Muscle oxygen optimization for Humon Hex training intensity

PROS

  • Live information about muscle oxygenation
  • It tells you when to push and when to back off.
  • It tells you when you’ve warmed up enough.
  • Excellent battery life; protects against overtraining

CONS

  • The curve of user learning
  • collects precise data on all muscles, but the strap is primarily intended for usage on the quads, so it might not be for everyone.

Design : 8.0 out of 10

Ease of use : 8.5 out of 10

Information Use : 9 out of 10 

MOTIVATION: 8.5 out of10

Hex is a wearable that tracks muscle oxygen levels and has received clinical validation. It originates from Humon, an MIT spinoff with headquarters in Boston. Hex was previously only available to American professional athletes, but it has since been made available to all.

Your personal coach is the gadget. You can obtain real-time audible and visual feedback by strapping it to your thigh, which will help you better grasp your body’s limitations. Hex achieves this by gauging the quadriceps’ hemoglobin saturation.

You can control training intensity in real-time and keep track of muscle exhaustion and recovery with the help of information on muscle oxygen saturation. Essentially, this gives you the resources needed to maximize your effort while minimizing the possibility of overtraining and damage.

I run occasionally, perhaps 3 or 4 times each week. Has Hex helped me get better at training? Find out by reading on.

Design

A strap to fasten the sensor to your thigh, a charging cable/unit, and a hexagon-shaped pod that holds the smarts are all included in the box.

This first product is designed for skiers, runners, bikers, and triathletes. The strap is quite wide because users are supposed to wear it around their thigh. According to Humon, they have successfully tested Hex on many muscles. Future releases of new straps and products are anticipated for a variety of applications.

The velcro band fits well around your quad and is secure. This muscle was chosen because endurance activities often put the most strain on it. Simply pass the band through the sensor’s two wings. The hold can then be adjusted as necessary by tightening or loosening it.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

On one occasion, I discovered that while sprinting, the pod dropped off my thigh and some of the data was rendered useless. But I’m the only one to blame for this because I didn’t tighten the strap enough. It happened just once. You’ll discover that using Hex involves a learning curve. All new gadgets fall under this category, especially those that are so distinctive. To make sure the grasp is secure enough before a workout, it is best to perform a few leaps.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase exercise intensity.

Hex can be worn below shorts. You are good to go as long as it is placed on the working muscle and in close proximity to the skin.

The medical-grade plastic used to make the 60.5 x 57 x 13.8mm pod is resistant to lotions and sunscreen, which is crucial if you’re running outside in the heat. It is also quite lightweight, weighing only 32 grams.

The unit can be turned on and off with a single physical button on the front. This can be used to manually begin a recording session as well. Right next to it is an LED light. When this is on but not connected, it blinks red, stays solid red when it is connected but not recording, and turns green when it is recording.

Hex has a row of five clear lenses on the reverse side. The magic takes place behind these. Here you’ll find technology that uses near-infrared spectroscopy to monitor the amount of oxygen in your muscles. A 64MHz ARM CPU is also housed in the pod.

The Hex is made to be IP54 rated in terms of water resistance. It may therefore be used in the rain and is sweat-resistant. However, it is advised against using the unit while taking a shower (I’m not sure why anyone would…), and you should never even consider submerging it in water. It will be OK if you simply wipe it down occasionally with a moist towel.

The gadget is compatible with both Bluetooth and ANT+. This entails that you can monitor the data on a Garmin watch while simultaneously recording your workout on a smartphone via BLE and ANT+. Hex can be paired with bluetooth heart rate monitors as well (but not ANT+ ones yet).

The battery life is not that bad. The device can operate for about 20 hours without a charge, which is more than enough for most people’s training needs for a few weeks. A QI wireless charger is used for charging, and it performs admirably.

By keeping an eye on the LED light, you can determine when the battery in the device is fully charged. The time it takes to fill up from empty to full is about an hour.

Setup and instructions

You must download the corresponding iOS or Android app, install it on your smartphone, and establish a profile by providing some basic information before you can begin using Hex. All of this simply takes a short while.

