If you’re curious about the differences between chest strap heart rate monitors, strapless heart rate monitors, and ring monitors this article will tell you all you want to know.
There are basically two major types of heart rate monitors. Those used for athletic training purposes and those used for medical reasons, like baby heart rate monitors. The focus of this website is on athletic and sports monitors that runners, bikers, swimmers, triathletes, and other fitness conscious individuals would use.
If you would like to learn more about medical monitors like baby heart rate monitors you should check out WebMd.com or another authoritative medical website, or talk to your doctor. He or she should be able to recommend a monitor for you to purchase if you want or need to monitor someone’s heart rate on your own for medical purposes.
Now looking just at the sports market there are three types of heart rate monitors; chest strap models, wrist monitors which are also called strapless heart rate monitors, and ring monitors which can be worn on your finger. All of these, with the exception of ring monitors, are extremely accurate when compared to an actual electrocardiograph (EKG). An EKG is the most accurate and medically accepted way to measure heart rate.
The primary differences among heart rate monitor brands lies in the following:
- The accuracy of the monitor in recording your heart rate at various exertion levels from resting to max heart rate.
- The types of features offered with each monitor. Features vary greatly among models. To find out more about what features to look for in a heart rate monitor, check out our article on Features to Consider Before You Buy a Heart Rate Monitor.
- How easy the monitor is to use in terms of programming and being able to follow the owner’s manuals.
- Price – monitor prices range from less than $30 to over $400.
Here is what you can expect from each type of monitor.
Chest Strap Monitors
Chest strap heart rate monitors consist of two pieces of equipment, a wrist watch or receiver and a chest strap. The chest strap fits around your chest and has a transmitter with electrodes that touch your skin and measure the electrical impulses coming from each beat of your heart. The strap can be made of a variety of different materials with fabric models being the most comfortable. Most electrodes are sewn into the inside of the strap while the transmitter, which is usually made of hard plastic, is on the outside.
The chest strap transmits all of your heart rate data to your wrist watch where it’s analyzed in a variety of different ways. If you’re a cyclist, the receiver can fit on the handle bars of your bike. Sometimes with chest strap monitors you get interference from cell phone towers, power lines, or other wireless devices because the signals need to be sent through the air from the chest transmitter to the watch. The interruption is typically short lived though as you run, bike, or swim past the source of interference.
- Lets you move about and workout freely without having to touch a wrist monitor to take a heart rate reading.
- Provides a constant, steady stream of data about your heart rate and performance.
- Highly accurate.
- Some users may find the chest strap annoying or uncomfortable.
- Signals may be interrupted or momentarily inaccurate due to interference from other radio signals like power lines, cell phone towers or other heart rate monitors.
Wrist monitors work without the chest strap, hence the name strapless heart rate monitors. These types of monitors are extremely accurate and immune to any type of digital interference that can happen with chest strap monitors. There is no transference of signals between devices and all of the heart rate data is taken and analyzed in the device on your wrist.
To get your heart rate measured on a wrist monitor you need to put either one or two fingers, depending on the brand, onto the watch. A wrist monitor will not measure your heart rate constantly over time like a chest strap monitor will. It will only record your heart rate when you touch it. So the more you touch it, the more data you have to work with and plan your workouts. But constantly have to touch a wrist monitor can be a real pain, especially for some sports like swimming.
- You don’t have to wear a chest strap, which many people feel is uncomfortable or annoying.
- You won’t have any interference from other radio signals.
- Highly accurate.
- You have to periodically touch the watch to get a heart rate reading which means you are not getting a constant reading like with a chest strap monitor. This is not practical and can be very distracting for swimmers, cyclists, and runners.
There are only a few brands of ring monitors out there on the market and they are mainly for casual exercisers who just want to get a ballpark feel for their heart rate. The main reason for this is that they are not nearly as accurate as chest strap and wrist monitors when compared to an electrocardiograph. The accuracy of ring monitors tends to decrease the harder you exercise. Most users say that the resting heart rate measure on ring monitors is accurate, but as their heart rate increases their ring monitors become grossly inaccurate.
- Very compact, comfortable, and easy to wear and use.
- You won’t have any interference from other radio signals.
- Constant measure of your heart rate. You don’t need to touch anything to get a reading.
- Not as accurate as other type of monitors.
