Using HRV Monitoring to Assess and Predict Fitness?

One of the training aids we are currently researching is the ability to measure HRV (Heart Rate Variability) to assess and predict performance. HRV monitoring seems to be the hot topic in many fitness discussions, and we want to see how efficiently we can integrate it into our training programs.

I was first introduced to HRV training about 10 years ago while I was visiting with Joel Jameson in Seattle. Joel was using the Omegawave to evaluate his athletes readiness to train, and then making adjustments to the training based on the trends he was noticing in the athletes HRV score.

Since then, Joel has created a much easier (and cheaper) way to measure HRV with his BioForce HRV system. I usually go through 3 phases of emotion when I see a new product or technology…

  1. Excitement – I think of all the possibilities (like a kid in a candy store), and how cool it would be to integrate this into our system.
  2. Skepticism – As I try to understand the product, I tend to question its legitimacy and its effectiveness. At this point I want to get my hands on a demo to try it out on our players, measure results and get a clearer picture of how it works.
  3. Reality – Now I can look at the product and see if it is actually doing what it claims to do and more importantly…does it follow the 4-S’s – Is it easy to integrate? Does it save me time? Does it energize my sessions? And does it add value over the long term?

This product excited me, but I have to admit I was very skeptical. I recently purchased one for myself and a few of my clients, and to my surprise it was very accurate… Here is an example:

In the picture to the right:

  • Green = Recovered, ready for high intensity work
  • Amber = Caution, still train, but a lower intensity day might be wise
  • Red = High Stress, a rest day might be a good idea
  • Blue Line = Trends in HRV scores over time

This athlete had a high HRV and was performing quite well (setting new PR’s in fitness tests), and then on New Years Day came down with a terrible head and chest cold with flu-like symptoms. You can see what this did to his HRV score. During first week of January we did not train (rested), and on the second week of January we began bringing some low intensity Aerobic work back into the training every other day. As his HRV score started to rise, we were able to get back into the high intensity work by the week of 1-13.

After seeing this first hand, and watching this athlete get back into training, I must say I am becoming a believer in the technology. I think the more I play with it, the better understanding I will get about assessing and predicting trends. Here is a quote from a current study…

“Results of recent studies support the hypothesis that assessment of ANS functioning includes important information concerning acute and chronic physiological processes before, during and after aerobic exercise training stimulus. Moreover, we show that daily assessment of ANS activity could serve as an indicator of appropriate physiological condition for aerobic training”

And in a recent post on the author stated several motivations for tracking HRV in select athletes.

  1. To observe ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) response to training, daily stressors, recovery modalities, etc.
  2. To observe HRV trends over times of illness, injury, etc. to determine if there were early warning signs in the trend and if the trend reflects recovery/return to play readiness.

We will be getting more into this area of performance monitoring as we collect more data on our players and monitor their training over time. Please add comments below to start a discussion on how we can use this technology to enhance our performance as well as our efficiency. Or, if you are interested in learning more about our fitness, speed, skill and plyometric progressions…You can check out our eBooks and videos by clicking HERE.


1 Comment
  1. Scott,
    Great to hear you are using BioForce and tracking HRV. I too have been using bioforce on a small scale, with selective clients throughout the fall. I only have 1 adapter, so the experimentation (me first, then 1 of my long time players) has taken a long road. I love the ability to quantify and code the readiness to play. Since working with BioForce and seeing the trends throughout each week within the Fall season, I have been including a “Readiness to Train” questionnaire to all of our Senior players during their in-season time. I have been adding/editing questions to get a correlated score of how we can get a similar view of the “readiness” without having to buy everyone an HRV applicator.

    Keep us in the loop of what you see with your players. Is the season too long for club/high school players? Are players having trouble adapting to stresses during exam/high game frequencies? Are players able to handle high frequency training (in team settings and with you for supplemental work)?

    Thanks as always. Love the work
    John Lytton

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