Imagine if you could perform 2.5 billion reps simultaneously in a set during an exercise. That would be very impressive wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, all of our muscles fatigue long before that. Except for the heart muscle, which beats non stop averaging 100,000 beats every day.
What makes this possible? The heart is made of a special type of muscle called cardiac muscle which is exclusive to the heart. This type of muscle tissue is made to produce high strength and endurance outputs. It allows the heart to pump around 2,000 gallons of blood each day, supplying the rest of the body with oxygen, nutrients, fuel, and other essential compounds.
If the heart stopped pumping blood we would instantly faint. The muscular, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and nervous systems would shut down. The brain actually stops 3 minutes after the heart does. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 610,000 people die of heart disease each year in the United States.
On the other end of the spectrum, a strong heart improves the blood flow to the other systems in the body and delivers more blood at a faster rate to exercising muscles. It also improves stroke volume, energy production, temperature regulation, and greatly reduces the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at 50 to 85 percent of your Max heart Rate 3 times a week.
Below are the 3 training methods you should use for strengthening the heart muscle:
- Heart rate training or HRT is becoming a more popular go to for cardiovascular strengthening. The great thing about it is it can be done using any type of physical activity. Whether lifting heavy weights in the free weight area of the gym or using a more traditional piece of cardio equipment like the bicycle, it is the heart rate during the exercise that matters.
- This method of training is best done with a heart rate monitor such as a watch or activity belt. You must know what your max heart rate (MHR) and resting heart rate (RHR) is. Some watches and belts will record this for you. There are 5 zones and each zone is based on a % of the difference between these numbers.
- The optimal zone for heart strengthening is zone 3 which is 70-80%.
- For example if your MHR is 190 BPM and your RHR is 60 BPM, 100% is 190 and 0% is 60. In this case, zone 3 would be between 148-162 BPM. This is considered the Aerobic zone. You can use any physical activity during heart rate training just maintain this zone, or this heart rate range, throughout the activity.
- The benefits of Heart Rate Training are increased lung capacity, blood flow, fat burn, and overall aerobic fitness level. The variety of exercises you can use to train with HRT are also another great benefit.
Here is a table that will give an example of your heart rate zones using the calculation above of a MHR of 190 and RHR of 60.
- I’m sure you’ve heard of interval training by now as it was the craze going around the fitness industry last year. It mainly became popular for its ability to help people drop weight faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100m sprint!
- This is done doing a slow to moderate intensity exercise for an allotted amount of time, such as 30 seconds, followed by a burst of high intensity for half that time, 15 seconds. This can be repeated for 3+ reps.
- The high intensity portion should be in the 80% or greater range listed in the graph above. It would be very difficult to maintain this high intensity for large amounts of time, hence why this kind of training is done in intervals.
- The benefits to High Intensity Interval Training are certainly worth the effort you put in to accomplish it. You will burn more calories and shed more fat in shorter amounts of time. Another benefit is your metabolic rate is increased for hours after the exercise meaning you will burn more calories throughout the day. HIIT can also help to reduce blood pressure, increase aerobic capacity, and increase oxygen consumption.
- If it isn’t broke, don’t break it. This form of cardio is still effective and still an important part of exercising the heart. It is done in low intensity outputs such as walking, jogging or biking at a slow speed for a long duration of time. An example would be going for a light jog while keeping the heart rate between the 55-65% range listed in the graph above.
- Long, slow, distance training has its list of benefits. It improves cardiovascular function, deeper, more restful sleep, improves endurance, faster recovery, strengthens tolerance of high intensity training, maintains muscle mass and improves heart efficiency. A major benefit is that you can use this method to train the heart if you are unable to perform the other two methods listed above.
We recommend incorporating all 3 of these training methods into your cardiovascular and heart strengthening training program for optimal heart health. A good place to start would be Long, Slow, Duration training. As you improve, work your way up to Heart Rate Training and then High Intensity Interval Training. Each one is just as important as the others. If you have any questions feel free to email us at email@example.com.
Now get out there and get your heart pumping!