We’ve been using Heart Rate Variability, or HRV for short, in our training for a little over a year now. First we started by experimenting with it ourselves, and then we decided to roll it out with a few clients. In order for us to really “buy in” to HRV, we needed to see a little more data before being completely sold on the concept.
A little over a year later, we can honestly say that HRV is another solid piece of equipment and data to add to your training. This is the only true way we really know how our bodies are handling the stresses of training, and life in general.
The technology has been around since the 60′s I believe, but it wasn’t until recently that this technology has been affordable to the average consumer. The science itself isn’t new at all; however, since the cost is now affordable (roughly $1-300)… more people are starting to buy in to HRV training, and so should you!
This technology has allowed us to test our nervous system and assess the readiness for each training session. Maybe you’re in a grueling phase of your training. Maybe you got a new job and can’t sleep as much. Maybe life got in the way and your nutrition habits have not been quite as good as they normally are. Maybe you just lost a family, friend, or loved one.
The body doesn’t necessarily recognize good or bad stress. It just recognizes that there is stress and adaptations will occur. If too much stress is applied to the body at once, our nervous system gets out of whack. When this happens, performance will usually stall out, an injury may happen, it may take longer to recover from training sessions, hormone levels begin to change, and the body can go into a fat storage state. Basically, a lot of bad things seem to happen when our nervous system can’t keep up with the amount of stress placed on the body.
Heart Rate Variability is just another tool we can use to help us properly manage each training session. The old school method of training was to train harder than the next guy. If you’re training sessions are tough, so what… suck it up and keep going.
Now with the use of HRV, we can train a little smarter. We don’t always have to train harder to get results. We just need to train a little smarter. Don’t get me wrong… train hard! Your body needs that stimulus in order to make changes. We’re just saying that you should listen to your body and start managing all of the stress in your life…training and non-training related.
Adding Heart Rate Variability to your training programs shouldn’t be a big ordeal. It’s just giving you information you didn’t have before. So maybe you’re fried that day and your readiness to train is low, how do we modify our program? There are a couple ways to manage stress and training when in a low readiness state. The first two are my favorite ways to adjust programming for low to moderate readiness levels (yellow or amber if you’re using Omegawave or Bioforce). The third option is what I would do if they were red lined and readiness is extremely low:
- Decrease workload to about 80% of what you originally planned. For example, if I had 4 sets of 8 Front Squats today and I normally use 200…I would just adjust the weight to 4 sets of 8 using 160. The only change here is the load used. This will give a simulative load without overloading the nervous system with an aggressive load.
- Decrease the volume by 50%, but keep the intensity the same. Let’s look at the same example above. In this scenario, I would still be doing my Front Squats at 200 pounds. However, instead of doing four sets…I would only do two. I would decrease my volume by roughly 50%. This is another way to get a good simulative load without overloading the nervous system.
- If you’re in the red state, or extremely low readiness to train, we recommend doing a little soft tissue work, maybe some very slow cardio work, finish the session off with a little breathing, and call it a day. This can be done, or a complete day of rest could also be recommended. We usually don’t see too many of these days, but adjusting the training according to personal readiness levels also plays a big factor into that.
Simply put, if you’re not using HRV in your training, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. If you want to have all the information needed to optimize your training, we highly recommend investing into either the Omegawave or Bioforce HRV systems. You can find out more about HRV and these two testing systems here:
Train Hard, Train Smart!