9 Cutting-Edge Heart Rate Monitors Fit for Any Workout

The heart rate monitors of today do so much more than read your heart rate. Sure, they do technically—and accurately—do that. But the truly top-tier ones analyze your data, sync up with your other devices, and even count your individual reps, all with one ultimate goal: helping you maximize your gains. Whether you're looking for one that wraps around your chest, straps onto your arm, or pops right into your ears (yes, really!), here are the absolute best of the best.

chest-strap heart rate monitor from polar photo

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Chest: Polar H10

For decades, Polar's represented the gold standard in heart rate monitoring accuracy, with its H7 strap often serving as the control against which inferior devices are tested and compared. The H10 further raises the game with a third electrode, silicon grippers (which cut down on slipping-induced signal drop-outs and interferences), and an improved algorithm for interpreting all the data. It also allows simultaneous Bluetooth connections, is waterproof to 30 meters (hello, swimmers!), and has enough onboard memory to store an epic workout between phone/computer syncs. More than 400 hours of battery life guarantees months of clinically accurate heart rate training. ($90; polar.com)

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black chest-strap bluetooth-equipped heart rate monitor from PowerTap photo

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Chest: PowerTap PowerCal Bluetooth

Beyond just measuring heart rate, the PowerCal uses that data to affordably—and accurately—calculate cycling power. The first-ever power meter calculated from heart rate, this strap is the result of collaboration between PowerTap and experts at the University of Colorado Boulder's world-renowned Human Performance Lab, who analyzed tens of thousands of power files to generate a proprietary algorithm that can correlate an athlete's heart rate (response to work) to cycling power (actual work), regardless of complex real-world conditions like hills, wind and fatigue. While not quite as accurate as measuring power directly, the PowerTap offers middle-packers a great introduction to power-based training that, unlike elite-level meters, won't cost them more than their bike. ($50; powertap.com)

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chest-strap heart-rate monitor from wahoo fitness photo

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Chest: Wahoo Fitness TICKRx

This feature-packed strap captures both heart rate and motion to offer deeper insights into your fitness, whether you're out for a run or pumping iron. A built-in accelerometer measures running dynamics—then crunches that data to arrive at "Running Smoothness," a measure of how efficient your running form is—to help improve your technique, and even counts repetitions in the gym. Its dual-band Bluetooth and ANT+ transmission tech make it one of the most versatile workout companions on this list, able to connect to most smartphones, GPS watches, and stationary bike computers. Even better, it has built-in memory, so you can leave your brick of a smartphone at home, and train unencumbered. ($80; wahoofitness.com)

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black and blue chest-strap heart rate monitor from garmin photo

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Chest: Garmin HRM-Tri

For data-crunching, multisport hardmen, the HRM-Tri—Garmin's smallest and lightest unit—offers the most complete heart rate training solution. Not only does it accurately monitor your ticker across months of training, but it also records six advanced running dynamics like vertical oscillation ground contact time, and captures and stores swimming heart rate while underwater (then forwards it to your watch once you hit dry land). That means you can train smarter—not harder—to maximize limited training hours across all three disciplines. ($130; garmin.com)

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red chest-strap heart rate monitor from myzone photo

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Chest: MyZone MZ-3

Beyond simply counting your heart's beats per minute, the MZ-3 gamifies your workouts—runs, bike rides, weight sessions, swims, rows, or whatever you prefer—by awarding you points based on your heart rate (as a measure of how hard you worked throughout the effort). Over time, it analyzes your efforts to create a golf-style handicap based on your current fitness level. The aim is, of course, to encourage more exercise and increase your personal bests, but also to encourage competition against your friends and contacts on a level playing field, whether they're world-class athletes or just getting started with fitness. Like a few others here, this strap has onboard storage, so you can leave the smartphone at home without missing a single beat. ($150; myzone.org)

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black armband heart rate monitor from scosche photo

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Armband: Scosche Rhythm24

You don't have to be chafed by a constricting chest strap to get an accurate read on your heart rate; the barely-there optical Rhythm24 wraps snugly around the forearm, where it rides more comfortably and—what's more—there are fewer of the kinds of "motion artifacts" that often confuse wrist-based monitors. Waterproof, with onboard memory, dual-band ANT+ and BLE transmission, and a 24-hour battery life, it makes a versatile training companion for swimmers, cyclists, triathletes, and ultra-endurance athletes, alike. ($100; scosche.com)

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rose gold apple watch series 4 photo

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Wrist: Apple Watch Series 4

While it can hardly be summed up as a simple "heart rate monitor," the latest generation of Apple Watch packs an accurate heart rate monitor in addition to an FDA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG)—it notifies its wearer (and any contacts they wish to add) of abnormally low and high heart rates, as well as arrhythmias—for keeping an eye on your overall ticker health. Combined with robust fitness tracking capabilities and a full suite of smartwatch features, the Series 4 may be the most impressive, well-rounded health and fitness device of the past year. (From $399; apple.com)

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black fitbit charge 3 photo

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Wrist: Fitbit Charge 3

The latest iteration of the lowly fitness tracker still tracks all-day heart rate—using that info to compute heart rate training zones, fitness level, and accurate calorie burn—and stats like steps and active minutes. But it also adds a few of the handier smartwatch features—like text, call, and app notifications—without a huge cash outlay, all in a slim, lightweight package that won't get in the way of your fitness routine. Automatic exercise recognition, waterproofing for pool sessions, and smartphone-connected GPS make the full-featured Charge 3 a truly worthy workout partner that's not quite ready to cede wrist-space to smartwatches. ($150; fitbit.com)

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black earbud heart rate monitor from jabra photo

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Ears: Jabra Elite Sport

Why measure heart rate through your ears? Because the signal is incredibly clear, since ear cartilage is fairly inert, arteries there are near the skin's surface, and there's not a lot of light to interfere with LED sensors. Also, the method is approximately 9,284 times more comfortable than a chest-choking strap. These high-quality earbuds transmit real-time heart rate data via Bluetooth to the Jabra Sport Life fitness app, which uses it to measure your cardiovascular fitness, predict your running and cycling performance and advise your recovery efforts. Made for fitness, they're true wireless, allowing complete freedom of movement, waterproof and warrantied against sweat damage for three years. ($220; jabra.com)

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