As previously indicated, Hex can also be used with a Garmin watch that is Connect IQ compatible. This comprises the majority of the Forerunner series’ gadgets, the Fenix line, Vivoactive 3, and other gadgets. To bear in mind as you read this review, my preferred watch is the Forerunner 935.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

You must download and install the Human Garmin Data Field on your watch if you want to use Hex with a Garmin device. Garmin Express is used for this. You can download two fields: one for interval training and the other for endurance training. The type of training session will determine which of the two you utilize.

When Hex is linked to a watch, it becomes a much more useful training assistant.After some testing, I discovered that it works best to pair Hex with both the smartphone app and the Garmin watch simultaneously. Regarding the information presented, each has specific advantages. Having said that, you can exercise with only a Garmin watch or a smartphone app.

You must first pair Hex (and optionally a heart rate chest strap) to the smartphone using the app before you can begin a session (using BLE). Normally, I would do this before beginning my warmup. Selecting the activity and type comes next. Running, cycling, rowing, and other options are available when you engage in activity. This type includes threshold, endurance, and interval training. Then, while wearing Hex on your thigh, tap Start Workout. The calibration process will take 15 to 20 seconds.

Hack into the oxygen levels in your muscles to enhance training with Humon Hex.

You can start recording your workout with the Garmin gadget utilizing ANT+ once you’ve sufficiently warmed up and are prepared to start your run or cycle. Both the watch and the smartphone app will now have access to real-time muscle oxygen data.

Your SmO2 percentage is displayed on the Garmin screen, and with a recent update, it is now color-coded. The latter is very helpful because it enables you to quickly determine which zone you are in. An additional advantage of the Humon smartphone app is that it displays a real-time incremental graph of your SmO2 change.

It’s important to note that, contrary to what I initially believed, the sensor should not be linked with the watch using Garmin’s native pairing technology. If you’ve already done this, you must unpair it.When the Hex is powered on and begins broadcasting data, the Garmin watch will immediately detect the signal and display the values if you have added the data field.

A different option is to just begin recording without utilizing the mobile app. Double-clicking the sensor’s physical button will accomplish this. However, you’ll discover that there are several benefits to allowing your smartphone to monitor your workout’s warm-up and cool-down periods. Since there is minimal benefit to tracking these with your Garmin watch, you probably don’t want to.

Analyzing the data

Let’s start with the science lecture. Muscles require oxygen as a fuel source for energy. The body can enhance blood flow to the muscles and provide more oxygen by increasing the heart rate.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

We’ve written previously about aerobic and anaerobic exercise. When you exercise aerobically, oxygen from your breath filters down to your muscles, giving them energy. This is accomplished by red blood cells, which use a protein called hemoglobin to bind oxygen to the cell (HbO2).

The body requires more oxygen during anaerobic exercise than can be obtained through breathing. Hemoglobin becomes deoxygenated at this point (Hb). At this point, muscles also use glycogen (sugar) as fuel. Your body begins to accumulate lactic acid as a result, which makes you feel tired and uncomfortable. Such an effort is unsustainable, and you will shortly reach your performance ceiling.

The lactate threshold is another name for this stage. It is one of the training measures that is most frequently used by athletes and coaches around the world. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise have advantages.

Hex basically counts the amounts of oxygen-and deoxy-hemoglobin (HbO2) and Hb in your muscles. The SmO2 is then calculated by dividing the HbO2/total hemoglobin (HbO2 + Hb) ratio.

According to SmO2 monitoring, the best physiological indicator of an athlete’s exertion may be As it assesses the equilibrium between the supply and demand of oxygen to the muscles during exercise, this form of measurement combines the advantages of VO2max and lactate threshold testing.

However, blood oxygen (SpO2) and muscle oxygen are very different substances and should not be confused. While SmO2 records usage, SpO2 gauges oxygen supply.

Average SpO2 levels range from 95 to 99 percent.This statistic is useful for basic health assessments but less useful in training conditions unless you’re climbing a mountain or flying an airplane. SmO2, on the other hand, provides information on the equilibrium between oxygen use and delivery in the muscles.

The benefits of Hex

After the brief science explanation, it is easier to understand how Hex can be useful. To reach your quadriceps muscle, the device emits light with a near-infrared wavelength. It is possible to calculate the amounts of oxygen in hemoglobin by figuring out how this light is absorbed.

