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Blog / 2015 / August / Using Heart Rate Monitoring For Personal...
August 23, 2015

Using Heart Rate Monitoring For Personal Training: Part Two

by Nate Brookreson

View Part One of this post here.

Heart Rate Based Training Methods

There are numerous aerobic training methods that have been discussed in the literature. Properly implemented aerobic training leads to the central and peripheral adaptations discussed previously, in addition to improved recovery between high-intensity bouts of exercise characteristic of most team sports. Heart rate monitoring during these bouts allows the trainer to prescribe optimal training intensity for the client, provide feedback on rest intervals, and compare the client's heart rate response to similar bouts of work over time.

The cardiac output method is intended to improve the delivery of oxygen by the heart to the peripheral musculature and develop the vascular network. Intensity should be maintained between 60-75% of an athlete's tested maximal heart rate, or well below the individual's lactate threshold. Ideally, heart rate should stay elevated for 30 to 90 minutes to ensure transferability, and means can include biking, jogging, jumping rope, or swimming. However, in order to maintain interest of the client, cyclical, low resistance activities can be used such as calisthenics, speed ladders, or sport-specific movements, as long as the heart rate is maintained at that heart rate range. If the client's heart rate exceeds lactate threshold, it is important to recover to the low end of the intensity prescription (<60%) and to pay close attention to how the client responds to specific exercises, choosing those that allow them to work at the appropriate intensity for their level of preparation.

Cardiac intervals are a high-intensity option for increasing the power of the cardiac muscle and its mitochondrial density. They require maximal output and can be performed between 1-3 minutes in duration, with 2-5 minutes of recovery between repetitions (or a heart rate of 120-130 beats per min). Any high-intensity, low-resistance activity can be performed for this method. Tracking the average heart rate during this method allows the trainer to observe whether fitness is improving. If the client is able to do more total work (increase running distance on a track by 10m) with the same average heart rate, or covers the same distance with a lower average heart rate, then their work capacity is improving. The trainer can also look at heart rate recovery during the first and second minute following completion of the interval to monitor fitness improvements, with increases in heart rate recovery being indicative of improved cardiac fitness.

High resistance intervals are an effective method for improving the aerobic qualities of fast twitch fibers through constant oxygen delivery to the muscle. These intervals must be performed below the lactate threshold, which can be estimated using the above training zones or tested. Activities performed using this method should be high-resistance in nature and can include things like sled drags, hill sprints, high resistance cycling or other cardio machines. Repetitions should only last 10-12 seconds, and heart rate should recover back to 130 beats per minute, with 15 to 20 reps being performed in a session. This is more advanced aerobic training and should not be undertaken before several weeks of 1-3 times per week using the cardiac method and cardiac intervals. Fitness can be tracked using the heart rate monitor by looking at the average time it takes to return back to 130 beats per minute between each interval and tracking this number over time. Reps should not be increased until the client is consistently decreasing their average time to 130 beat per minute.

While there have been numerous advances in the tracking and monitoring of strength-based training methodologies, far too many personal trainers are still relying on anecdotal information to prescribe aerobic training. Heart rate monitors are effective tools for prescribing training intensity, rest intervals, and for tracking progress over time. They should be a staple of every good personal trainer's program.

Polar has a cloud based coaching system called Polar Flow for Coach. It allows trainers, clients, and workout partners to collect and share exercise performance data to ensure proper progression and achievement of goals. Trainers can provide feedback for their clients and even program exercise prescriptions into their client's BT Smart Watch (A300, M400, V800), via this free web service. Whether training in-person or online, it's never been easier to provide personalized coaching, even in the largest groups. Learn more here.

Nate Brookreson was named the Director of Athletic Performance for Olympic Sports at NC State University in June of 2015. Prior to his appointment, he was the Director of Olympic Sports at the University of Memphis from August 2013 until June 2015, where his primary responsibilities were with men and women's soccer, and the Director of Athletic Performance at Eastern Washington University from 2010 until 2013, where he primarily worked with football and volleyball. Brookreson played wide receiver for Central Washington University from 2001-05 and was a four time GNAC Academic All-Conference selection. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science from Central Washington University and his Master's Degree in Exercise Science from Eastern Washington Unviersity. He is certified (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (SCCC), United State Weightlifting (USAW), and Functional Movement Systems (FMS Level 2).

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