What we love this week

Polar Heart Rate Training

by Meaghan posted October 17, 2016

Last Friday, the FocusNYC staff had the honor of hosting Dave DiFabio, National Account Manager for PolarUSA, for an informative and hands-on workshop.


A long-time strength coach and educator (and esteemed member of our FPTI Advisory Board), Dave first provided some great background information about the benefits of tracking heart rate in athletes – not only to assess performance, but also to get a better idea of their recovery status.

A major takeaway was that ALL stress is reflected in the body’s heart rate response, and that stress can be caused by a number of different things – including:

  • Fitness level
  • Training
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep status
  • Environment
  • Breathing patterns
  • Work/life events

And while this makes heart rate subject to variability, as we know, it also makes it a good indicator of how well an athlete is likely to handle and recover from the stress of exercise. Polar has now taken this concept a few steps further and created a formula to track total stress via heart rate with what they call “Training Load.”

By assigning a point value to each of three heart rate zones (High, Medium and Low) and then tracking the amount of time spent in each zone during practices, games, training sessions, etc., we can quantify total training stress a lot better than traditional means – like time, sets, reps, weight, etc. – that don’t really reflect true physiology. And when tracked and measured against a baseline, over time, we can then determine the approximate number of training load points we can sustain before problems like injuries and performance decreases start to arise. Pretty useful, I think! Especially when the stakes are high.

Dave also brought sensors that tracked acceleration and deceleration during various movements, which added another major benefit: We could actually see how efficient we were and how hard we were truly working rather than just how hard we felt like we were working during different strength and power-based exercises. Can’t get away with being lazy anymore!


We also used the workout opportunity to test out a potential new format for our PT6 class – and it worked pretty well (hint, hint)!

We had a little time left over to discuss the always controversial topic of heart rate variability as well. Long story short, variability in heart rate (time between R intervals) is actually a good thing; it shows that our hearts are able to respond efficiently to various demands. We actually see LESS variability in people with heart disease. And when used in conjunction with other measures (like overall training load), it may be a good way to assess recovery status. Less variability and a high training load together makes it pretty likely that we’re pushing the boarders of overtraining and could use more recovery.

Even I think Polar has found a very beneficial use for technological advances; this system can greatly help coaches and athletes alike optimize both performance and recovery. Many collegiate and professional sports teams are using it, and even some group fitness classes have jumped on the bandwagon.

But this is one up-and-coming trend that’s more than just trendy; there’s a lot of value to the metrics when used the right way, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the data collected using Polar’s technology gets implemented in the future!

Filed under: education events, exercise research, sports, What We Love This Week

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One response to “Polar Heart Rate Training”

  1. It fascinates me how an organ the size of our fist in conjunction with advanced technology provide such incredible information. The heart and the anatomy and the physiology of the human body is remarkable.

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