Friday, June 12, 2009

Why You Must Use A Heart Rate Monitor When You Kettlebell

A lot of people who read my blog or follow me on Twitter have asked why I wear my FT-80 Heart Rate Monitor while I do my kettlebell sessions. Let me preface this post with this: Until I heard Pavel Tsatsouline recommend its use I didn't dream of using one. Marty Gallagher had mentioned to Pavel that they are a required tool for his clientele and when Marty speaks, even Pavel pays attention.

Here's why I wear one and why you must as well. How else would you be able to compare your cardio results without the information provided. When you are really fit you can't just "feel" if a workout is more intense, you need to be able to look at the hard numbers to tell for sure. You want to plot and graph average heart rate, high heart rate, Kcals oxidized, intensity, duration and be able to see how you are progressing. How will you know if you don't have the data?

If you aren't as fit as you will be in the future then you need it too. Here's why: physical renovation requires patience, iniative, and safety. You really need to monitor your intensity and duration and keep adding to both incrementally in a cardio cycle. I'm here to help you in anyway I can in this regard so please don't hesitate to just ask!

Finally, if your business is physical and mental renovation, i.e. you're a fitness pro, and yoru clients are not required to wear one, then you are plain boneheaded. Most trainers have no clue as to what sort of heart rate is being generated during a session. Not only can this prove dangerous if the completely unfit are subjected to high impact jogging, boot camp or other forms of cardio but the information is a real coaching opportunity. Here you can use hard info to show how poor eating habits can completely undo a solid work session. As David Whitley, SRKC, so eloquesntly puts it, "You can't outwork a donut." Well stated.

I highly recommend using this tool for you and your clients if you have them. You can't go wrong and it is a chance to really differentiate yourself from the Fitness Nazis of the world.

Please leave your commentary here and if you have any ideas for future article please leave a comment. I will be covering "Reverse Engineering Your Way to Success" in the near futture!

Sandy Sommer, RKC

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At June 12, 2009 at 9:40 AM , Blogger Fred said...

What a terrific post, Sandy!

I have to agree with you wholeheartedly about monitoring your heart rate, no matter what exercise mode you choose, especially if you're going to add an "intensity component" to it. I use the Polar F6, basic but loaded with plenty of 'goodies' and more or less affordable(~$100), as far as heart rate monitors go.

Glad you mentioned the part about trainers who don't require their clients to wear one as being 'boneheaded'. Love it. So true...I see that travesty every time I hit the gym. Thanks for putting that out there.

Looking forward to your post about "Reverse Engineering Your Way to Success"...

Thanks again!


At June 12, 2009 at 9:51 AM , OpenID chesser502 said...

I can't actually wear my heart rate monitor while I am training, but it is nearby.

I use a Mio watch- google it, they are cheaper online. And the company is Canadian, so it is even cheaper for my American friends.

I am not a trainer, and so I can't speak for them, but I do know that knowing my heart rate is key to improving my fitness.

At June 12, 2009 at 10:40 AM , Blogger Chris J said...

I have an RS400, that the gym I belonged to required their clients to have, if you had a personal trainer.

While it was used to track workouts and cals burnt, it was also used to judge work and rests.

Clients can use it and say stop. You are pushing to hard, and have something showing that is the case. If the trainer doesn't want to listen, more reason to judge how good the trainer is and try to find a new one.

At June 12, 2009 at 11:36 AM , Blogger that70sgrl said...

Thanks for giving me more reasons to love my F6! Interesting to hear a trainer's perspective on their use. I think you're in the minority for sure. Great post!

At June 12, 2009 at 10:31 PM , Blogger fitness-siren said...

Hey Sandy, it's funny that I just read this post. I just started monitoring my heart rate while doing my KB workouts last week. I had my HR monitor hidden and collecting dust for awhile (it's a Polar T31 and kinda

My HR usually stays around 85-92% of my max after I do the grinding movements - truly amazing! It definitely provides feedback and more motivation for me to workout harder - I like seeing the numbers go up...haha.

At June 13, 2009 at 7:55 AM , Blogger Kendall Giles said...

Great post Sandy!

General Electric's Jack Welch once said something like:

"If you can't measure it, you can't understand it. If you can't understand it, you can't improve it."

He of course was speaking of business processes, but the same quantitative goal-oriented thinking applies to health and fitness as well.

At June 13, 2009 at 8:27 AM , Blogger Sandy Sommer, RKC said...


I believe you have the quote as said. And what a great quote it is.

At June 15, 2009 at 7:27 AM , Blogger Laura said...

I basically agree with this post, with some reservations. Heart rate monitors are fantastic tools, but they don't tell the whole story by any means. If you're doing an interval workout with work periods shorter than a minute, the heart rate attained during the work period may not accurately reflect the intensity of the work performed. In such instances rate of perceived exertion actually tends to be more reliable.

Another issue with heart rate training is that the usual equation for estimating maximum heart rate (and hence cardiorespiratory training zones, anaerobic threshhold, etc.) isn't all that reliable. If you're working with a trainer, ask him or her about performing an estimated maximum heart rate test. If he or she doesn't know what you're talking about, find a new trainer :) My own maximum heart rate happens to be about 15 bpm higher than the usual 226-my age formula would suggest. Because of this I've had boneheaded instructors tell me I am working "too hard" when in fact I haven't even hit my anaerobic threshhold. As they would realize if they paused to look at _me_ instead of the gadget on my wrist :)

That said, it's obviously better to wear a heart rate monitor than not to wear one, particularly if you're training for performance. It's a critical source of objective data, and as such it's invaluable IF you know how to interpret the data.

At June 16, 2009 at 6:47 AM , Blogger Sandy Sommer, RKC said...


Great points! Technically we each have our own invididual MHR. For $75 you can go to a performance lab and find it out. Not necessary for most of us. HRM aren't completely accurate either but the information tends to be consistent. Also, in my opinion the "intensity" can be be calculated. Again, this is strictly for comparision sake. If you oxidize 1000 in 50 minutes then your "burn" rate is 20. That burn rate is really interesting to see in MVO2 work which is a type of interval training.


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