Polar Hill Splitter – All you need to know and more

Polar Hill Splitter – The Good, The Bad and, well, you know the other one

Return: Polar Grit X Review

The Polar Grit X is an outdoors version of the Polar Vantage series and one of its distinguishing features is the newly introduced HILL SPLITTER. Hill Splitter considers both your live and recorded workout and, you guessed it, splits out hills.

I like the idea, I Iove the innovation and I mostly like the implementation of it. In my opinion, it’s good for the first release of a new feature and will be useful for some athletes but not especially for me. Let’s look at what it does and then I’ll go through what’s wrong with it and what can be improved.

Polar Grit X – Hill Splitter

Other than enabling the Hill Splitter screen in either your running or cycling profile, there’s nothing else you need to do. It just works when it needs to. You should have it enabled by default when you open the box but, if not, here’s where you enable or disable it in FLOW on the web and it’s similarly enabled on the FLOW app.

Once the Hill Splitter sense an incline of about 3% the Hill Splitter Screen pops up whilst you are running/cycling. The screens are subtly different for uphill/downhill/flat and you cannot personalise what you see, indeed they look like this.


Perhaps the only non-obvious thing to point out is that the uphills/downhills are numbered as you run, for example, the image above shows the 3rd Uphill.

Then when you have finished you get a view of your Hill Splitting exploits in the workout summary. It’s worth pointing out that with LAPS (auto and manual), Polar DO give you much more detail on the watch after the workout.

PS Yes Whoop should is able to send HR to the Grit X and, no, I didn’t use it for that purpose today.

I’ll come on to my opinion on all of this in a minute, for now, we just need to know that each of the hills is recorded as laps into your workout file which you can then see on Polar Flow.

Hill Splitter – Polar Flow App

There is LESS Hill functionality on the app compared to the web platform. The following two images pretty much sum up all you get on the app. ie the hills are numbered on the map, kinda shown on an elevation profile, and then summary performances are shown for each lap as well as a summary for the total uphill/downhills on your route – which won’t be the same as total ascent/descent if you think about it.


Hill Splitter – Polar Flow Web

On the web version of FLOW there are more interesting analysis capabilities.

This one hill is probably worth a look at in some detail, apologies for the rather large image but you probably need to look at all of it.

First up the hill is recorded from point (1) to (2) on the map. That’s probably wrong as I would say there is a flat bit where I waited for some time where it says “Kingston Gate Gardens” I wasn’t really thinking about too much when I ran up this hill other than to avoid some brambles and nettles however you can see that my pace drops as the hill steepens, yet my running power from STRYD remains constant(ish) as does my cadence. After a minute, or so, my heart rate catches up to my effort level and starts to plateau. That’s a reasonably good example of how a hill should be tackled and it’s great that Polar gives us the ability to see that.

In fact, what I was doing was testing out STRAVA Live Segments. My particular segment started out near the GATE and kept going for a few hundred metres after the summit as there was a flat bit before a second, true summit further on.

Next, it’s worth noting that you can choose to display only the uphills, which I would imagine is what most people will want from this type of analysis especially if you are doing reps of the same hill. Then there are VERY many more metrics that can be displayed compared to what is available on the app.

Hill Splitter vs Hills on STRAVA Live Segments

I’m digressing a little here. Yet some of you, like me, might use STRAVA Live Segments to monitor hill reps or performances on your favourite local climbs. I do that when cycling but rarely when running. Whilst looking at Hill Splitter, I was doubling up and running some segments at the same time, like this.

You can see that a STRAVA Segment is a ‘known’ beast so the Grit X can alert you to one’s impending arrival and also give your progress as you tackle the hill segment and you get an instant summary after you finish the segment as well as, obviously, being able to analyse it in STRAVA afterwards.

Before I come back with some critiques, I wanted to throw this image into the mix. You’ll see why soon enough. It’s a part of Golden Cheetah analysis software and it’s just one small part of a screen from a bike workout with a wahoo Bolt also using Strava Live Segments. You can see here that Golden Cheetah (well, Wahoo) stores the Strava segment as a lap and so Golden Cheetah can break out the specific segment-performance. But also my matches/sustained power efforts are also identified by Golden Cheetah and broken out as “laps”.


Polar Hill Splitter – Improvements to make it awesome

Polar has a vastly under-rated performance feature called Zone-Lock, which lets you lock or unlock zones of any kind (HR, power, pace) at any time. I suspect that Polar has patented it as no-one has copied it AFAIK. If you couple Zone Lock with some of the suggestions I’m about to make then we just might have some potentially-awesome functionalities soon for performance athletes.

  • The hill splitter screen needs to be configurable (or alternate ones offered). As a minimum, it’s pretty obvious that it needs to display power for cyclists and I’d like it for running.
  • Being able to use the hill-splitter metrics as data fields might be nice but probably isn’t worth the effort for Polar to do it.
  • The on-watch Hill Splitter summary could be improved and expanded and treated like manual laps and autolaps. Personally I wouldn’t look at that but some people do.
  • Flow on the app is limited and could be extended yet, I reckon, it already gives a smartphone user enough information. I would say that the right decision has been made to keep the more detailed analyses to the web version of Flow.
  • Creating “match efforts” and “STRAVA segments” both as kinds of laps in Polar FLOW will give very powerful and useful analysis possibilities to complement Hill Splitter. This probably won’t be too hard to implement.

Polar Hill Splitter – Opinion

The current extent of Polar Hill Splitter in the Grit X could be a done deal and Polar may have no more plans to develop it, I don’t know. Nevertheless, even as it stands now, it is a useful feature and one which identifies hills reasonably well and which works well. POWER needs to be added both for cyclists and for runners who use Polar’s own running power calculations, let alone for people like me who use STRYD.

