The attached picture is a scan from an actual 4 inning outing of a professional baseball (Major League) and from the software printout this isn’t exactly the latest software. The question is what can you get from HR analysis in sport? What are some practical field tests? What is a waste of time? Heart Rate is useful and I am a moderate believer in it. Some seek through through the heart like a crystal ball, some scoff at it but fail to address questions of intuition, like some mindreader. I have used HR analysis daily and sometimes not at all to see what I am gathering and see what my eyes are actually piecing together.Here are four tips on using HR for teams and olympic sport that I have picked up.
Keep it Clear with Benchmarks- Heart Rate is not random number generators but are specific responses. HR doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does hint on what is going on. When output is constant, one can see if the same work that is normal is getting harder or easier and if the body is able to recover from that. Sounds simple but coaches need to see change, not exotic metrics. I love tempo recovery work such as weekly runs with the same distances and velocities to accurately gage change in fitness. We need to know if the athlete is getting in better shape, out of shape, staying in shape, or overtraining. Coaches should have specific benchmarks based on historical success.
Workouts are Tests with Benefits- Make the workouts the tests if possible. Often people just strap on HR monitors to get stuff captured. Heart rate is to show conditioning and fitness levels. I love field tests such as some of the work by Buchheit and Mujika. A simple yo yo test or 30-15 becomes a great workout. Don’t loose training time to get information that confirms you should have trained. I see a huge pattern of people wanting to get data with tests that don’t create a stimulus. For example vertical jump testing for many teams takes a lot of time just to organize because of limited access to equipment such as a vertec or just jump mat. Nobody is going to get a stimulus from jumping up and down 2-3 times. The same can be said from doing only recovery workouts and looking how tired they are because they are weak and out of shape.
Using Software- I use iSmarttrain because it just works, but I don’t use it for rosters of 60 athletes yet. Polar has some nice stuff but the software is not very nimble and the power isn’t much better than just getting basic TRIMPS. Some new innovative people in sports performance are working on a better universal system to show better patterns and trending. Try to export to excel so analysis can be done with various statistics software packages. Custom scripts are being programmed as we speak to predict fatigue during matches and HRV is growing to see more fatigue patterns.
Heart Rate has validity to predicting overstraining and general conditioning effects. The key is to use it consistently at the right time with the right tests to gage basic abilities.