Gaining this knowledge offers numerous advantages. For instance, it enables you to warm up appropriately and informs you when you’ve recovered enough to begin a new training session. Furthermore, it provides accurate, real-time information on the condition of your muscles. You can maximize your efforts while exercising if you are aware of how hard you are working at any particular moment.

Additionally, you can trust the data. When compared to the industry’s gold-standard benchtop tissue oximeter, Hex was shown in a clinical trial (conducted by Harvard Medical School) to be 96 percent accurate.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

A typical steady-state 5K run example (including warmup and recovery)

The muscle is classified by the hex into one of four zones. Understanding each of them is crucial.

AD1) A rise in SmO2 indicates that more oxygen is being delivered to the muscles than is being used. The blue “recovery” zone indicates that you are engaged in low-intensity activities (including a warmup or recovery).

Stable SmO2 indicates that a balance has been achieved. You can persevere in this attempt for a very long time. Consider running or a gentle, extended bike ride. This is the green “steady state” zone, according to Hex.

Lastly, a decreasing SmO2 value indicates that oxygen is being used up more quickly than it is being produced. When you are exerting yourself, such as during High-Intensity-Interval-Training (HIIT) or a sprint, this happens. The orange and red zones serve as indicators for this. The first one serves as a signal that your body is getting close to its limit, and the second one indicates that you are moving too quickly.

You may now pace yourself by simply monitoring the change in SmO2 values on your watch or smartphone (represented by the color). For instance, I would make sure I was in the green and blue zones throughout my endurance workout. I didn’t start moving toward the orange/red zones until the session was almost over.

If you are practicing HIIT, you now have a precise method for determining how long and how hard to press throughout each interval. Hex offers more accurate information on readiness for the following effort than just heart rate or time passed.

For instance, utilizing the device helped me realize that I wasn’t always pushing myself to the orange and red zones during HIIT. A valuable lesson that helped my subsequent sessions be a lot more fruitful. Another time, I discovered that I was still feeling the effects of my exercise from the day before, making it hard for me to perform HIIT in the orange or red zones. So that day, I switched back to a simple steady-state run.

Humon Hex: HIIT sessions that maximize workout intensity by increasing muscle oxygenation (including warmup and recovery).

The device also alerts you when you’ve warmed up enough. Does it take five or fifteen minutes? I’m not sure. The answer relies on a number of variables, including your degree of fitness, the ambient temperature, and more.

Increase muscle oxygenation to increase workout intensity.

Overlay of MuscleOx data from sources with and without a warm-up

Your muscle oxygenation will normally drop significantly at the beginning of an exercise. As it receives more oxygen than it is utilizing, it will begin to recover within a few minutes. The warming is over when it reaches a plateau. You may recognise this spot thanks to hex.

A HIIT session where I hadn’t warmed up enough is shown in the screenshot up top. I pushed for the first interval way too soon instead of going longer to give my muscles a chance to get enough oxygen. I rapidly reached the orange and red zones as a result, which reduced the training session’s effectiveness. I could have exerted more effort during the intervals if I had given myself more time to warm up.

Humon is the source of the picture on the right. It displays an overlay of a cyclist’s SmO2 data. There is a significant variation in performance between the two sessions (one with and one without a sufficient warmup).

Additionally, information about the recuperation stage is essential. As long as you keep Hex turned on, it can monitor how your muscles are recovering right away after a workout and inform you of what’s happening.

A good recovery will go through a blue stage, which will soon be followed by a green “steady state” stage, to put it simply (although I’m sure there is more to it). It could be time to take a break if you notice that your muscles are staying in the blue stage for a lot longer than usual.

Thankfully, the research has already been done. The software will spit out a “Tip” following each session. The intensity was good, but your muscles did not recover well, it told me once. It might be time for a day off because this is an indication of exhaustion. I was so worn out the next day that it couldn’t have been more appropriate! It also helped me feel less bad about taking that day off.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

However, don’t place too much faith in daily variations in your SmO2 levels. Depending on how your muscles are feeling, this can change. I think it also depends on how precisely you place the apparatus. The importance of the metric is more in how it changes during exercise than in the metric itself.

