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November 9, 2023

Polar Unite + Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Review

In this blog, we’re diving into a full Polar Unite + Polar H10 heart rate monitor review. If you’ve ever wondered if a heart rate monitor is for you, keep reading.

So I was first introduced to Polar products when I was interning at the University of Portland as a strength and performance coach a decade ago.

All the athletes had to wear a Polar heart rate strap, and we’d monitor their individual heart rates on a large screen. 

This allowed us to have each athlete work at their individual maximum, or whatever percentage we wanted them at, and to recover individually as well. 

So that if an athlete recovered quickly, they went sooner and if an athlete required a bit more time to recover, they had that, and we could build that athlete’s threshold. 

  • So should you get a polar heart rate monitor? 
  • Is it worth it? 
  • Why would you ever purchase one?

If you prefer to learn on video, you can watch my YouTube video of this review here:

If you’re new, my name is Annie Miller and I help you learn as you train and enjoy your lifts again. 

I’ve owned six Polar watches and chest straps over the past 11 years. 

Today I am giving you an in-depth review and possible application of the Polar Unite and H10 chest strap.

During my time at the University of Portland and my intro to using Polar, I read Joel Jamieson’s guide to Ultimate MMA Conditioning.

It’s still one of my favorite most applicable books for coaches in terms of program design for conditioning. 

It’s essentially just energy systems development. Which is working in some kind of cardio form based around your heart rate and your heart rate recovery.

Before choosing to go into college strength, I actually debated trying to become a strength and conditioning coach for mixed martial arts athletes. Because they are one of the first forms of athletes that really challenged that you can’t build power or max output and endurance at the same time. 

MMA flips that notion on its head. 

These athletes have incredible endurance capacity, as well as repeated power output. Which is why I think Joel’s methods are so amazing. 

And while they work for MMA athletes, they also work for anyone that has a heart and can move their body.

Heart rate training is something that I use within my Built by Annie programming in the premium options. Clients have one day per week where conditioning is involved and they can either work on time or their heart rate if they have a heart rate monitor like the Polar watch and heart rate strap, or some other kind of wearable device.

What is the Polar Unite? 

How accurate is it without the strap? 

When would you wear it, and what are the best uses for your training? 

Both from an endurance standpoint, and a strength training standpoint… The Unite is simply the watch that I have personally used for the past 3 to 5 years – or whenever it came out. 

I have almost always purchased their new watches from my college days to now. The reason I stopped at the Unite because it still does everything I need. I had the M430 and the A370 before that as well. 

In college, 10 years ago, I had two of the cheapest options. The screens looked like a Tamagotchi and only showed you your five zones. 

No color, no other options, but it got the job done.

For the past decade, I believe I’ve owned six different Polar watches, and whatever chest strap worked with each watch. 

I cannot compare Polar watches to something like a Garmin, or a Whoop, or any other tracker, because I love Polar. I am biased towards them. They are extremely accurate, and work for what I need. 

I am not a runner, so I don’t need GPS, or any of the running specific features. I strictly need heart rate DATA, and that is what polar watches give you. 

They do have an entire line of watches with varying functionalities, so be sure to list out your needs, then decide which watch best fits those needs.

Functionality of The Watch: (Polar Unite + Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Review)

You don’t have to get the Polar Flow or Polar Beat app if you don’t want to. These apps sync up with your watch to hold past data so that you can more easily see it on a mobile device, or on a desktop or laptop.

They can keep track of all of your past sessions, as well as your recovery scores and data.

If you prefer to use the Polar Beat app during your training versus looking at your watch, you can also do that. And you don’t need to be wearing your watch. You can simply wear the chest strap and your phone will sync via bluetooth.

You’ll be able to see what zone you’re in, your heart rate, and any other data that your watch tracks during a workout on your phone instead of your watch if you want that option. 

Either way, you can sync up your watch with the app afterwards and see the overall data.

For instance, on the phone, you’ll be able to see your heart rate, trends, and rest periods. So the peaks and valleys, where that is not available on the watch face.

I may go back on my word there a little bit as well, because you might actually have to get the apps in order to set up the watch in the first place… I am unsure, so you’ll want to check that. 

Do You Need The Chest Strap? (Polar Unite + Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Review)

I will say that the watches for me personally are highly inaccurate if not wearing the chest strap. 

The chest strap is imperative, and gives you extremely accurate data as far as reading your heart rate in real time.

So just know that I do think that you need the watch and the strap to get the most out of the device.

Other functionalities are: 

  • Sleep data
  • Respiratory rate
  • Resting heart rate
  • Heart rate variability
  • Daily step count
  • Overall activity

The sleep data for me does get the job done. It will give you an idea of if you are adequately recovered or not. 

But I do think that something like the Oura Ring tends to give more accurate and concise sleep data than the Polar Unite. 

I can’t speak to higher or newer models of Polar watches. Perhaps they are more compatible with something like the Oura ring. 

If you’ve heard of the Oura Ring or you’re interested in that, be sure to check out my full review of the Oura ring Gen 3 HERE.
After a certain number of nights, the Polar Unite will give you a sleep rating. 

I find that this is mostly based on your heart rate data, and not the amount of sleep that you got. 

It obviously takes both of those things into account, but the heart rate recovery has a higher bearing on your overall score. 