There is scope for Polar to extend and improve Hill Splitter if they want to.

Return: Polar Grit X Review

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13 thoughts on “Polar Hill Splitter – All you need to know and more

  1. Just curious (and a bit astonished): do u use ‘pace’ because you want to or is Polar dictating it? Like Garmin? Imo this is old fashioned, I work with speed all my life. Like I also express PR’s in average speed. So you can compare all results. 10k seldom is 10 k.

    1. a thought-provoking comment, thank you.

      most runners I encounter use pace. most in the uk and most who are younger use pace/km rather than pace/mi. for track athletes, i guess it would be pace/400m ie lap times.
      for the running plans I do, I’d say >90% are requested for pace (from a large sample size 😉 ). Having said that i provide options for mph and km/h. few use running power.
      most of the cyclists I cycle with use power. admittedly most cyclists in the population don’t have a power meter and so my sample size there is small, tho very many (most) of my triathlon clubmates use power for cycling

      I don’t think that pace is old-fashioned, I’d say it was a more goal-orientated metric
      you can compare pace easily enough: 3:59/km is faster than 4:00/km just as 20 km/h is faster than 19.9 km/h
      of course, you can compare neither pace nor speed in non-identical environmental scenarios (wind, grade, surface, temperature, etc)

      I need to check if i change my watch settings to speed km/h…i guess that might show up on the hill splitter page (I would hope/expect it to)

      1. Tks for reactions!
        Pace is something from the past that hasn’t disappeared after we got speed possibilities because the ‘population’ isn’t flexible. Starting with the trainers. Industry does what people expect and the interaction between the 2 makes things stay as they are. Lack of critical thinking adds to it. (how come people talk about prices as in 599?)
        Real users are not in the ‘population’.
        Speed indeed isn’t saying nothing. An average one some more. P, HR, W prime & VAM are the nbrs I watch. Most of it afterwards. While sporting info is used practically.. How many more k’s, climbing? map etc. Hardly adapt to what I see…… Days of wrecking myself at every activity lay behind me.
        Garmin GC has pace default for running & possibility to choose speed but only on reg level. But not alle reporting changes (why do people sleep while working?) and the setting isn’t saved.
        Is the Polar setting taken along to the website?
        Hill splitting is something I thought off many years ago. Maybe I even asked Garmin about it, never understood why they never came up with it, industry understands little of practice. Of illustrious climbs I rode I made them myself in Excel, time consuming…..

      2. I guess STRAVA have split up HILLS and FLAT BITS nicely already.
        yes i agree with W’, VAM etc, some have uses for live performance tuning and some have uses later for LOAD and RECOVERY guidance and some have use for bragging rights

        You’ve still not sold me on why speed is different to pace 😉 it’s not even like the maths is meaningfully easier with speed eg 20mph is, for sure, twice the speed of 10mph but the physiological increase between the two is WAY more than double/+100% (I know you know that 😉 )

  2. You can adjust on each sport profile wether you want to use speed or pace. The chosen one then is shown on the watch

  3. Thank you for your article !

    What about Vertical speed express in meter/hour or feet/hour ?
    I can’t find any information about it, I wrote to the Polar Customers Service, but they answered me : yes the speed is shown on hill splitter… like 6km/h !

    For long climb in mountains in trail running or ski touring, the speed or pace means nothing for me but I need to know the vertical speed or VAM. My Fenix 3 do it well, Suunto as well (otherwise Kilian Jornet will not use it) and I think coros do it well also.

    Am I missing something ?

    1. no, i dont think you are missing anything
      grit x doesn’t support VAM but it does support running power which would be usable for your purpose. yes i would agree that power/vam should be configurable on the hill splitter screen

      1. Thank you for this super fast and clear answer, you should work for Polar CS ??

  4. How and where do we shout? There a few very basic features missing that would make this a very serious competitor in the outdoor focused space…

    1. you can shout here and even USE CAPITALS, if you like 😉
      I mean, Polar will know EXACTLY what is missing and what could/might be added. What they don’t know is how many more units adding any one new feature will deliver.
      Perhaps shouting helps there? but it could just be a case of vocal minorities.

      People might hear you better on DCR’s site but often messages get lost there in all the other stuff

      you/I and the rest of us can create a list but we all want different things and the full list ends up being a Garmin Fenix #dilema

      what sort of things do you have in mind?
      ‘adding maps’/DEM/routing is non-trivial

  5. Hey there… I found your article whilst looking for opinions on whether or not the polar x grit makes the whoop band redundant.
    I was under the impression that the watch could measure the level of exhaustion and recovery just like the whoop does. I would love to know what you think!

    1. that question made me scratch my head a bit to think of the answer.

      both measure or attempt to measure HRV and use that plus effort to estimate fatigue/recovery status

      grit x is a big format thing like most sports watches. you have to weigh up if you are really going to wear that in bed. that’s a key time to get recovery right.
      a band is MUCH easier to wear.

      polar has their recovery PRO feature. that is only on Vantage V…not grit x. BUT, yes, there is recovery info on the grit x, just not the more advanced recovery pro (which inputs info based on formal orthostatic tests)

      next look at how the info is presented. whoop only allows it on the app but their app is pretty good on the whole.
      polar gives some info on the watch and more detailed info on the app/web platforms.

      so, to answer the question. NO it does not make it redundant; as always, it depends on exactly how you want to work with your chosen tool

      If you were genuinely a PRO athlete I would favour Vantage V and the Orthostatic tests input.

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