Death to the Heart Rate Chart
CONDITION BLACK (heart rate above 175)
Irrational fight or flee
Voiding of bladder and bowels
Gross motor skills (running, charging, etc. at highest performance level)
CONDITION GRAY (heart rate 145 – 175)
Cognitive processing deteriorates
Vasoconstriction (=reduced bleeding from wounds)
Loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision)
Loss of depth perception
Loss of near vision
Complex motor skill deteriorates
CONDITION RED – "THE ZONE" (heart rate between 115 and 145)
Complex motor skills
Visual Reaction Time
Cognitive Reaction Time
Fine motor skill deteriorates
CONDITION WHITE (normal heart rate)
Thanks to the ripeness of his unusual and perfect timing, Siddle's name is now entrenched in the police training world. Inside this world, and also in the “reality-based, self-defense” training world, there are these – you might call them – “usual suspects,” for lack of better term. The usual suspects, being those known police trainers that are name-dropped by others to sound ever-so-educated and informed. These are the names of people and their courses that are constantly regurgitated in a spinning tornado of speeches, books and videos. But few know that with new research and discoveries, many of their ideas have lost their spin and have ground down to a small, smelly breeze. And so too goes the Siddle Heart Rate Performance Chart, and here's why.
Generalities. We all know a general bit about the human heart. It beats. It does a lot of blood and oxygen work. It's amazing. We need it. We all know that if the human heart beats at a super rapid pace, surely we will pass out and die. And, we all know that if the heart beats at a super low pace, surely we will pass out and die. It therefore becomes intuitive for us to understand that there must be a continuum of sorts, a progression within those two points? It just makes sense. Fast rate or slow rates, if you are near death, you are not feeling well or performing well.
Here, I will remind everyone that I have taken PPCT courses many years ago. With the chart's inception there has never been an official explanation or obvious attachment between the heart rates shown and perhaps some other elements in the equation, like fear or stress or conditioning. This lack caused a ton of misleading information and misunderstanding. Based on the simple chart of numbers, many were lead to believe that a track runner would poop in his pants when reaching 175 beats a minute? And don't think for a moment this concept wasn't discussed a lot. Sports performance aside, people that do a variety of fine motor tasks under great pressure, like snipers or jet pilots, or the tons of people that perform under stress simply had to be classified as freaks or super-special athletes, else this “work of Siddle” just couldn't fit in with reality.
In the late 1990s and early to mid-2000s, independent thinkers began really challenging the chart as the internet grew. The challenges spread and gained momentum. There were numerous testimonies about people doing refined tasks with increased heart rates in combat, as well as other unusual circumstances. Even a friend of mine, an accountant, was running on a treadmill once back then, and using the small buttons on his Blackberry. He noticed his heart rate was very high and thought to himself, “ I shouldn't be able to do this, should I?” thinking that according to the chart the he should have lost control of his bowels at that point. Actually, at one point he stopped running, straddling the moving ramp to find that any trouble typing he'd had, came from the physical bouncing on the ramp while running. His heart rate was still very high while straddling the ramp, and he could pound the numbers with some ease when standing still.
“Your heart can easily beat 300 times a minute if your brain tells it to do so, but you will hopefully never see this out on a run or bike session. When we talk about maximum heart rate, (MHR) we always mean activity specific. You may find out your MHR for running is 190 bpm but on the bike it may be only be 175. Your Maximum Heart Rate is different for every activity you perform. In addition, it's also difficult to predict a number within each sport with formulas such as the popular MHR = 220 –age or the newer MHR = 205 -.1/2 age. The fact is that even if the formulas would be based on a single activity, there are wide genetic differences between individuals that make these formulas too vague to be predictably useful,” says Dr. Scott, MD.
In 2004, Simunitions pioneer Kenneth Murray published his popular Training at the Speed of Life book. And yes, still, inside the book are all the usual suspects and the same tornado of ideas spinning about. They are all co-endorsing, co-forwarding and co-quoting each other in the usual, round-robin of incestuous back-slapping. And yes, Kenneth covers the old, “must-mention” list and the Siddle Heart Rate and Performance Chart comes up in the book.
Ken Murray, both a gentleman, a scholar and a better man than I am as you'll soon see, very diplomatically uses the phrase “building on Siddle's work on heart rate” in his book when revealing Vonk's hands-on, experienced, qualified results. “Building?” Is building the best word, Ken? No diplomacy here from me – rather, it tears down and eliminates it. This was not news in many sports performance circles even by 2004. Quite a number of experts already agreed with Vonk. But it was newsy to the police training tornado. Not newsy enough though to crash and burn the chart completely as it should have. It seemed to take Dr. Bill Lewinski and his Force Science college wing to make a decent dent in the legend of the Heart Chart.
Fear. Dr. Bill Lewinski, Ph.D., executive director and multi-decade, psychologist specializing in body reaction, and violence, of Minnesota State University, Mankato. He says “the idea that a high heart rate (alone) causes a loss of fine motor skills is a myth. The culprit is fear or anger, not heart rate. ” In 1997 Killogy's popular Dave Grossman virtually teamed up with Siddle and co-opted the Siddle Heart Rate Chart. You will still find late 1990s charts here and there with the "Siddle-Grossman" name and copyright in the bottom corner. But, then in 2004 came a popular, public disclaimer from Grossman that the fear factor was also important in all this and that actual heart rate numbers "may vary." The numbers may vary? Sounds like the end of the Siddle Heart Chart to me.
Does this mean we need a new heart chart? A fear chart too? What level of fear mixes with what level of heart rate, to create what level of response? Fear is different for people. I personally have felt more fear batting in the ninth inning of our softball team, playoff games, than I did when searching a room for an armed felon. How can one quantify this dichotomy?
And one other point that confuses this research, I might add – the sudden heart spike. People experience this spike frequently. Do spikes count? Or must one maintain a high rate? If so? For how long for it to count in research? Do I empty my bladder when a sudden spike reaches 175 beats per minute? Or, will I loose my stool only with a sustained 175 bpm for 10 seconds? How long is sustained? We all know the answers to these questions. It depends on the person and the situation.
"Does this mean we need a new chart? A fear chart too?
Despite all this research and common sense, the Siddle Heart Performance Rate Chart and other ignorant manifestations of it, still get rotation within the tornado, quoted and presented in books, lectures and films as biblical truth, just as with the firefighter training program I heard of just the other day, and in the Grossman lectures.
So, if you are about to write the next “pioneer,” reality-based, fight book and insist on quoting all the usual suspects? Why not stop for a moment, meditate on violence, and ask a few questions first about all of them. Be the skeptic.
The Siddle Chart should never have been made. And, you can't make a fear/heart/performance chart either. You just can't assign the acts of mandatory defecation, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills, etc. to one heart rate number for all of humanity, or even a general one. Not even Siddle uses the Siddle Heart Chart anymore! So, what do you say we all quit passing this deceased, heart chart around and around?
For more details and references, read this articles and studies. Also, look at the very latest sports studies.
W. Hock Hochheim is a military, police and martial arts vet, who teaches hand, stick, knife and gun seminars in 11 allied countries around the world. He can be reached at Hock@HocksCQC.com
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