It shows you a dial in your averages so my green score or good score or very good score could be an 85. Where a very good score for my husband based on his data might be a 65. 

That just gives you your baseline that you would obviously want to bump up. The 65 is not desirable for a very good score. 

So that’s something to keep in mind when looking at the sleep data. If you see that it’s very good, but it’s actually quite a low number out of 100 then you would want to see how you can optimize your sleep.

Just like the Oura ring, take these recovery numbers with a grain of salt, in addition to your natural bio feedback. 

  • How rested do you feel?
  • How much energy do you have? 
  • Facts about your night that you were aware of. 

If you woke up several times in the night, or if you woke up feeling sick, maybe we listen to that lower score.

If you‌ have a lower score when you wake up, and you feel good, you feel rested and energized, then go about your day, and maybe just pay attention to how your energy fluctuates throughout the day.

That covers your night time and recovery aspects of the watch. Now let’s get into your application within your training and what you can expect.

Application and Usage (Polar Unite + Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Review)

When you get the watch, you will enter data points, like your age, activity level. There’s a fitness test that you can do to enter your scores.

Once you enter all of that data, you will get a baseline. And that will determine what your actual zones are for training.

There are 5 heart rate zones. 

1 being the lowest and 5 being your maximum heart rate.

The zones are different percentage ranges of your maximum heart rate.

You can use the watch out of curiosity, just to see what your heart rate trend is during a certain form of cardio, or you can use the data from your watch to lead your training.

This is where the functionality really depends on the type of training that you’re doing.

What I mean is that you could use the monitor to work at a certain percentage. Let’s say zone 4 or 5 for three minutes. 

The watch allows you to see when that three minutes begins and for you to hold that intensity for the full three minutes. 

And then rest until your heart rate lowers 50 beats below whatever your max heart rate was during the working set. 

That would be considered a threshold style of energy systems development. 

You could do 3-4 sets of that, and a trend you might look at is how long it takes your heart rate to recover in that rest. From set one to set four.

And also, perhaps how quickly your heart rate spikes when you begin the working set. 

When we train around heart rate, we’re looking for efficiency to be the result of the training. 

That your heart can pump blood more efficiently, meaning that it takes more work to get your heart close to maximum output, and that your heart rate is recovering quicker and quicker. 

When we are done with the working set, you’re able to lower that heart rate back down.

These will be some of the parameters were looking at when you’re training around your heart rate or doing energy systems development.

Whether you are a trainee or a coach, check out Joel Jamieson‘s guide to Ultimate MMA Conditioning. I believe he also has a conditioning course. He teaches in a manner that will make sense for coaches, but also just makes sense for a trainee that wants to learn this stuff for themselves. It’s very applicable, and I’m a huge fan (not affiliated at all).

If you get into heart rate specific training, that’s great. But I also think that it’s just beneficial to wear the watch for 1-3 months in whatever form of training you do. Observe and get familiar with your heart rate and your recovery. 

That applies to strength training, circuit training, playing a sport of some kind, or any type of activity.

You’ll begin to see trends with your working sets in your rest periods. 

I’m an advocate for being curious about your body, and I think that curiosity builds efficacy within your training.

If you’re already familiar with your heart rate, or heart rate training, then I just suggest getting the heart rate chest strap and Unite or some other Polar watch that fits the needs that you have for your training.

Another application on the strength training side of things can be how to marry conditioning with your workouts.

You might see trends like having higher heart rates during your working sites on a leg day versus an upper body day if you do some kind of upper body, lower body split.

You can also use the watch to track your rest periods or try playing around with resting until your heart rate is recovered to a certain beat per minute and then beginning your next working set. 

This is just something to play around with.

As far as pairing some kind of conditioning with your strength training, check out my video on if cardio will ruin your strength gains HERE. You may find that helpful.

One option you have is to look at the overall trend of your strength training workout if that is your primary goal, and match that trend with the type of cardio that you are doing for that day. 

For example, upper body days tend to be lower overall intensity, and they can tend to be a lower duration lift. They don’t take as much time. 

So, in theory, you could choose to do low intensity steady state cardio, or “LISS” on your upper body days and have that entire training session be in that zone two or zone three. 

This is not black and white. I’m just giving you options for application of using this device within your training.

On the flipside of that you could use cardio to increase the overall intensity of a lift and pair high intensity continuous training (HICT). Keep your heart rate in zone four and five for 12 to 15 minutes up to 20 minutes on an upper body day. 

And that would bring up the overall median of your intensity for that day’s exercise.

My point is you have options: (Polar Unite + Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Review)

If you’re into biofeedback, or want some data on what your heart and respiratory rate is actually doing during conditioning or strength training, I think it’s worth it (if you have the funds). 

Polar is the gold standard brand in my opinion. 

The chest strap is a game changer. 

As far as comfortability, perhaps it is because I’m a female, and I’m used to wearing a sports bra… But it sits right under my sports bra, strap, or in line with a sports bra strap, and I don’t even notice it.

I’ve personally never had a client or athlete that was bothered by the chest wrap, and you can tighten and loosen it to your needs.

That’s it! That’s all I got. I’m a fan, I think that was clear. Take what you need and leave the rest.

Join The Discussion: 

Do you use a heart rate monitor? Polar? Fitbit? Garmin? Something else? Let me know in the comments below!

I hope you enjoyed these educated gains and I will see you in the next blog. 

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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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