Within each type of heart rate monitor category like chest strap models and wrist monitors, there are different makes and models. These range from basic models to very advanced computers.
Basic Heart Rate Monitors
Basic models come in at the lower end of the price scale and have a small number of features. They generally will record your heart rate and how long you exercised so that you can review the information at the end of your workout. They should also show the time that you spent in, and above or below your target heart rate zone. Many have alarms and calorie counters that tell you how many calories you burned during your workout. Basic models will also show the time so you can use them as regular watches as well.
Intermediate Heart Rate Monitors
Intermediate models have all of the same features as basic models and usually add zone alarms, which make the monitor beep when you go above or below your target heart rate zone. Many also add in stopwatches and the ability to measure laps or split times if you’re doing an interval workout. You can also set multiple target heart rate zones during a single workout and measure heart rate recovery which is how quickly your heart rate returns to normal after a hard workout. Heart rate recovery is a good general measure of overall fitness.
Advanced monitors will have all of the same features of the other two levels but add some very exciting technological features. These include things like GPS tracking to accurately measure your distance, speed, and even altitude, as well as foot pod data which will record your pace. Advanced models will even tell you how to train. They analyze your training session and tell you whether you over or under trained and how hard you should go at it for your next workout. With an advanced model like the Suunto Ambit3 you will also be able to download all of the data to your computer for tracking and analysis. Some models will even download data automatically, wirelessly to the device of your choosing. Such a wealth of data can be crucial when planning your workouts and can really take your fitness and race success to the next level.
3 Best Heart Rate Monitor Reviews
1. Garmin Forerunner 735xt Heart Rate Monitor Watch
The Garmin Forerunner 735xt with optional pulse rate is a must-have for any triathlete. As a GPS-enabled training device, the Garmin 735xt offers such a lot over the competition. Its rugged style makes it an essential training tool for triathletes, providing superior data following also as water-resistance up to 164 foot (50m). Finally a heart rate monitor that can work with you while you are within the water.
2. Suunto Ambit2 Heart Rate Monitor Watch
All you would like for outside sports – navigation, speed, altitude, weather, optional pulse rate and options for running, biking and swimming. Thousands of Suunto Apps available to feature new functionalities to your watch. Packed in a optical fibre reinforced casing with battery lifetime of 16/50 hours, Suunto Ambit2 is prepared for any journey.
3. Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor Watch
The Polar FT4 heart rate monitor is that the ideal coaching companion for anyone who wants a basic heart rate monitor that keeps things easy. With an easy-to-use style and easy options, the Polar FT4 is a excellent choice for recreational exercisers or people who wish to get started with heart rate training.
Makers of heart rate monitors are providing different options and facilities for users. It is up to the users that they make the types of selections. There are many new models and types in these monitors which are launched in the market from time to time. It is easy to invest some money and get the monitors for improved working of heart. There are many people who are using different types of monitors in routine. You can make your selection and get the desired monitors at any time.
Online modes are helpful in getting details about different types of heart rate monitors. Many companies are providing details about monitors through internet. Websites of different companies are available with offers and packages so that users could purchase a new monitor. Simple monitors are cost effective but provide reduced details. You can take start with a simple monitor and then update it with time. If you can afford to purchase an expensive monitor then you can invest some money and have many benefits. It is easy to use these monitors as these are made in a user friendly manner.
If you are not willing to invest huge amounts in heart rate monitors then you can choose the economical models. Those monitors which have sensors are basic models and are economical. You have to work hard and apply efforts for getting details through such models. When you are saving money in getting monitors then you have to put efforts. With some investment for getting advanced models you can get good results in the form of reduced manual working and better details. With these details you are on your way to get the best results and follow a healthy plan.
Demand of heart rate monitors is increasing with time and many people are using them in routine. With these monitors any person is able to get the best results in the form of effective details and suitable plan for working and dealing with extra fats. Many people can reduce the extra fats from their bodies by using these monitors without extra burden on their hearts. When you are using these monitors then you are on your way to get rid of extra fats and have healthy heart with many other benefits. These benefits will be obtained naturally and you will see useful results in some time period. Many types of monitors are available in the market. If you have a basic monitor then you can purchase an advanced monitor as well for getting useful details.You can remove extra fats from your body and have strong and healthy heart by using these monitors at any time.