Hear rate variability (HRV) follow-up is paramount and widely used in elite sports for training, performance, and general health. In recent years, high level scientific publications showed that HRV-guided training is beneficial for elite performance in endurance sports (Schmitt et al. 2020, Javaloyes et al. 2020). However, HRV is also used in non-endurance sports such as team sports or sprint, gymnastics and shooting for example (Ortega et al. 2018, Muñoz-López et al. 2021). The inCORPUS®database is key to perform HRV comparison between elite sports and thereby improve the various phenotypes understanding induced by training and inducing a better use of HRV in the future.

In the present work, 10,627 inCORPUS® tests (5 minutes supine and 5 minutes standing) were performed by 430 elite athletes using a chest strap heart rate monitor and the inCORPUS® mobile application to record RR data. Mean HR, root mean square of the successive differences (RMSSD), power in the low frequency band (LF) and the high frequency band (HF) were computed separately in each position using the inCORPUS® unique algorithm and the inCORPUS profiles were returned to the athletes and coaches for training plan adjustments. Elite athletes in endurance sports (road cycling, athletic endurance (5,000m, 10,000m, marathon and race walking), and mountain biking), team sports (football, rugby, and basketball) and other sports (athletic sprint, kayak, shooting and gymnastics) participated in this study.

As expected supine HR was lower in the endurance group compared to the other groups while RMSSD and HF were higher, except for athletic sprint. In the standing position LF was higher in endurance athletics denoting a high capacity of activation while it was lower in the road cycling group. LF and HF were both high in the athletic endurance group denoting the needs for both a high vagal tone (correlated to the endurance training) and a high sympathetic tone necessary for the intense activation needed typically for the sprinting periods during the races or more specifically for 5,000- or 10,000-m runners.

The classical assumption that endurance training has an effect only by increasing the parasympathetic activity is only partially supported by the present comparison of different sports. Performance may be associated to the appropriate development of a specific neurovegetative balance in each sport. Future study should focus on separating each sport to better characterize each phenotype.

Scientific references

Javaloyes A, Sarabia JM, Lamberts RP, Plews D, Moya-Ramon M. Training Prescription Guided by Heart Rate Variability Vs. Block Periodization in Well-Trained Cyclists. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Jun;34(6):1511-1518.

Ortega E, Wang CJK. Pre-performance Physiological State: Heart Rate Variability as a Predictor of Shooting Performance. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2018 Mar;43(1):75-85.

Muñoz-López A, Nakamura F, Naranjo Orellana J. Soccer Matches but Not Training Sessions Disturb Cardiac-Autonomic Regulation During National Soccer Team Training Camps. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2021 Mar;92(1):43-51

Schmitt L, Bouthiaux S, Millet GP. Eleven Years' Monitoring of the World's Most Successful Male Biathlete of the Last Decade 2020 4;16(6):900-905.

article author image
Nicolas Bourdillon
Chief Research Officer – PhD in Physiology