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February 8, 2022

141 | 4 Ways To Use a Polar Heart Rate Monitor During Strength Training

4 ways to use a polar heart rate monitor with weight training with Annie Miller

Inside Built by Annie I have a resource called Annie’s Secret Laboratory of Brain Gains. And in that, there are two trainings on energy systems development. Also known as heart rate training. One of the videos is general and just goes over the different zones and what they mean. The other training goes over how to actually think about and integrate the zones within strength training.

Obviously at heart rate monitors can be used for conditioning, or cardio. That is in fact the main purpose. But they are also a useful tool for those who lift weights as their primary mode of exercise.

I am not sponsored by Polar. But I have used their products since 2011 or 2012. And I am a huge fan. We used their system during my internship at University of Portland to monitor all athletes heart rates during training and conditioning. So I just have nothing but good things to say about the brand and their products or systems.

On Instagram I have a review of my favorite polar watches if you would like to check that out as well. At the time of this episode I currently use the Polar Unite Watch and H 10 strap. And I will say that I have never had a Polar watch be accurate without the use of a chest strap. I don’t know what claims Polar makes about the use of the watches without a chest strap, but my personal experience has been that you need the chest strap.

Today’s episode is going to be about how to use these watches and straps in terms of strength training. Outside of their obvious use, basically. While they are absolutely not needed, as stated earlier, I do think that they have a use. And if you own one and want to integrate it into your training, this episode will hopefully be helpful.

4 Ways to Use a Polar Heart Rate Monitor with Strength Training:

1.) Rest periods

I realize this sounds very simple and elementary. But I use mine to monitor and stick to my rest periods. You could absolutely use an app on your phone or look at a clock. But it’s nice to just glanced down at my watch and see my rest. As well as watching my heart rate drop.

This can also be effective if you want to integrate heart rate training into strength training. I am not saying that this is an end all be all approach. But I’m not mad at it either.

It can simply be interesting to see what your heart rate gets to during your working sets and if it recovers within your scheduled rest. Now the scheduled rest for strength and hypertrophy training will likely be based on the muscular demand and stimulus versus the metabolic stimulus or demand. But the two certainly can be connected. And the watch helps you see that.

So you can stick to your one minute of rest, and/or, start your next set based on your heart rate recovering to say 120 to 135 beats per minute.

This honestly just indicates how quickly your heart rate is recovering between sets. So know the focus of your program and if you need to go strictly based on time. Or if you can play around with going based off your heart rate as well.

That brings us to number two.

2.) Heart rate after the set

I there’s no right or wrong, good or bad here. This is more about learning your own bio feedback. What is a typical heart rate for you after a heavy set of back squats? Or overhead presses. Or a circuit that you do in accessory that might take you three minutes?

What is a typical cardiac response for that type of work within weight training? Again this doesn’t necessarily mean anything about your training, it’s just another way for you to learn your own body and how it reacts to training.

This also allows you in a training sense to understand what a certain heart rate feels like. So you’ll see runners or endurance athletes be able to tell you almost to the beat per minute what their heart rate is at based on how they feel. Not that this has any direct relation or causation when looking at strength training, it’s just another thing to learn about your body. I know that during strength training I have felt like my heart rate was at 185, and it’s at 155. That’s just some anecdotal insight I suppose.

This may also reveal things that perhaps you thought, but hadn’t fully confirmed. Like if you feel like a certain exercise is not muscularly challenging but it feels like you’re doing cardio. Your heart rate response is going to affirm that for you. So perhaps you barely feel it in your muscles, but your heart rate is through the roof.

Telling you that the limiting factor here is capacity, not necessarily your muscles or strength.

It can also be interesting to see how the heart reacts based on the exercise and or muscle that is being used. So look at your heart rate during an overhead dominant day versus a lower body dominant day. You are likely going to see higher intensities and heart rates on the lower body intensive day.

I know I sound like a broken record – but it’s just fun to see and can be a way to connect some of the dots between weight training and metabolic training.


3.) Recovery between sets

This somewhat is in relation to your rest periods. But you can start to apply some metabolic training to your strength training or hypertrophy training with seeing how quickly your heart rate recovers after say a 60 second set where your heart rate gets into your zone four and the zone five.

Does your heart rate recover within that 60 seconds post set?

You may also see that like conditioning, your heart rate begins to accumulate throughout your session and it has a harder time coming down between sets. That of course depends on the programming and exercise prescription. But you may see the same affect throughout your strength training as you do with conditioning. The longer the session goes, perhaps the harder time your heart rate has recovering. I’m not saying that will happen. But it may be something you observe.

This topic of recovery can also tie with number four.

4.) Discrepancies

When I say discrepancies I mean that your heart rate can be a sign of stress and recovery. That’s where knowing your norms can be helpful. A more elevated heart rate than usual can simply be that you had too much caffeine, or that you aren’t fully recovered in someway shape or form.

So knowing your normal heart rate reactions to a given training day stimulus can be A helpful baseline for noticing discrepancies. Without making too big of a deal of it.

And that’s what I never want. I like training tools and technology because I enjoy data. And I think that it can be a fun way to build efficacy within fitness. A very basic level and way to learn about your body with what you’re already doing.

But we never want to get to the point where if we forget our heart rate monitor we feel like the lift doesn’t count or we are out of tune with our body.

Ideally the tool helps us understand our body and its reactions and performance better. Allows us to make connections. Rather than causing us to forget to tune in completely.

I hope that makes sense.And I certainly know that I have been in the boat of feeling like I am lost and incompetent without my heart rate monitor. Though I have also found much freedom in those training sessions. Because it causes you to be extremely present during your lift when it’s just you your body, and the iron.

You learn your own rest response. You push when you have it and back off when you don’t. And that is magical was well.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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