Modern technology has filtered into all parts of our lives. Staying in touch with friends around the world, booking a vacation and even getting your weekly groceries. Sports and fitness are no different and with ever cheaper technology you are able to get access to gadgets that used to be only available to professional athletes.
Heart rate monitors essentially measure and display your heart rate. And this data tells you how hard your body overall is working. Now, the interesting thing is that working out and training at different heart rates will have very different results. This means that you can adjust your training in a way that gets you to your goal quicker.
On this page, you will find extensive information about the best heart rate monitor reviews for all types of athletes. What used to cost hundreds and even thousands of Dollars, you can now get for less than a pair of runners. And, you can hook up your monitor with a free app on your smartphone.
To help you through the maze of information out there, we have done all the research and condensed it down to 10 products that will suit all types of athletes from amateur to professional.
Table of Contents
- Our Top Product Recommendations
- 1 – Onlydriod CooSpo H6
- 2 – Polar H1 Strap
- 3- Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit
- 4 – Garmin Forerunner 910XT
- 5 – Suunto Ambit2 GPS
- 6 – Polar Wearlink Nike+ Transmitter Set
- 7 – URBST Fitness Tracker
- 8 – Garmin fenix 3
- 9 – Polar FT7
- 10 – Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor
- What Features You Need To Focus On
- Bluetooth Technology
- App Compatibility
- Route And Distance Tracking
- What Is Heart Rate Training?
- What Are Heart Rate Training Zones?
- VO2 Max
Our Top Product Recommendations
1 – Onlydriod CooSpo H6
The final heart sensor chest strap we want to mention is this CooSpo model. With the latest Bluetooth technology built in you will have no problem using this any of the most popular fitness apps including Wahoo, Fitcare, Runkeeper and Endomondo. You can always try them all out and just see which one suits you best.
The battery is very easy to change, which is not always the case with chest straps. And it connects to your phone in a matter of seconds, so there will be no waiting around when you are ready to go for a run.
- Good battery life and easy replacement
- Compatible with all the most popular apps
- Very accurate real time data transmission
- Quickly synchronizes
- Comfortable and easily adjustable strap
- Intermittent connection drops
- Not fully compatible with all gym equipment
2 – Polar H1 Strap
This chest strap only product is another great way to save some money. You’ll get very comfortable material that you will barely notice. The wireless technology used is compatible with most watches and smartphones. And whether you want to use the Polar app or one of the many others, you will be perfectly set up with this one.
- Very soft strap for extra comfort
- Easily adjusted to chest size
- Easily replace battery
- Compatible with most gym equipment
- Very accurate readings can be sent to many different apps
- Have to disconnect sensor after use
- Some sporadic connection issues
3- Suunto Ambit3 Peak HR Running GPS Unit
As mentioned above, Suunto is one of the best heart rate watch makers on the market. They bring amazing designs with fantastic functionality. This high-end model is no different and will certainly attract some envy from your fitness friends. It is fully water resistant and will even provide altitude data and weather information. That makes it ideal for hiking trips.
It also has GPS built in to map out your route with an amazing level of detail. All-round this is an amazing product and well worth the investment. It will provide a huge amount of data for you to work with.
- Fully GPS enabled
- Provides altitude and weather info
- Easily connect to phone to view and analyze data
- Water resistant and compass included
- Heart rate data for swimming
- Not the best for navigation
- Some might find it a bit large
4 – Garmin Forerunner 910XT
This Garmin heart rate watch is ideal if you need a device that can take a few knocks. It is robust with a simple design. And the display is large enough to give you all the information you need which makes it possibly the best heart rate monitor for running.
The slightly higher price is fully justified considering that you get GPS built in. This allows you to track your route and then upload it into the Gamin software to map out your runs and cycles. If you want to keep track of all your exercise data then this is a fantastic option.
- Water resistant and suitable for swimming
- GPS built in for route tracking
- Software helps analyze data
- Very accurate data collection
- Easy set up to get started
- Design is a bit basic
- Side buttons are difficult to press
5 – Suunto Ambit2 GPS
Of all the Bluetooth heart rate monitor watches out there, Suunto probably create some of the best-looking ones. The design is superb and will not look out of place with more formal wear. But it’s not just about the looks.
It has GPS built in which will keep track of the distances you have travelled. This is ideal for runners and cyclists and you can use the data on your computer to map out your training routes and results. There are also plenty of smartphone apps that you can sync up with to have multiple different data sources. Despite all the functionality built in, the menus are very easy to get used to and most of the settings are self-explanatory.
