Make a chest heart rate monitor your next investment to boost your fitness game!
By now, it shouldn’t be news to anyone that there is a significant difference between practice and deliberate practice.
There is too much “practice” in the fitness industry, with people following “out of the box” programs that may or may not be targeted at the results that they want, and wrongly assuming that the longer and harder they work, the sooner they will reach their results.
But deliberate practice means focussing on the details, and developing programs of activity that are specifically designed to help you reach your goals.
If you are trying to develop cardiovascular health, build endurance fitness, or lose weight, monitoring your heart rate and keeping it in the right zone will be essential to your deliberate practice.
To do this properly, you need a chest heart monitor. Yes, your smartwatch or wrist fitness tracker claims to track your heart rate, but if you are working out, you are going to need a more accurate and responsive chest monitor.
Read on as we share our picks for the five best chest heart rate monitors currently available in the UK.
Then we will go into why you need to monitor your heart while exercising and what your heart should be doing while you are working out.
We will also look at why you really need a chest heart rate monitor if you are engaging in intensive or interval-based exercise.
5 Best Chest Heart Rate Monitors
Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor
Wahoo Fitness is one of the most popular fitness apps on the market, so it is no surprise that they have come out with their own chest heart rate monitor to complement it as well.
Of course, the band will connect with hundreds of other fitness apps as well.
As well as monitoring heart rate, this band is pretty effective when it comes to determining calories burned if you are working to create a calorie deficit.
Connect it to your phone using either Bluetooth or ANT+. It also has integrated GPS if you want to use the monitor to track routes, distances, and speeds as well.
It is one of the lightest chest monitors on the market, so your biggest problem might be that you forget it’s there.
- Heart rate and calorie monitor
- Integrated GPS
- Bluetooth and ANT+
- Connects with Wahoo Fitness and other fitness applications
Garmin HRM-Dual Premium Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap
This premium monitor from Garmin is for the serious athlete for whom real-time accurate data is everything.
It transmits data rapidly via either Bluetooth or ANT+ technology. For the best results, link it up to a Garmin GPS wearable, but it also integrates with hundreds of other training apps.
Users report that the strap is one of the most comfortable on the market, and it is also long-lasting, with the battery lasting up to 3.5 years, even with very regular use (average 1 hour per day).
It comes with a two-year warranty to give you confidence in your investment.
- 2-year warranty
- Long-life battery
- Bluetooth and ANT+
- Links with Garmin GPS wearable
- Integrates with hundreds of fitness apps
LIVLOV V6 Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap
LIVLOV offers some of the most popular and affordable heart rate monitors on the UK market. They are worth the investment as they come with unlimited battery and chest strap replacements.
It has a relatively small monitor jewel, just 2.4 inches by 1.4 inches, so it is easy to position on the chest where you need it. It is secured by a comfortable and flexible strap.
The whole setup is waterproof, so it won’t be affected by sweat, though it is not recommended for swimming.
The results delivered by the monitor are compatible with hundreds of Fitness apps, so you can integrate the data that you are collecting with your other fitness data using Bluetooth 4.0. Compatible with devices running iOS11 or Android 5.0 and later.
- Unlimited battery and strap replacement
- Waterproof, but not suitable for swimming
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Compatible with hundreds of fitness apps
- iOS11 or Android 5.0 and later
Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor
This chest monitor from Polar is largely recognized as one of the most accurate, using premium ECG measurements and state-of-the-art electrodes.
Connect to your smartphone using Bluetooth, ANT+, or Wi-Fi, giving you options for any device.
The ANT+ connection means that you can link it up to multiple devices, so that both you and your trainer can see real-time results.
It is compatible with a huge range of devices and fitness applications. The strap itself uses silicon dots to make sure that it stays in place comfortably.
It is also one of the few straps that can be used underwater as well for swimmers.
- Functions underwater
- State of the art electrodes
- Comfortable silicone dots
- Bluetooth, ANT+, and Wi-Fi
- Two sizes and four colours
Garmin HRM-Swim Heart Rate Monitor
While many of the monitors on this list claim to be waterproof, this generally refers to your sweat rather than deep water. They are not all appropriate for swimming.
If you are a swimmer, check out this premium monitor from Garmin, which is fully waterproof to a depth of two metres.
It can store up to 20 hours of data for syncing with your phone later. You can also link it to a waterproof Garmin wrist band that lets you monitor how hard you are working while underwater.
- Suitable for swimming
- Stores up to 20 hours of data
- Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity
- Works with Garmin wrist bankds
Why Monitor Your Heart Rate While Exercising?
If you are exercising to improve cardiovascular system performance or lose fat, then you need to elevate your heart rate.
First and foremost, the heart is a muscle, and an important one since its function is to pump blood around your entire body. So, you can exercise the muscle to make it stronger.
But to strengthen a muscle you need to stress it, which is why we lift heavy weights, to make the muscles work harder. But, of course, we should never overload our muscles with weights that they are not prepared to lift, as we can damage them.
The same is true for the heart. Spend 45 minutes on an elliptical machine scrolling through your phone, and while you may feel like you have given yourself a workout, you have probably done nothing for your heart. Meanwhile, pushing through while your heart feels like it is going to jump out of your chest might put you out of action for a few days.
So, ideally, you want to anchor your workout in the sweet zone where your heart is stressed but not overly exerted. You can then push up into the higher heart rates to gain the benefits that come from those, such as anaerobic stress, but only for short periods of time. This is the logic behind HIIT workouts.
If your goal is to lose weight, you will want to monitor your heart rate to ensure that you do not push yourself too hard. This is because when you are in the low to moderate intensity workout zone, your body can burned stored fat for energy, which helps you lose weight.
