What is the difference between the "chest" and "arm" heart rate sensors?

Posted at: Nov 28, 2021

There are two types of heart rate sensors used for road bike training, the chest type and the arm type. The following is a summary of the differences between the two types and their advantages and disadvantages.

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Different measurement methods

The “chest band” type is an electric type.

This is the same type of electrocardiogram used in medical examinations, and it measures by sensing the electrical signals emitted when the heart beats. Since it is worn on the chest, it is said to have the following characteristics: 1.

  1. a feeling of tightness
  2. the sensor is cold and chilly in winter
  3. a little uncomfortable because it is in a place where you sweat

However, the accuracy of the heart rate measurement is higher because of this.

The arm-band heart rate sensor described below has disadvantages such as a small amount of measurement leakage due to perspiration and the adhesive surface between the sensor and the skin, and the inability to keep up with a rapid increase in heart rate, but the chest-band type does not have such concerns. Also, looking at the products of different companies, it seems that many of the chest band type products have a longer operating time.

However, since it is an electric type, it is incompatible with static electricity and may interfere with the wear of synthetic fiber clothing.

The arm band type is an optical type.

The arm band type heart rate sensor is shaped like a wristwatch and can be worn relatively anywhere on the arm, such as on the second arm or elbow. Since it is like a wristwatch, it is more comfortable to wear than a chest band, and its major advantage is that it does not make you shiver.

On the other hand, the heart rate reading method is optical (light is emitted from the sensor to measure the change in the amount of hemoglobin in the blood vessels), and since the value is taken from the reflection of the light, the heart rate may not be measured correctly due to sweat or the adhesion between the band and the skin. Also, depending on the quality of the sensor, it may not be able to keep up with a rapid heart rate increase.

This is a disadvantage compared to the electric type, where the heart rate can be obtained reliably as long as it is worn properly.

Do you prefer the “chest” or the “arm” method?

Let’s compare the advantages and disadvantages.

Before deciding whether to go with the “chest” or the “arm” method, let’s first compare the features of each and see the advantages and disadvantages.

Item Chest Arm
Measurement accuracy
Easiness x
Battery life
Feel of wearing

Based on these differences, the advantages and disadvantages are listed below.

Item Chest Arm
Advantages High accuracy
Easy to use
Good fit
Disadvantages Slightly uncomfortable to wear
Low accuracy

Arm band for ease of use, chest band for accuracy

The arm band type heart rate sensor is easy to use because it can be worn even after wearing clothes, and it can be worn anywhere. If you ride a bicycle to work or school, you can take your heart rate simply by attaching it to your bike. If you are a habitual user, the arm band type will become a habit.

On the other hand, if you want to do detailed heart rate training, the arm band type is a little less accurate, so I recommend the chest band type heart rate sensor, which is more accurate.

People who do solid training will value the quality of their training more than a little complication, so the disadvantages of the chest band will not be a disadvantage.

Let’s pay attention to the connection method.

As can be said for both the arm-band and chest-band types, the heart rate monitor sensor is useless by itself, and must be connected to a watch, smartphone, or cycling controller. What you need to pay attention to is the connection method.

Most of the recent heart rate sensors support both Bluetooth and ANT+, but some manufacturers have heart rate sensors that support only ANT+, only Bluetooth, or a wireless method with a dedicated standard.

For example, a heart rate sensor that only supports ANT+ cannot be received by a smartphone, and a heart rate sensor that only supports Bluetooth cannot receive data from a cycling controller.

Be sure to check carefully which sensor is compatible with the device on the receiving end before purchasing.

Can I wear a chest band system on my arm?

You may think that you can use the chest band type if you can wrap it around your arm. However, because the measurement method is completely different, the electric chest band type cannot be used on the arm because it cannot read the electric signal.

The chest band type should be used firmly on the chest.

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