How to measure heart rate? The heart rate represents the most famous parameter in terms of dosing the intensity of the workout. But steering the intensity level during the training with the measured heart rate isn’t as easy as it seems.

How to measure heart rate? – problems

If you don’t have a monitor to measure the heart rate you have to determine your pulse manually. Here, we have two typical spots the measurement can be performed. One spot is on the inner side of the wrist right below the thumb and the other spot is at the throat on the carotid artery. To determine the heart rate we use middle and index finger. This could already become tricky, especially for children or older people. It is sometimes quite difficult to find the right spot. Furthermore in most cases we have to take a short break to measure the heart rate. This interrupts our rhythm of movement and could falsify the measurement results. We would than namely determine the pulse right after the exercise and not during the workout.

When we measure our heart rate we usually do that for a period of a few seconds (10, 15 or 20) and multiply the counted heart beats by 6 for a 10 seconds, 4 for a 15 seconds, and 3 for a 20 seconds measurement to calculate the beats per minute (bpm). Longer periods are not recommendable because our body calms more and more the longer our break continues causing our heart rate to decrease what would further falsify the measurement result. The described measurement method also bears quite some potential of making mistakes. We most likely are not able to count the beats or take the time 100 percent correctly. This usually makes us either miss a few beats or count a few beats more. Then multiplied with the respective factor the measurement error gets even larger.

How to measure heart rate? – monitoring and evaluation

The best way of how to measure the heart rate is to use a monitor. In this way the athlete can check on his pulse at any time during the training without interrupting his workout. The advantage is that you can measure the correct heart rate during the exercise (not right after) without the issue of making any mistakes by miscounting the heart beats. And there are many monitors that already include some smart calculations that help you to evaluate your training intensity even better. Learn how to steer the training intensity with your determined maximum heart rate.

But please be careful when it comes to tables with fixed heart rate values and respective intensity areas. Each and every body has different conditions what results in different heart rate values. Such factors are the genetic background, the age, the physical conditions, the climate, etc. In most cases the values of such tables cannot be applied. If you would like to learn more about the factors that determine your heart rate please also read the articles optimal exercise heart rate and heart rate calculation.

To sum up it is quite difficult to measure your heart rate manually and should only be practised to get a rough approach. Using a heart rate monitor is a pretty good way to check on the pulse. And there are already devices available that are not too expensive. A very good method to steer the training intensity is the rate of perceived exertion.


How to measure heart rate?

How to measure heart rate? Measuring the heart rate isn’t as easy as it seems. Learn about the difficulties.

How to measure heart rate?

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