- Coolest looking product on this list
- Very intuitive menus and functionality
- GPS included to track routes
- Extremely accurate measures
- Compatible with smartphone apps
- No vibration messages
- Messages not forwarded from phone
Another great fitness heart rate monitor strap is this Polar Wearlink that is compatible with Nike+. If you have been using Nike+ and have a long history of training and exercise data then this will be a great addition to your set up.
It is very reasonably priced and for that you get really accurate data transmitted in real time from the sensor. You can easily pair it with your Nike+ watch. If you need a cheap solution then this is probably it.
- Fully integrated with Nike+
- Easily replaceable battery
- Very good value for money
- Accurate and reliable readings
- Pairing with watch is seamless
- Nike+ service is not the best
- Cannot be used with Nike+ app on phone
7 – URBST Fitness Tracker
If you are looking for the best wrist heart rate monitor then you will want to go with this URBST one. Essentially it is an exercise heart rate monitor without chest strap that measures your rate with sensors built into the wrist strap. This works pretty well, but is not quite as accurate as a chest sensor.
It also does a lot more than tracking your beats per minute. As a fully featured activity tracker you will keep track of steps and even your sleep time to get an overall picture of your daily activities. It also looks really cool and uses touch screen technology instead of buttons which makes it real easy to use.
- Measures heart rate at your wrist
- Touch screen provides easy interaction
- Record sleep time to ensure enough resting
- Waterproof design
- Activity tracker records detailed data
- Not suitable for swimming
- Screen is quite small
8 – Garmin fenix 3
This heart rate watch is one of the most fully featured and advanced pieces of training equipment you can buy. Yes, it’ll cost as much as your yearly gym membership. But it will be like having a personal trainer with you at all times.
The screen is extra-large to provide a huge amount of detail and data for easy viewing. You can use it for swimming which makes it ideal if you are into triathlons and want to perform at your best. It collects a load of data that you can then sync up to Garmin Connect for detailed analysis and storage. Over time this will give you a full picture of your progress.
- High resolution screen for extra detail
- Suitable for swimming
- Data is synced to Garmin Connect over WiFI
- 20 hours’ battery life in GPS mode
- Comfortable chest strap included
- Altimeter doesn’t always calibrate correctly
- Buttons are a little small
9 – Polar FT7
The FT7 is possibly one of the best heart rate monitor watch options you can choose. It is very affordable and has plenty of features that will get you started on a more efficient training path. The chest strap is included and is very comfortable to wear. It also takes and transmits very accurate data.
You will also see data about the number of calories you have burned and it will constantly indicate what zone you are currently in. Overall it does exactly what you need it to do, without all the extra bells and whistles for distraction.
- Chest strap included for extra accuracy
- Very cool design usable as a casual watch
- Calorie counter built in
- Heart rate zone indicator for optimum training results
- Stores 99 training sessions
- Not suitable for swimming
- Display can be difficult to read
10 – Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor
Polar is one of the leading makers of sports gadgets and all their products are really innovative. The H7 is just the fitness heart rate monitor strap and is a great option if you don’t want to splash out the extra money for a watch. What you will need to do though is to pair it with your smartphone and a fitness app.
It is very light weight and easy to wear, so you’ll hardly notice it. It uses Bluetooth technology and can be synced up to phones and some of the most common gym equipment as well. At this price, you will not find a more reasonable and fully featured solution.
- Compatible with lot of gym equipment
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear
- Connects to smartphones and many apps
- Very accurate readings
- Very affordable
- Battery replacement is a bit difficult
- Battery drains if sensor isn’t disconnected when not in use
What Features You Need To Focus On
When you are comparing many different products, you have to be very careful that you don’t get distracted by fancy images and marketing talk. Instead, pick a few features that are important to you, and make a decision based on those common ones. That ensures that you are comparing items based on their functionality.
Here are some of the most important features that you can focus on.
If you want to get the most accurate results then you will need to go for a chest strap sensor, rather than a wrist one. The best way the heart sensor data can be transmitted wirelessly is over Bluetooth. The reason for this is that it is a designated short-range transmission. Your watch or phone will usually be close by you so you don’t need to bridge long distances.
Bluetooth is also a very widely used standard in smartphones. That means you don’t have to worry about your sensor being compatible with your phone. Just pair the two and install your favorite app and you are ready to go.
The first thing you should be aware of is that there is a difference between waterproof and sweat proof. There are devices that are listed as sweat proof that would break if you wore them in water. Essentially, it means that they are splash proof and will withstand a little bit of water.
