'Can I Measure Calories Burned during Strength Training with a Heart Rate Monitor?'

By , SparkPeople Blogger
heart rate monitor (HRM) is capable of estimating calorie burn pretty accurately—but only for aerobic (cardio) exercise, not for strength training. Here's why:

A HRM won't give you an accurate idea of how many calories you burn during strength training because the relationship between heart rate and calorie expenditure is not the same during strength training as during cardio exercise, which is what the HRM's estimate is based on. Unless your weight training is very vigorous circuit training, the heart rate monitor will be overestimating your calorie burn by a fair amount.

The problem is a technical one. Calorie burning isn't determined by heart rate; it's determined by the number of muscle cells that are activated to perform a given activity. It's the working cells that actually use the energy (calories) and consume oxygen. When working muscle cells need more energy and oxygen, your heart rate goes up to deliver these things to the cells via the blood stream. 

Any muscle that performs a high intensity or maximum effort (strength training) will trigger an increase in heart rate and blood flow. But if only a single muscle group is on the receiving end to utilize that extra oxygen (doing a strength exercise that isolates your biceps, for example), only a relatively small amount of oxygen (and calories) will actually be consumed. 

So while a series of strength training exercises may elevate your heart rate like aerobic exercise does, you're not actually using as much oxygen and burning as many calories as you would be if you were steadily using several large muscles all at once, as when walking, running, swimming, or doing aerobics for example. 

The heart rate monitor doesn’t know whether your increase in heart rate is due to several large muscle groups working (cardio), an isolated muscle group lifting a weight (strength training), or even if adrenaline or excitement is increasing your heart rate. It just knows your heart rate, and the formulas it uses to estimate calories are based on studies of aerobic exercise, not other activities. So, it's going to overestimate your calorie expenditure when the rise in heart rate is stimulated by using isolated muscles at maximum intensity, which is what occurs during strength training.

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MATLABI 5/4/2021
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MATLABI 5/4/2021
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PATRICIAAK 3/20/2021
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NASFKAB 2/3/2021
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Some great information Report
PATRICIAAK 12/14/2020
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MJ7DM33 12/13/2020
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PATRICIAAK 5/21/2020
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Great Report
Thank you for this information! Report
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Great information Report
Very useful article!!! Report
Thank you! Report
Thanks. Report
I have noticed that my BP and HR are up for a lot longer than when I just do cardio
Good information. Report
Great information! Thank you! Report
Thanks, Great! Report
This is an excellent article. I have been wearing a HRM during all of my exercises. Great article. Report
Thank you Report
I know they can be unreliable but I use as a gage of my own fitness but thx Report
I wonder if more modern HRM are better at relating Strength Training data. My continuous HR monitor seems to an accurate job at calculating kcals. Perhaps it is the way I train, but I do wonder still. Report
How about Yoga, where every pose is designed to activate your whole body? Report
I do ST with big, compound movements (squats, standing overhead press, deadlift, etc) using free weights. This means my core and other muscles have to work to stabilize and maintain my good form. I use fairly heavy weights, so lots of energy is needed to move them. Obviously my HR isn't as high as it is while running, but why would my calorie burn still be inaccurate if my HR goes up due to these large compound exercises done at a moderate pace? Report
oh, i'm so glad to know that! i had no idea. Report
I didn't know that! Is there any way that we can track calories when doing ST? Report
I had the opposite question; my BodyMedia armband registers almost no calories burned for strength training. So maybe that's accurate after all. Report
Excellent article. Brief. Technical. Useful. Report
I enjoyed this article as I'm looking into a HRM and this is valuable information for me. Report