which store data from your journey (mileage, instantaneous speed, altitude, etc.) and display it in graphic form on your PC. Some models include a pedometer that allows runners or walkers to measure the distance covered on foot. Others can be used for swimming and are waterproof up to 100 meters underwater.

Depending on the sport you do, the number of hours you practice per week, the objectives you wish to achieve, this or that cardio will meet your needs. There is no need to buy the most expensive machine if your objective is to manage your effort or lose a few extra pounds.

See also how to choose your cardio watch and our our comparative of cardio watches.

Where to buy a heart rate monitor (Commercial Links)

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Sport Passion n'affiche pas de publicités sur son site. Pour pouvoir offrir un contenu gratuit, nous sommes rémunérés par l'affiliation (petite commission sur les ventes réalisées sans que cela ne vous coûte 1 centime de plus). Certaines photos et liens peuvent ne pas fonctionner avec les Adblockers. Pour une navigation optimale, nous vous recommandons de désactiver votre Adblocker.
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You can find sporty GPS heart rate watches in specialty stores and on the Internet. We recommend the following brands:

i-Run : a running specialist. Free shipping from 90 € of purchase. View site

Lepape : Big specialist in fitness and sports equipment. Free delivery from 90 € of purchase. View site

Amazon: shipping usually offered. View site.

See also our Cardio watch reviews and comparisons


Philippe Baudoin
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Photo credit : Adobe Stock. This article contains commercial links.