Waterproof would indicate that it could be worn in water without being damaged. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to transmit data when you are swimming. If you do need to record your heart rate while you are swimming then make sure to check that this is a compatible activity.
The reason for this is that signals need to be boosted when you are in the water and not all monitors are made this way.
There are two aspects to consider here. First, the chest strap should be made of soft materials that will remain comfortable once they get wet from sweating. And they also have to remain comfortable after you wash them. If the strap becomes uncomfortable then this can be a big distraction when you are training.
If you are going for a watch and strap combo then you also want to make sure that the watch will not be too bulky and heavy. Some watches out there are very big. This does have advantages like being able to see more data while you are working out. But for many people it might not feel right.
This is a hugely important factor. Most heart monitors are built with standard technology and they will send very basic data. With hundreds of different fitness apps out there to choose from you will find one that’ll work with your sensor. But it’s always wise to check that the most popular fitness apps are listed in the compatibility section of your chosen product.
The great thing is that you will not have difficulty finding an app with enough free features. There are some great ones out there that have built in data analytics. These will display your training data in charts to make it easy to understand where you are heading. Some will even make training recommendations and give you reminders so that you can make sure you get to your target goals.
Route And Distance Tracking
If you like running or cycling, then you will be very much interested in how long the distances were that you went. Most people with smartphones will be able to use their phone’s built-in GPS tracking. But some people don’t like carrying around a heavy or large phone.
If you go for an exercise heart rate monitor watch, and you want to track your routes, then make sure you spend the bit extra to give you GPS functionality. Your watch can then store the data and when you hook it up to your favorite app, it will display the route and distance you went. This is essential data to see how you are progressing.
What Is Heart Rate Training?
If you are new to heart rate monitor training, then don’t let the technology and amount of data put you off. Yes, you will go through different phases in training, and you should know what they mean. But most of the hard work can be done with the help of free fitness apps.
Heart rate training is essentially the process of working your body at very precise levels. The harder you work, the faster your heart will beat to get enough oxygen to your muscles. Many people might think that if you work as hard as you can then you will achieve the best results. That is only partially true.
Your body will react very differently when you are working at different heart rates. Some rates will help with burning excess fat. While others will work great to build muscle. Then there are ways to improve your overall fitness level. Combining and targeting different zones in your exercise routines can really help you to work to your goals.
Once you have defined your goals you can then tailor your training in a way that will get your body working at the best rate possible.
But one of the biggest advantages that you might find is that you have some tangible data about your performance. Because you measure your heart rate over time, you can compare that data. The fitter you are getting the lower your average heart rate will become when doing the same exercise. For example, you can record your average heart rate on a 5K run today. Over several weeks of training, you can then try to run the same 5K, in the same time, and you will notice that your average heart rate will have come down a bit.
Alternatively, you will see that you can run the same 5K at a faster speed, but with no increase in average rate. This can be a huge moral boost to see exactly how you are improving.
What Are Heart Rate Training Zones?
Heart rates are divided into specific zones that range from resting to peak performance. Each zone has very specific characteristics when it comes to what happens in your body. Knowing this will give you the ability to work out a lot more efficiently and effectively.
Heart rate zones are calculated using very precise formulas. Rather than try to work them out yourself, you should use an app where you enter a couple of simple details like your resting heart rate, age and maximum rate. After that, you will be able to see what your target rates are for different zones. Here are the 4 most commonly used zones.
For the average person everything up to about 115 beats per minute will be a light exercise and recovery zone. This is where you want to be if you are warming up and cooling down. But it is also a great way to target a recovery day in a very packed exercise routine.
From 115 to 145 beats per minute you are in the aerobic zone. This is where your heart starts working significantly harder and your breathing rate increases as well. You will even start to feel some fatigue in your muscles and it is a great way to target fat loss and overall fitness improvements.
Now you are entering rates of up to 175 beats per minute and muscle pains will start to set in. You will notice some burning in your muscles as lactic acid levels increase. Training here will gradually push your lactate threshold up so that over time you can perform longer at these levels.
This is your peak heart rate level, which you can push up to about 195 beats per minute dependent on your age and fitness levels. At this level, you will trigger the development of new muscle tissue especially fast twitch fibers. You can and should only enter this zone for very short periods.
You now have all the info you need to make a great and informed decision. And you will be ready to improve your training and exercise achievements with measurable results. It will be amazing how great some pretty simple technology works to take your fitness goals to the next level. Any of the above heart rate monitor reviews will get you to that next level.