Get the cardio edge you need with a heart rate monitor, and never waste your workout again.
Regardless of whether you’re a professional fighter, an up-and-coming amateur, or you just train for fun, undoubtedly, you want to gain as much as possible from your hard efforts. Nobody wants to go to the gym every day without noticeable improvements. Sadly, this happens all too often, as most athletes and trainees have experienced plateaus in their training progress.
One of the easiest ways to make sure this diminishing return on your invested time doesn’t happen to you, is to take advantage of the cheapest coach you could ever have—a high quality heart rate monitor. Even though most people would never dream of trying to teach themselves the skills of mixed martial arts without spending good money for a quality coach, quite frequently, athletes go through physical training without the objective and invaluable feedback that using a heart rate monitor easily provides.
Just as you wouldn’t expect to get too far if you were to try to drive across the country without a map or GPS to guide you along the way, you shouldn’t expect to get the most out of your training program without the use of a heart rate monitor. These incredibly powerful little tools can mean the difference between developing world class conditioning and wasting endless hours of time training ineffectively.
If you take your time and hard work seriously, always make sure to train with a eart rate monitor and follow the simple guidelines below to get the most out of it. Once you begin using a heart rate monitor as suggested, I guarantee you’ll wonder how you ever trained without one.
One of the biggest and most common training errors is the attempt to turn everything into some form of conditioning. Rather than taking the time to adequately rest between sets to maximize your work output, combat athletes often complete everything in a circuit fashion, with as little rest as possible. Conversely, if you’ve ever watched a power lifter or an Olympic lifter train, you’ve no doubt seen the incredibly long rest periods they utilize between each and every set.
The primary reason for such long rest periods is to ensure that the strongest, most powerful muscle fi bers and the nervous system have fully recovered from the previous set and are ready to go to work again. When the rest period is insuffi cient, these fibers aren’t able to contribute as much and the result is that they don’t improve their ability to produce force and power to nearly the same extent. In other words, you don’t
get as strong or as explosive as you could when you rush the rest between sets.
Utilizing a simple heart rate monitor is an easy way to help gauge recovery from strength and power training. A good general rule of thumb is to make sure your heart rate has recovered to a range of at least 110-130
beats per minute (bpm) before beginning the next set. Not only will this lead to improved quality of your sets and reduce your chance of injury due to fatigue, but you’ll also see greater strength and power gains
TRACK YOUR RECOVERY BETWEEN ROUNDS
One of the hallmarks and defining features of good conditioning is the ability to maintain explosiveness and strength in the later rounds. One of the real keys to being the kind of fighter that still has gas in the later rounds is the ability to recover quickly during the one minute rest period between rounds. The more quickly you can recover between rounds, the less likely you are to fatigue as time goes on, and the greater advantage you’ll have against an opponent in lesser shape.
Wearing a heart rate monitor and using it to gauge your recovery between rounds not only gives you a good indication of your fitness levels, it also helps make sure your training is headed in the right direction. The ability to have your heart rate drop quickly between rounds is known as heart rate recovery, and a well-conditioned fighter can expect to see his or her heart rate drop 40 bpm or more within one minute of rest.
If you’re seeing substantially less than this, it’s a sign you need to improve your conditioning levels to avoid gassing out in the later rounds. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to get down to a heart rate in the low 140s between each and every round, regardless of how high your heart rate gets during the round. Because the heart rate is too high and changes rapidly over the course of a minute, trying to get an accurate gauge of heart rate recovery without a heart rate monitor is difficult and problematic at best. A heart rate monitor makes measuring the heart rate recovery between rounds both extremely simple and accurate.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR RESTING HEARTRATE
Resting heart rate has been used as a good general gauge of aerobic fitness levels and work capacity by endurance athletes for generations. Even though combat sports do not require the same level of aerobic fitness as pure endurance athletes like marathon runners and triathletes, combat sports still require a high level of aerobic fitness.
Although individual variances occur, the vast majority of the best conditioned combat athletes have resting heart rates in the low 50s and even upper 40s. With rare exception, this is the range of resting heart rate that’s necessary for a high level of conditioning and a heart rate monitor is the tool of choice to measure and track your resting heart rate.
To get the most accurate reading, it’s always a good idea to take a measure of resting heart rate first thing in the morning, before any stimulants have been consumed and before you’ve started your day. The best position to measure it is either seated or lying down, but whichever you choose, the important thing is to always measure in the same position each time, because resting heart rate can change by as many as 10 beats per minute from one position to the next.
TRAIN IN THE RIGHT ZONE
Back in the 1980s, the concept of training in different heart rate zones began to catch on and sales of heart rate monitors skyrocketed. Treadmills in gyms all over the U.S. soon began to have labels showing different ideal target heart rate zones for maximum fat burning, or for increasing your “cardio.”
Although the suggested heart rate training zones that were developed in the ‘80s are a bit overly simplistic and not always accurate, the principle of making sure you’re training at the right intensity for your goals is still an important one. All combat sports require the right balance of energy system development, and using a heart rate monitor can help ensure you’re training at the proper intensity given your goal and overall training program.
A very simple way to look at heart rate zones is to consider a “Low” zone anything in the heart rate range of 130-150 bpm. This is the range generally used for low intensity training like roadwork and is primarily utilized to develop the efficiency of the heart and develop the network of blood vessels and capillaries necessary to deliver as much oxygen as possible to the working muscles.
The next zone ranges from approximately 160 beats per minute up to about 90% of your maximum heart rate and is termed the “Moderate” training zone. Keep in mind, however, that there is no formula to accurately determine your maximum heart rate and the only true way to find it is by working up to it in training. When you get to the point that you’re working as hard as you possibly can but your heart rate isn’t increasing, then you have found your maximum heart rate.
The Moderate zone is an important one for combat sports, and the more power you can produce while in this zone, the better your conditioning is. Typically the middle of this zone is where most people’s anaerobic threshold range will be, and training focused in this area can help maximize aerobic power and fitness.
Finally, the last heart rate zone is “High” and it is considered anything over 90% of your maximum heart rate. This is where the true limits of anaerobic energy production are pushed and your body is worked to its maximum. It’s always a good idea to track how much time you spend in this zone during training and to make sure it doesn’t exceed your recovery ability. Too much time spent in the highest heart rate zone is a recipe for overtraining, so you’ll want to pay close attention and monitor the total time spent, both daily and weekly, training in this High zone.
WATCH FOR OVER TRAINING
Finally, another way that a heart rate monitor can be utilized is as a detector of the early symptoms of overtraining. There are two different ways that using a heart rate monitor can serve to offer warning signs that you may be training too much. Using both methods in combination is the best way to make sure you avoid over training syndrome—and the decreased performance and increased likelihood of injury and sickness that so often accompany it.
First and foremost, large and sudden changes in resting heart rate away from normal can be an indication that there is an imbalance between training and recovery. It’s perfectly normal for day to day variations to occur, but large swings in resting heart rate, either up or down, are a warning sign that you may be headed towards overtraining. Any time you see a sudden and persistent increase or decrease of a morning resting heart rate of five to 10 bpm or more, combined with a period of high load training, it’s a clear indication that more rest is needed.
Second, aside from changes in resting heart rate, overtraining can also be seen in altered rate responses to exercise as well. In other words, you may fi nd that your heart rates are signifi cantly different in training than where they typically fall. It’s not uncommon to see heart rates that are 10 bpm, or even higher, than where they would normally be for a given level of intensity. In the later stages of over training, you may even find the opposite and have a diffi cult time getting your heart rate as high as it would normally be—this is a very clear sign you’re in a deeply over trained state and in need of a great deal of rest and reduced training volume.
Monitoring both your morning resting heart rate and how your heart rate responds to training can provide tremendous insight into how hard your body is working and whether or not it’s able to recover from a given level of daily and weekly training. When all signs point to the fact that you need more rest, simply back off for a few days to avoid injury and a deeply overt rained state that can require weeks or even months for recovery.
Low intensity work: 130-150
Mid workload: 150-90% of Max HR
Max workload: Over 90% of Max HR
- Allow heart rate to drop to 130 or lower between exercise sets to enable maximum work load.
- Track recovery heart rate between rounds to gauge fitness level.
- Monitor your resting heart rate for significant fluctuations—a sure indicator of overtraining and a sign to take a few days of rest.
For more advanced heart rate training tips, be sure to visit Joel Jamieson’s website at 8weeksout.com and check out his cutting edge BioForce HRV system for optimal conditioning.