As you work harder, your body will need more energy more quickly, and will find other sources, such as carbohydrates.
So, if you are trying too hard, you can actually slow down your progress towards your weight loss goals.
If you are looking to lose weight, you should also check out our article on smart scales.
The Heart Rate Zones
Where exactly you want your heart rate to be while you are working out depends on what you are trying to achieve. But there are generally considered to be five zones, all of which offer different benefits.
Zone 1 – Recovery – 50-60% of maximum heart rate
This is the zone that you want your heart in when you are recovering from a workout. It pumps a good amount of blood around the body to aid in recovery without placing undue stress on the cardiovascular system.
This is where you want to be during the cool-down phase of your workout, such as relatively relaxed walking on a treadmill after a heavy weights session or intense aerobic workout.
Zone 2 – Fat Burning – 60-70% of maximum heart rate
This is the zone that you will be working in if you are starting from scratch when it comes to building up fitness, or if you are trying to lose weight.
This is the zone where the body is signaled to burn stored fat for energy. When you are working harder than this, the body will look for more immediate energy sources, which is why working out more intensely is not always the answer when it comes to weight loss.
Zone 3 – Endurance – 70-80% of maximum heart rate
If you are trying to build endurance, so that you can go harder for longer, for example for a race, this is the zone to aim for in terms of maximum steady increases to cardiovascular fitness.
Zone 4 – Anaerobic Afterburn – 80-90% of maximum heart rate
When you are in this zone, your body goes into anaerobic metabolism because it is short on oxygen, so it needs to look for other sources of fuel. This is not only while you are in the zone, which you should be able to maintain for a maximum of about 10 minutes, but also for hours after your workout.
Fitness class instructors will often end a 60-80% session with ten minutes in this zone so that you go home with the “afterburn” effect of a boosted metabolism for a few hours.
Zone 5 – Speed and Agility – 90-100% of maximum heart rate
You probably only want to approach this zone if you are a highly fit athlete and you are trying to develop intense speed or agility. You should never stay in this zone for more than 2 minutes, and most people will find it difficult to maintain for more than 30 seconds.
What’s Your Maximum Heart rate?
While a personal trainer can help you make an accurate estimate of what your maximum heart rate should be, there are simple formulas that you can use to get a general idea.
The most basic is to multiply your age by 0.7 and subtract this from 208.
Don’t forget, what you eat is as important as the time you put in at the gym. Check out our fitness diet tips.
Why Get A Chest Heart rate Monitor?
While you might agree with all the things that have been said, you may still be asking yourself why you need a chest heart rate monitor, your smartwatch is able to monitor your heart rate via your pulse.
Wrist monitors are a great, comfortable option if you are planning on working out at relatively low and consistent intensities. But if you are planning high-intensity workouts, or to move between different heart rates as part of your training, they aren’t up to the task.
Wrist monitors are fairly accurate when it comes to measuring your resting heart rate, but lose accuracy as your heart rate increases. Some have been shown to be out by as many as 20 beats per minute at high intensities. So, you could think that you are working at 130 beats per minute, when you are actually up at 150.
There also tends to be a delay between changes in your heart rate and wrist measurements, sometimes as much as 60 seconds. If you are pushing up into higher intensities for periods of 30 to 120 seconds, wrist monitors just aren’t sensitive enough to tell you when your heart is moving between the different zones.
Chest monitors are much more accurate and responsive, so you get more accurate readings for a better workout.
Key Features of a Good Chest Heart rate Monitor
Chest heart rate monitors are pretty simple pieces of kit designed to do just one thing, monitor your heart rate. So, the most important thing to consider when choosing a heart rate monitor is that it returns accurate results in real-time.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other features to look at.
Is it waterproof?
All heart monitors will claim to be waterproof. They need to be to deal with your sweat, and actually work best when there is a bit of liquid lubricating the electrodes. But that doesn’t mean that you can wear them in the pool. If you are a swimmer, look out for chest monitors that are specifically designed to work underwater.
Do they connect with a smartwatch/wristband?
While the chest is the best place to monitor your heart rate, the band is not best placed for you to see your results. As a result, your monitor will need to connect with some type of wearable so that you can see your heart rate. Consider whether you are going to need to invest in a specific wearable, or if the monitor will integrate with the wearable that you have.
Connectivity, to both your smartphone and your wearable, will generally be via Bluetooth, though many heart rate monitors are also using ANT+. This is good because it means that the monitor can connect to more than one device. This means that you can monitor your rate yourself in real-time, and your trainer can monitor the same data at the same time.
Does it sync with your fitness app?
You are going to want to integrate your heart rate data with all the other data you are collecting to monitor your results. Again, you are going to want to make sure that the data produced by your heart rate monitor is compatible with your preferred fitness application.
Looking to build cardiovascular fitness or lose weight? If you want to be smart and deliberate in your practice so that you can reach your goals as quickly as possible, you need a chest heart rate monitor.
It is essential to monitor your heart rate while working out to ensure that you are doing enough to be effective, while not pushing yourself to the point of damage.
If you are looking to lose weight, you need to stay in the moderate zone where your body will want to burn stored fat, rather than working too hard so that you are burning carbohydrates.
The most effective way to monitor your heart rate is with a chest heart rate monitor. Unfortunately, the heart rate monitor in your wrirt wearable probably isn’t up for the challenge, as they tend to be inaccurate at higher intensities and have a significant delay in relaying data.
Find the right chest heart rate monitor for you among our top five picks.
- Train Your Brain: Deliberate Practice – Barbell Logic
- Heart Zone Training for Cardiovascular Exercise – Very Well Fit
Last update on 2021-05-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API