Product Review: Bioforce HRV

I have talked about Heart Rate Variability (HRV) a number of times in my blog. Here are a few articles were I talked about it specifically (if you search HRV or “stress” in my blog you can find other articles as well):

Massage, Stress, and HRV
Stretching, Recovery, and HRV

In its simplest terms, heart rate variability is the measure of time between successive RR intervals in a QRS wave. From this measurement mathematical calculations are used to determine the variability between beats of the heart and gain an understanding of the person’s autonomic state – parasympathetic or sympathetic. The parasympathetic nervous system has often been termed the “rest and digest” branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) while the sympathetic nervous system has been referred to as “fight or flight”. Often times individuals think of these two nervous systems as being antagonists to each other or having a very “either/or” relationship, however, this is not entirely true. Rather, these two systems play a tug of war depending on the stress being placed on the body and, like all things in the body, too much pull in one direction or another tends to not be advantageous to your health – it isn’t as easy as saying “sympathetic is bad” and “parasympathetic is good” as many people have begun to believe.

I have found HRV to be a helpful tool in understanding the the amount of stress an individual is under – either in daily life or in training – and using the information gained by HRV as one piece of a (very) large puzzle to plan training.

I started using HRV with clients almost two years ago and I was one of the first to test out the Bioforce HRV system about seven or eight months ago.

Bioforce HRV was designed by strength coach Joel Jamieson. The product is designed to work with your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or Droid phone. When you purchase the product you get a receiver and Joel’s HRV Training Book (I will review that in a later blog entry). Once you receive your Bioforce package you then need to purchase the app on your phone, iPad, or iPod, and make sure that you have a Polar Heart Rate monitor to read your heart rate on the app.

What I like about Bioforce HRV

There are a number of things that I like about Bioforce HRV that make it something I recommend to clients and something I make mandatory for my Online Training clients (so mandatory in fact that your Bioforce is free when you sign up for training!). Here are the key things that stand out to me with the Bioforce HRV:

- Easy to use – The product is easy to use. Plug in the receiver, put on your HR strap, lie down, and begin. Once the test is over the screen displays your resting HR, your HRV number for the day, and a graph that can be switched to show weekly, monthly, or three month measurements. Additionally, the HRV number is colored to give you an idea of where you are in relation to previous measurements. The coloring is a simple traffic light – red, amber, green. Obviously if you are green you are good to go and recovered. Amber would tell you that you are a little broken down and not fully recovered and red would tell you that you are severely broken down and under recovered. Finally, the other thing I like about the product is that if you go to the screen that shows all your readings you have the option of exporting the information to email. You can send the file to anyone you want. I have my clients take their readings in the morning and then send me the file everyday so that I can log the data and make adjustments to training if need be.

- The test doesn’t start when you hit start – This is critical! Other systems simply start recording heart beats right away when you hit start. This is a problem because it can take some people a decent amount of time to stabilize before beginning the test (even with Bioforce I recommend lying down for a minute or two before hitting start). The Bioforce has a lead in period where when you hit start it is measuring your heart rate but it will not begin the actual test until it sense you have stabilized. Once this happens it starts the test automatically.

- Three minute testing period – Other home systems are only a one minute testing period and this can be a problem if you have ectopic beats as they will get dropped from the reading, thus the system does not have enough data to make an accurate calculation from. With the Bioforce, the three minute testing period gives the system enough time to come up with a profile of the client. I have used other products on the market and have gotten much more consistency with the Bioforce because of the longer testing period.

- Triggers overreaching in both a sympathetic and parasympathetic direction – As I stated earlier, it isn’t as easy as saying “sympathetic is good” and “parasympathetic is bad”. Too much in either direction is not beneficial and is a signal that something might be going on. Other products take a more simplistic stance and will only trigger the person into the “red” when they are overly sympathetic; however, the Bioforce will trigger you as amber or red if you are too parasymapethic or sympathetic in comparison to your previous numbers. This can be helpful not only for training purposes but for recovery purposes as well as different modalities will be useful in different situations.

- Book included – Joel has been using HRV for many years so having the book is a big bonus as it gives you an idea of how to use the information to plan training. Like most things, it isn’t about collecting the data but what you do with that data that counts and gaining Joel’s knowledge of HRV through the book is an excellent way to get on the right track as far as using HRV properly.

Bioforce HRV is a product that I have found to be extremely helpful in understanding the training process and stresses being placed on my clients. As I stated earlier, HRV is only one piece in a very large puzzle and the more information you can gather on your client the easier programming and planning becomes. I highly recommend checking out Bioforce HRV!

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