Beyond Cardio: Strength Training Moves to Improve Heart Health from Beyond Cardio: Strength Training Moves to Improve Heart Health

Beyond Cardio: Strength Training Moves to Improve Heart Health

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Beyond Cardio: Strength Training Moves to Improve Heart Health

Running and other cardio exercises are what come to mind when most people think of heart health. But strength exercises play a big role as well. “Research shows that resistance training can also be beneficial in lowering resting blood pressure, increasing HDL (High Density Lipoproteins), and increasing cardiac output,” Aryeh Spingarn, Sports Performance Coach at Professional Physical Therapy, BS Nutrition and Exercises Science, says.Since blood pressure is directly related to HDL and LDL concentrations, it’s important to note that resistance training has been shown to increase the concentration of HDL which is inversely related to Arteriosclerosis, or the buildup of LDL on the arterial walls, which narrows the diameter of the blood vessels, Spingarn says.

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Circuit training

“For maximum benefit, circuit training should reach the heart rate zone of approximately 60-70 percent, which has been shown to be beneficial for heart health,” Aryeh Spingarn, Sports Performance Coach at Professional Physical Therapy, BS Nutrition and Exercises Science, says. You can get your heart rate high with a simple bodyweight circuit workout. It consists of a series of 8 to 12 exercises performed one right after the other with little or no rest in between. An entire circuit workout typically consists of 3 to 5 repetitions of the circuit with about one or two minutes rest in between each circuit.

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Accessory Exercises

Accessory Exercises are great for any strength program, according to Tara Romeo, Director of the Professional Athletic Performance Center, CSCS, CES, USAW. “Isolating a specific muscle will give your body more definition,” she adds. Bicep curls and triceps extensions are two examples. Other popular accessory moves are glute bridges, hammer curls, dumbbell press, split squats, and hip extensions. 

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Lifting low to moderate weight

“With resistance training for heart health, we typically consider low to moderate weight, with a high repetition range,” Spingarn says.  As such, about 3 to 4 sets with repetitions ranging from 15 to 20, with some studies showing that even 30 repetitions, can be beneficial, she adds. The best way to start weight lifting is to learn technique and form. “Little to no weight is the best way to practice a movement properly to avoid injury,” Romeo says.

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Goblet squats

Basic exercises are the best, Romeo says. The goblet is one of the best ways to build strength. You are basically forced to do a deep squat because of the weight. All lower body muscles are activated. Grab any weight – dumbbell, kettlebell or even a medicine ball. Hold it as chest level and keep it close. Feet should be shoulder-width apart.

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Lunges

Romeo also recommends lunges. You can modify the exercise to fit your fitness level. Hold weights as you move. You can hold a rubber band over your head and pull it apart. This added balance component activates the shoulder muscles, giving you a nice line between the thighs and the shoulders. Lunges are the go-to exercise for the legsWhen done right, they can be very effective; otherwise, you put unnecessary strain on your joints.

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Push-ups

A push-up is a great choice if you’re looking to improve your upper body strength or the strength in your entire body. When you’ve mastered the basics, try moving pushups as an easy daily workout to tone up. Spread the arms and legs wide, do the push-up and then come back to a narrow position of the legs and arms. Do the exercise as you move across the floor and you will really feel the burn.

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Assisted pull-ups

This is another basic strength move Romeo recommends. Assisted pull-ups make a great alternative for you to go through the entire range of motion of the pull-up, which can often be performed incorrectly. The assisted alternative helps keep your body in control of the movement. You can use them to gradually work with less resistance until you’ve built enough strength.

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Military press

This old school strength exercise mainly works the shoulders. Make sure you always keep your back straight. Leaning back can lead to injuries. Use a full range of motion by lowering the bar as far as you can. The exercise can also be performed sitting. This version is better for people with lower back issues. You can use dumbbells for better isolation.

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Bench press

This is a classic exercise. However, a common mistake is flaring the elbows away from the body, which puts significant pressure on the rotator cuff muscles that help stabilize the shoulder. Lie on a flat bench; keep your eyes under the bar; lift your chest and squeeze your shoulder-blades; feet should remain on the floor at all times; grab the bar and hold it in the base of your palm; take a deep breath and unrack; lower the bar to mid-chest.

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Barbell back squat

This is Romeo’s favorite lower body strength exercise. “It targets the lower body and engages your core, for a great multi-joint movement,” she says. Some fitness experts recommend the squat as the one exercise people should do every day, if they had no time for anything else.

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Avoid extremely heavy lifting

“Extremely heavy lifting, such as Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting, for a long period of time can cause the Myocardium (muscle tissue of the heart) to thicken too much and may trigger heart arrhythmias,” Romeo says. For a beginner, a linear lifting program works well, she adds. “You can increase the weight when the set feels easy and you are not too fatigued.” Most beginners progress quickly and see the biggest improvements over time.

Beyond Cardio: Strength Training Moves to Improve Heart Health