Good For the Heart: the Cardiovascular Effect of Strength Training

Cardiovascular, or cardio, strength training is very important and should always be a part of your weekly routine. But did you know that there can be a significant cardiovascular component to strength training? Let’s explore some of the best ways to get this benefit.

Circuit training
This form of exercise is very popular with folks who want to get into good shape and have better health and is a good way to train all of your skeletal muscles in a single workout. By moving from exercise to exercise with minimal rest in between, you can increase your heart rate, blood pressure and core temperature, and keep it high until the end of your workout.

HIIT training
High intensity interval training (HIIT) has become very popular. Its format consists of short bursts of high intensity activity followed by a short rest, repeated over and over for a specific amount of time or number of exercise sets. While there is a need to push yourself harder to get the benefit, this format works well for people with minimal time to exercise.

Tabata training
This is considered a form of high intensity interval training. While the original Tabata training was only four minutes in total, many instructors have used a similar format in a longer class setting, usually alternating exercises with work and rest breaks. High intensity formats should not be overused to allow recovery of the body.

Lower body lifting
The large muscles of the lower body need much more oxygen to fuel them when under load, so exercises like squats, lunges step ups, deadlifts and so on will require a significant increase in heart and lung capacity. As the person becomes more trained, they can lift heavier loads for a longer period of time. You may notice that you’re out of breath after that set of walking lunges!

Energy systems
The two main types of exercise are broken into aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise is lower intensity and longer duration and is fueled by oxygen (hence the name). Anaerobic exercise is fueled by glycogen from the muscles and is used when shorter bursts of activity are done, such as in weightlifting or other sports. Both of these types of activity are important to overall cardiovascular health.

Muscle fiber types
Many people don’t know that there are multiple types of muscle fibers contained within each muscle group. Type 1, the aerobic muscle fibers, are for longer duration exercises like walking, swimming, running, etc. Type 2A muscle fibers are used for strength exercises such as weightlifting. Type 2B muscle fibers are used for explosive movements, such as sprinting or jumping. Everyone has all of these types, but you may prefer a certain form of exercise (or find it easier) due to a predominance of a particular muscle type. Finding types of exercise you enjoy will make it easier to be consistent.

Intensity and time under tension
The intensity of an exercise can be increased by either increasing the load or increasing the length of time the exercise is performed for. Time under tension means the amount of time the particular muscle or muscles are contracting for. Therefore you can use a heavier weight and perform the set more quickly, or use a lighter weight and perform the set more slowly, gaining the same effect! This works especially well for home workouts where you may not have a lot of equipment. Simply slow down the tempo of both the lifting and lowering phases.

Muscular strength versus muscular endurance
Muscular strength refers to the contractile strength of a particular muscle group or of your entire body; in other words, how much weight you can lift. Muscle endurance refers to the length of time you can continue an activity; a good example is how long you can walk, run, swim or play a sport before fatigue sets in. Both types are important for a strong, healthy body and heart.

Strength training is good for the heart. As you can see, strength training is good for not only the muscles, joints, tendons and bones, but also for your heart and lungs! Remember to always ask for help if you’re unfamiliar with this or any form of exercise.

Lori Vance
Body Image Fitness, LLC

Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a healthcare professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.

Good For the Heart: the Cardiovascular Effect of Strength Training

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