Best Heart Rate Chest Straps

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for Best heart rate chest straps

When you’re sweating through a workout, you want to know you’re getting the most out of your training session. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of your intensity level. With a heart rate monitor, you can do this easily. A heart rate chest strap is a type of heart rate monitor that allows you to keep tabs on your stats as you burn through your routine.

Which heart rate chest strap is right for you? That depends on what type of display you prefer, the strap material with which you’d be most comfortable, and other features that might make the strap convenient. 

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The easiest way to determine your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 40, your max heart rate would be approximately 180.

How it works

This convenient exercise tool consists of a band that wraps around the chest and an attached wireless sensor that picks up electrical signals from your heart. Some chest straps include a receiver that’s worn on the wrist like a watch. On the receiver is a display where you can check all of your stats from the heart rate strap. Other chest rate straps send information directly to an app on your smartphone or another connected device.

Because a heart rate chest strap picks up signals from the heart, it is considered a more efficient way to monitor your heart rate than a wrist-based model that only counts your pulse.

Heart rate chest strap displays

You’ll need to decide if you’d prefer a watch display or a smartphone display. Many heart rate chest straps connect to a wristwatch receiver that captures and continuously displays data. Conveniently, you don’t have to push any buttons to see your heart rate; it’s there whenever you want to see it. However, in some cases, the wrist receiver for a heart rate chest strap is sold separately. This adds to the overall price.

Other heart rate chest straps are Bluetooth-enabled, so they’re able to transmit data to an app on your smartphone. This may be a good option if you don’t like wearing a wrist receiver, but it means you have to carry your phone with you when you work out. It can also be trickier to check your heart rate on your phone’s display while you’re engaged in an activity.

Materials

It’s important to consider the material that the band for a heart rate chest strap is made of because you likely won’t be able to swap parts out later. (Most transmitters are only compatible with straps from the same brand.) You may find one material more comfortable than another, which in turn could impact your exercise experience.

Some straps are made of a latex-based material. For someone with a latex allergy, this would obviously be an issue. Some straps are made of rubber, but they don’t breathe at all and can be extremely uncomfortable when you’re hot and sweaty. Rubber isn’t moisture-wicking, either, so it could cause irritation and chafing as sweat builds up between the strap and your skin.

For most people, a strap made out of fabric is the most comfortable choice. Fabric chest straps have some stretch to them, so they fit well and don’t feel too tight. Many fabric straps are able to wick moisture, too, which prevents sweat from building up on the skin.

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Did you know?
A heart rate chest strap is a particularly helpful fitness tool if you’re trying to lose weight because it can give you a good idea of how many calories you’re burning during each workout.
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Features


Target zones

To get the most out of your workout, you may have a specific target heart rate zone in mind for yourself. Most basic heart rate chest straps provide three target zones: the warm-up zone (between 50% and 60% of your maximum heart rate), the fat-burning zone (between 60% and 70% of your maximum heart rate), and the cardio zone (between 70% and 80% or your maximum heart rate).

Some advanced chest straps are equipped with more than these three target zones. This allows you to program the heart rate monitor with target zones for different types of exercises. For example, a low-intensity activity like walking may have a goal of 40% to 50%, and a high-intensity aerobic session may have a goal of 80% to 90%.

Calorie counting

Nearly every heart rate chest strap has a calorie-counting feature that tracks your calories burned. The strap sensor uses your heart rate to determine how many calories you expend during a workout. If you’re exercising as part of a weight loss program, this feature is key.

Accelerometer

Many heart rate chest straps track the distance you cover and the speed you reach during a workout. Some have GPS receivers or utilize the GPS feature on your phone to record data when you’re running outdoors.

However, if you usually use a treadmill, you’ll want to choose a chest strap with an accelerometer. This feature monitors your movement to determine the length of each stride. Using this data, it can calculate your speed and distance.

Built-in memory

Some heart rate chest straps have built-in memory that allows you to store your data. This feature can be helpful if you’re using your phone as a receiving unit and are swimming or engaging in another activity that doesn’t allow you to carry your phone. Once you’re finished with your activity, you can sync the data from the chest strap with your phone to make sure your heart rate and other information are recorded in the connected app.

Battery life

A heart rate chest strap uses a replaceable battery to power its sensor and transmit data. Some batteries last longer than others: you can find straps with a 400-hour battery life, straps with a much smaller 120-hour battery life, and many choices in between. Check the stats first to learn more about a particular product’s battery life.

Waterproof

Some heart rate chest straps are water-resistant; you can wear the monitor while swimming. Keep in mind that these straps aren’t able to transmit data while you’re in the water. Instead, the information is stored on the sensor and available to be synced with the app on your phone afterward.

Washability

A product with fabric straps usually allows you to remove the sensor so you can throw the strap in the washing machine. Models with rubber or latex straps usually require handwashing.

"It can be tricky to figure out how to put on a heart rate chest strap at first, but most users find the accurate results are worth the trouble. "
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Heart rate chest strap prices

Heart rate chest straps vary in price based on battery life, the presence of built-in memory, and other features. The general range spans $20 to $155.

Entry-level: For a battery life of approximately 100 hours, no built-in memory, and just three target heart rate zones, you can expect to pay from $20 to $50. If you’ve never used a heart rate chest strap before and want to see if you like it, this may be a good starting point.

Mid-priced: For a heart rate chest strap with a battery life of 100 to 300 hours, built-in memory, three target zones, and possible waterproofing, you can expect to pay between $50 and $100. Items like these are a good option if you’ve used a strap before and know you’re comfortable wearing one.

Top-tier: The most expensive heart rate chest straps usually have a battery life of 300 or more hours, built-in memory, and more than three target heart rate zones. They’re waterproof so you can track your heart rate while swimming, too. These heart rate chest straps tend to cost between $100 and $155.

Tips

  • With most heart rate chest straps, you need to moisten the electrodes on the back side of the strap to get them to stick to your skin.
  • A heart rate chest strap should fit snugly, so it doesn’t shift or slip down while you’re exercising. However, it shouldn’t be so tight that it’s uncomfortable.
  • Clean or rinse your heart rate chest strap after each use. If the strap is machine-washable, place it in a nylon laundry bag before tossing it in the machine.
  • Removing the electronic sensor from the chest strap when you’re not using it can help prolong the battery life.
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When you put a heart rate chest strap on, make sure the sensor is centered on your chest in the upright position.

FAQ

Q. Is a heart rate chest strap better than a wrist heart rate monitor?
A.
A heart rate wrist monitor can give you a good estimate of your heart rate based on your pulse, and it may be suitable for monitoring your heart rate when you’re at rest. During exercise, however, a heart rate chest strap is thought to be more accurate because the sensors are closer to your heart to pick up the actual beats.

Q. Will a heart rate chest strap irritate my skin?
A.
Some straps can irritate the skin, particularly if they’re made of latex and you have a latex allergy. If you choose a rubber-based strap, you may experience chafing because moisture can build up between your skin and the strap. With a fabric strap, you’re less likely to experience problems. If your skin does become irritated, stop using the strap and consult a medical professional.

Q. What type of workout is a heart rate chest strap best suited for?
A.
A heart rate chest strap is ideal for use during high-intensity activities when you want to hit a certain target heart rate zone. Because a chest strap is more accurate than a wrist monitor, you can be sure that your heart rate is at the right level to burn fat, enhance lung capacity, and/or increase your speed.

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