However, Humon’s calculations show that the average SmO2 is 64 percent (10%), the maximum is 72 percent (10%), and the minimum is 52 percent (17%). Most days, I discovered that I was comfortably in these categories.

A mobile app is also needed.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

Workout, History, Profile, and Settings are the four tabs that make up the app.

This exercise pairs your Hex and HRM together (optionally). This is where you start a session and select the workout type.

A timeline of your actions is displayed in history. To obtain further information, such as average pace, distance, duration, a map, and zone distribution, tap on any session.

After every session, you receive a score that indicates how well-designed your workout was. Anything less than 75 or greater than 100 denotes suboptimal performance. The range of effort is between 1 and 4. This reflects the workout’s total intensity.

Then, along with the minimum, average, and splits, you’ll get a graph showing how your muscle oxygenation has evolved over the course of the exercise. If you’ve linked an HRM, you’ll see a chart showing the evolution of your heart rate throughout the session.

A running tally of your workouts is displayed on the Profile page. You can learn about your total workout time, number of workouts, how you compare to others, and other things.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

You have access to a web dashboard in addition to the smartphone app. This enables you to see nearly all of this data in greater detail, such as a graph showing the amount of hemoglobin in your muscles. You can also export your workout data in CSV, JSON, TCX, and GPX file formats for importing into Training Peaks, Strava, and other platforms.

If you’ve connected a Garminwatch to Hex, Garmin Connect will display information gathered via the Human Data Field. But instead of SmO2, you’ll obtain graphs showing the blood’s hemoglobin concentration and hemoglobin percentage. It makes this only somewhat useful.

Garmin mandates that Hex data/units provide blood concentration rather than what the device really monitors (in the muscle). According to Humon, the direction of the change during a workout is what’s more significant when examining this hemoglobin concentration data.

There isn’t currently a direct connection between the Humon app and Garmin Connect. Maybe something that gets an update to its firmware in the future. For Garmin customers who prefer not to wear their smartphones while exercising, a FIT file import feature is available. With the help of this, they may export all of their data into the Human environment and get thorough post-workout muscle oxygen feedback.

This review would be lacking without discussing the Hex threshold test. This takes roughly 30 minutes to complete and is done on a treadmill or stationary bike.

Running threshold testing is currently in beta. You spend the first three minutes on a treadmill going extremely slowly. Increase your speed by 1 km/h every three minutes until you tyre yourself. Starting off at a very low power level (30W) for 3 minutes is how the cycling test is conducted. Then the wattage is raised by 30W every three minutes. Continue doing this until you are unable to move any further.

Hex calculated that my cycling threshold is 193 watts and my running threshold is 10.4 km/h.

Increase muscle oxygen use to increase workout intensity.

To monitor progress and adjust the heart rate and power training zones, these tests should be performed at regular intervals. For those who spend more than $100 on expert lab tests, measuring your lactate threshold using Hex could be a perfect substitute.

Overview

The result

Hex caught my attention when I first learned about it a few years ago, so I wanted to enjoy it. In the end, I fell in love with it.

I run for maybe 15 kilometers a week (on a good week), so I’m not exactly a serious runner. Hex has, nevertheless, proven to be remarkably helpful. I’ve tested a lot of workout equipment over the years, but this one has definitely given me the most insight into how my body functions.

I now know how important a good warm-up is and how it affects performance. I also know how to do interval training correctly and when it would be appropriate to scale back and take a well-deserved day off. Hex enabled me to modify my effort as necessary. It eliminates the element of speculation.

With a muscular oxygen sensor for Humon Hex Gadgets & Wearables, you can be your own coach and earn money.

Using muscle oxygen, Humon Hex can increase exercise intensity.

It’s worth noting that there is a user learning curve. It will likely take you a week or two to fully understand all the complexities of the product. But as soon as that’s over, everything will function normally and you’ll receive immediate feedback on the condition of your muscles. not only during physical activity but also during warm-up and rest.

The band is quite cosy, wireless charging works perfectly, and the battery life is excellent. I would absolutely advise trying muscle oxygen training if you’re an endurance athlete or even a beginner.

Hex is now the only such inexpensive solution available on the market. I look forward to future upgrades and can easily see it becoming a greater part of my exercise regimen.

 

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