One of the most well-known scientists to explore the use of heart rate for the purpose of athletic improvement was Francesco Conconi.
His research resulted in the well-known "Conconi Test", where athletes monitor heart rate response to increases in speed. Conconi theorized that when heart rate and speed are plotted on a graph, lactate threshold occurred when heart rate no longer climbed in a linear relation to speed. He theorized that this point, named "the deflection point," was directly related to the accumulation of lactate in the body.
Currently, actual lactate accumulation in the body can only be measured by drawing blood samples. Conconi's work helped athletes and coaches utilize tools, namely the heart rate monitor, that could help athletes gauge the body's response to exercise without expensive and inconvenient laboratory tests.
Conconi and his assistants used lactate threshold information to help Francesco Moser break the World Hour Record on the bike. Conconi published his heart rate theory information, and several other scientists and coaches have based their training zones off of Conconi's theory. There have been several extrapolations of the Conconi test, and while controversy now surrounds Conconi's involvement in drug use to improve performance, his heart rate theory has remained the foundation for the work of many coaches.
Though many coaches use Conconi's work as the foundation of their training zones, not everyone agrees that Conconi's work, and the use of heart rate monitoring to improve sports performance, is valid. There is disagreement about the existence of a deflection point; the relationship between heart rate and lactate threshold; the relationship between heart rate and ventilatory threshold; and the relationship between heart rate, lactate threshold and different sport activities.
With more recent technology and research, it is worth re-examining Conconi's theory on heart rate and methods of testing.
Why Use Heart Rate as a Training Tool?