Written by Simone Maglassis, CPT, ACSM, ACE
Many of us have been gifted this or bought it for ourselves, strapped it on our wrist and said "Cool!"
But are you really using it the right way? AND effectively?
One thing you can start with is tracking your heart rate during your next workout to get you in the "fat burning zone".
How do you do this exactly?
You figure out your max heart rate by doing an equation (or multiple equations) and try to reach that number in your next workout.
Don't worry, many have done the math for you. The main takeaway is that these are estimations and not 100% accurate.
Take a look at the chart below and see where you fall.
Next time you do your workout, aim to reach the 50-85% max zone.
With my clients, I like to aim for that 85% max heart rate at least 1-3 times within a workout and if the client achieves a higher heart rate, even better!
There are exceptions though.
The fist one being that it's important to take into consideration whether you suffer from high blood pressure or push yourself too much to the point you don't give yourself time to recover and let your heart rate come back down. Being at 85% or more for an extended period of time than recommended is not ideal.
Furthermore, this "fat burning zone" is not entirely true nor accurate but it does give you a goal to reach and the more your heart rate increases, the more calories you burn, the more you induce EPOC (excess post-oxygen exercise consumption-basically burning more calories after exercise even at rest) and the harder and more effectively you'll work, the more weight you'll lose.
Ultimately, as long as you’re exercising and eating healthy the majority of the time you’ll still reach your goals so don't fret if you haven't gotten your hands on these fancy gadgets as of yet.
This is for those who want to go into the finer details and get to the nitty gritty and get to their goals faster and more efficiently.
Ever since I started paying attention to this with my clients I've noticed a significant difference with sorting through the exercises that give them the most bang for their buck.
Here are my personal observations:
1. Burpees aren't everything.
Certain exercises effect the body differently.
Burpees are everyone's go to (especially for us personal trainers)
But sweating and panting doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working as hard as you could and while it may get your lungs to work harder it doesn't mean the heart rate is going to increase. Funny how that works isn't it?
For instance, one of my clients, we'll call her DW, did burpees for 1 minute. DW's heart rate read 110-115 at the end of the one minute. She then took a rest for 20-30 seconds and moved onto doing the alternating leg and arm plank for 1 minute.
Her heart rate then spiked to 159-160 which was her 85% max!
DW burned more calories doing that plank than she did doing the burpees even if she wasn't panting as hard or as visibly tired from doing the burpees.
This highlights the point that just because you're sweating it doesn't mean you're working hard.
Here's another example:
Client DW skipped rope for 1 minute and her heart rate was 112, she took a 30 second break and did up and down battle ropes for 1 minute and her heart rate jumped to 165 (even higher than the 85% max). She then did burpees after a 30 second rest and her heart rate lowered to 100.
This is why tracking the heart rate is so important. It tells us so much more than what we see.
2. Differentiating the heart vs the lungs
A client asked me, "Do certain exercises hit more of your lungs versus your heart or target them differently?"
I wasn't sure, surely the lungs and heart work together and there is no difference? But I checked out some reputable sources to find the answer.
3. Check your heart rate after each exercise
Which exercise increased your heart rate the most? Which exercise got you into that 85% heart rate zone?
Check your heart rate after each specific exercise and make note of which ones increased your heart rate the most. Keep them in your arsenal as you'll know that those ones are the most effective.
3. My Theories & Observations:
The heart rate will increase or decrease depending on 3 things:
Of course this seems obvious but when you really pay attention to these 3 things you'll notice how much your heart rate will change during a given exercise
85%+ Max Heart Rate Workout
These are the exercises that worked for my client D.W but that doesn't mean it'll work for you, it depends on your age and even so, the formulas out there are not 100% accurate but it is a great guideline.
It's important to note that not every exercise has to get you into that 85%+ zone and exercises that don't are still perfectly okay. See these exercise as the sprinkles on a cupcake to add that extra boost of satisfaction and enhance the flavour and yummy results.
If you want to get your heart rate up to the "fat burning zone" try these exercises and then check your heart rate and reference back to the chart above (Videos coming soon!):
Plank Alternating Arm & Leg Lift (1 min, 30 sec rest)
The most important thing to note is to not rock the hips. When I did this exercise along my heart rate got up to 125.
You can also do this exercise on your knees and lift one arm and one leg at a time instead of doing it together. Work on increasing the difficulty overtime.
Basic Battle Ropes (1 min, 30 sec rest)
The higher your bring up your arms the better. Keep the core tight and the body solid as you move both arms up and down at once with force.
Wall Sit & Bicep Curl (3 sets of 10 reps)
A perfect combination exercise that targets everything! One of my favourites.
Keep the shoulders back and the core tight. You can also do a frontal raise instead of a bicep curl if you want to switch it up.
Straight Arm Pull Down & Step Back or Reverse Lunge (1 minute, 30 sec rest)
Looks easy but do this a couple of times and you'll feel it, especially in those triceps.
Kneel to Squat & Press (5-10 reps each side, 3 sets)
Start on the knees, and lead with one leg for the desired reps, get into a low squat and press the dumbbells or medicine ball up into an overhead press as you rise to a standing position.
Other exercises you can try are bench step ups where you step up and down on a bench.
1. All About Heart Rate (Pulse), American Heart Association website
2. Elevated resting heart rate, physical ﬁtness and all-cause mortality, Epidemiology, 2013 http://heart.bmj.com/content/99/12/882.full?sid=90e3623c-1250-4b94-928c-0a8f95c5b36b
3. Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate, Centers for Disease Control website https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm