Guiding principles for using heart rate monitors for training athletes

This article, by Bruce Kelly from, describes how to use a heart rate monitor to determine how much rest is needed between intervals of maximum intensity work (e.g., sprint, sled push/drag or plyo jump).

Here’s an article by Andrew Vontz and Chris Frankel about using heart rate monitors as a strength and conditioning coach. It is a very fair assessment of how to implement heart rate monitoring into team sports that are intermittent, high intensity as compared to steady-state.; also shown here:

Here’s a podcast by Mike Boyle about a number of topics, one of which includes using heart rate monitors as a strength and conditioning coach

Heart rate dynamics in soccer

Study (Helgerud et al., 2001). This is a soccer study showing that high intensity interval training twice a week improved a number of fitness and performance outcomes for soccer players. Interval training consisted of 4 discrete 4 minute intervals of sprints at 90-95% MHR followed by 3-4 minute recovery at 50-60% MHR twice a week for 8 weeks. This was done in addition to 90 minute practice sessions 4 times per week.

Review article (Hoff, 2005). This article summarizes work on training and physical capacities in soccer players. Hoff reviews different HIIT programs and their effects on aerobic capacity and other outcomes.

Study (Impellizzeri et al., 2006). This article showed that both soccer-specific (small-sided games) and generic aerobic exercise (running) conducted twice a week in the preseason were equivalent at improving measures of aerobic capacity (VO2max, lactate threshold, running economy) and physical performance during matches (total time spent running at high intensities and distance covered).

Study (MicMillan et al., 2005). This article showed that a soccer-specific dribbling drill could be effective at improving fitness in youth soccer players. They tested a 4×4 HIIT program in which soccer players dribbled the ball around a special track at 90-95% MHR for 4 min periods followed by 3 min jogging below 70% MHR and found that VO2max improved.

Web article (Peak performance online). This article describes findings from several studies on soccer and basketball players that can inform our understanding of using heart rate to guide training in these sports.

Heart rate dynamics in basketball

Study (McInnes et al., 1995). Physiological load imposed on basketball players during competition.

Heart rate dynamics in refereeing

Review article (2007). This article reviews work on referee fitness and training and suggests the need to train referees using HIIT programs that are more akin to the game given that they are less fit than the players.

Energy system development

In this article, David Lasnier writes about the energy systems that get conditioned in different types of workouts.

In this blog, Nick Winckleman describes 5 phases of an energy systems development based training program for sports-specific training.

An article on alternating work-rest ratios to match sports-specific activities. Rhea, M.R., R.L. Hunter, and T.J. Hunter. Competition modeling of American football: observational data and implications for high school, collegiate, and professional player conditioning. J Strength Cond Res. 20:58-61, 2006.

This article describes in good detail the energy pathways used to fuel exercise.

Training types and programming

McDonald L. (2009). Research Review: Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on Anaerobic Capacity and VO2 max,

Bogdanis GC, Nevill ME, Boobis LH, Lakomy HK. (1996). Contribution of Phosphocreatine and Aerobic Metabolism to Energy Supply During Repeated Sprint Exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 80(3), 876-84.

Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. (1996). Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on Anaerobic Capacity and VO2 max, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 28(10), 1327-30.

Steady state versus interval training. This is a good article that cites the benefits of both steady state and interval training types.

Periodization. has several great articles on periodization.



Heart rate variability (HRV)

Aubert et al., 2003, Heart rate variability in athletes, Sports Med: Superb review of heart rate variability: how it’s computed, what optimal levels are, what it predicts, etc.

Chambers, A. S., & Allen, J. J. B. (2007). Cardiac vagal control, emotion, psychopathology, and health. Biological psychology, 74(2), 113–5. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.09.004

Denver, J. W., Reed, S. F., & Porges, S. W. (2007). Methodological issues in the quantification of respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Biological Psychology, 74(2), 286–294. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.09.005

Grossman, P., & Taylor, E. W. (2007). Toward understanding respiratory sinus arrhythmia: relations to cardiac vagal tone, evolution and biobehavioral functions. Biological psychology, 74(2), 263–85. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.11.014

Porges, S. W. (2007a). The polyvagal perspective. Biological psychology, 74(2), 116–43. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.06.009

Porges, S. W. (2007b). A phylogenetic journey through the vague and ambiguous Xth cranial nerve: A commentary on contemporary heart rate variability research. Biological Psychology, 74(2), 301–307. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.08.007

(Borresen and Lambert, 2008) Autonomic control of heart rate during and after exercise: measurements and implications for monitoring training status. Interesting point that more fit people show slower HR acceleration to submaximal and maximal HR and faster deceleration; both are mediated by stronger vagal tone. For our purposes, this makes me think that a next step could be to compute the slope of parasympathic reactivation during HR recovery (HF power increase) and deactivation during HR acceleration (HF power decrease).

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)

Review article (2003): This article reviews studies on excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) summarizing evidence that suggest the short and long-term EPOC duration is a good index of training intensity and duration (training load).

Review article (2006): This article reviews studies on EPOC summarizing evidence that suggests measuring energy expenditure during exercise might be more informative about the metabolic effects than prolonged effects post exercise.

Study (2010): This article described an experiment (perhaps the most recent) on EPOC changes with 12 weeks of conditioning and its relationship with other indices of metabolic changes post exercise.

Measures of stress, other than HRV

Self-reported assessment of stress. Jason Anson cites to the Daily Analysis of Life Demands for Athletes (DALDA) as a measure of stress that can be used to gauge athlete overtraining.

Measuring recovery. Nick Winkelman writes about planned recovery and periodization of the work-rest ratio over days in the week. He mentions a few models related to fatigue and adaptation to the exercise stimulus: “General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), and more recently the Fitness-Fatigue Models (FFM), describe the physiological defense for using programmed variation through proper periodization (2).”

Glaister, M. (2005). Multiple Sprint Work: Physiological Responses, Mechanisms of Fatigue and the Influence of Aerobic Fitness. Sports Med, 35(9), 757-77.

Dupoy et al., 2012: Reliability of heart rate measures used to assess post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation. “a large bulk of studies have shown that positive adaptation to exercise training was associated to a faster HRR and an increased HRV (Yataco et al., 1997; Triposkiadis et al., 2002)”…“it has been suggested that these measures could be used to monitor acute fatigue and to prevent chronic negative adaptations to exercise training, such as overreaching or overtraining (Hedelin et al., 2000; Bosquet et al., 2008b; Lamberts et al., 2010).”


Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » appearance » Widgets » and move a widget into Advertise Widget Zone