Heart Rate Monitors - a waste of time

There is plenty of research to show that Heart Rate Monitors work and work well and can correlate with ECGs etc.

(Most of these studies are sponsored by HRM companies anyway)

What I’m having trouble finding is research to show their application in soccer and intermittent exercise.

Personally I think they’re a waste of valuable time that could be spent doing more important things - like getting people strong!

This is one paper that may show it - if someone can find it for me.

Heart Rate Monitoring: Applications and Limitations.
Review Article

Sports Medicine. 33(7):517-538, 2003.
Achten, Juul; Jeukendrup, Asker E

These papers seem to agree somewhat with me too …

J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Apr;10(2):89-95. Epub 2006 Jun 21
Cardiovascular responses during recreational 5-a-side indoor-soccer.
Castagna C, Belardinelli R, Impellizzeri FM, Abt GA, Coutts AJ, D’Ottavio S.
School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy. castagnac@libero.it

The aims of this study were to examine the cardiovascular response to recreational 5-a-side indoor-soccer (5v5) matches (5v5 study, 5v5S, n=15) and to assess the validity of using heart rate (HR) to estimate oxygen uptake (VO(2)) demands during actual game-play (validity study, VS, n=16) in young subjects (age 16.8+/-1.5 years). Game responses during 5v5S were assessed during 30 min matches using short-range telemetry heart-rate monitors. In VS games (12 min), VO(2) and HR were monitored with a portable gas analyser (K4b(2), COSMED, Rome, Italy). Individual HR-VO(2) relationships were determined from a laboratory treadmill run to exhaustion (VS) and a multistage shuttle running fitness test (5v5S) using K4b(2). Results showed that 5v5 elicits 83.5+/-5.4 and 75.3+/-11.2% of HR(peak) and VO(2peak), respectively. Ninety-one percent of the playing time (30 min) was spent at HR higher than 70% of HR(peak). In VS match, gas analyses revealed that only 71% of HR variance was explained by VO(2) variations. However, playing at approximately 70% of HR(peak) elicited 51.6+/-11.2% of VO(2peak). Group actual versus predicted VO(2) values demonstrated no significant differences (p>0.05), however, large confidence limits were observed (+6.20 and -10.53 mlkg(-1)min(-1)). These results show that HR and VO(2) responses to recreational 5v5 soccer in young athletes are similar to the exercise intensities recommended by ACSM for promoting cardiovascular health and suggest that HR is valid to prescribe and monitor aerobic intermittent exercise. These results also show that HR measures are acceptable for estimating VO(2) during intermittent exercise when assessing large groups, but show that large estimation errors can occur at the individual level.

J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):367-71
Measures of exercise intensity during soccer training drills with professional soccer players.
Little T, Williams AG.
Sport, Health, and Exercise, Staffordshire University, UK.

Recent evidence supports the use of certain soccer drills for combined technical and physical training. Therefore, it is important to be able to accurately monitor training intensity during soccer drills intended for physical development to allow the optimization of training parameters. Twenty-eight professional soccer players were assessed for heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) responses to 5 commonly used soccer training drills (2v2 to 8v8 drills). The responses of both HR and RPE differed significantly (p < 0.05) between the drills, generally showing an elevated response to drills involving lower player numbers. However, the 2v2 drill showed a significantly (p < 0.05) lower HR response (mean +/- SD: 88.7 +/- 1.2% HRmax) than 3v3 (91.2 +/- 1.3% HRmax) and 4v4 drills (90.2 +/- 1.6% HRmax). There was no significant correlation between the HR and RPE responses to the various drills (r = 0.60, p = 0.200). This poor relationship is probably because during the 2v2 drill, RPE was higher than during any of the other 6 drills, whereas HR was only fourth highest of the 6 drills. This demonstrates that HR and RPE are only poorly related during the intense drills used in this study, and that HR underestimates the intensity of the 2v2 drill. Heart rate demonstrated lower intersubject variability (1.3-2.2%) than RPE (5.1-9.9%). However, unlike HR, Borg 15-point RPE appears to be a valid marker of exercise intensity over a wide range of soccer training drills by maintaining validity in all drills and demonstrating acceptable intersubject variability. A combination of both HR- and RPE-based training load calculations appears optimal for use in soccer training.

If anyone has any other papers that can help I’d be happy to see them.

From designing my own heart rate monitors I know that just to purchase the parts necessary to make a very accurate monitor is expensive (maybe $200). Then you have the issue with artefact where the electric signal picked up by the HRM is actually coming from muscles other than the heart. Then there is the issue that it has to pick up the R waves to actually calculate the BPM.

If you ever look at HR in a clinical setting you know that it fluctuates with breathing anyway (usually 30-40 bpm) so if you are working in zones you need to look at average HR over a given period of time.

I’ve studied HR during exercise using medical grade telemetric EKG ($10-15K worth) and the results are so full of artefact that it’s just not even worth doing. If you are moving chances of an accurate reading are almost zero. So if you are going to use it measure them while stationary between intervals not during the run itself.