Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lifting Weights for a Healthy Heart - By Joe Aben

Originally posted on on February 4, 2002

When people think about improving their heart health, they may think of doing aerobic exercise or cardiovascular training such as running or jogging. However, recent research by the American Heart Association has proven that strength training or weight training counts for heart health, too. Studies have shown that lifting weights lowers the body’s heart rate and blood pressure response, thereby decreasing the demands on the heart when people perform tasks like picking up a heavy bag of groceries or shoveling snow. Research has also proven that lifting weights on a regular basis lowers ones resting blood pressure.

Getting Started

If you have not received a physical within a year, do so. It is also a good idea to obtain a physician’s medical release for initiating a strength program. Fancy equipment and expensive shiny machines are not necessary to benefit from a well-designed strength-training workout. Usually, the machines that are the most complicated to operate do the least. Working out at home with a set of dumbbells or adjustable dumbbells (Sport Blocks or Power Blocks) and a bench or Swiss ball will do just fine. I train many people with varying fitness levels (from 80 year old stroke victims to pro athletes), and no one needs much more equipment than previously mentioned. Many quality exercises do not even require any equipment.

Keep it simple

A complete total-body strength-training workout should take you no longer than one hour. Compound multi-joint movements such as pushups, chin-ups, and squats should be the core of your workout. Multi-joint movements stimulate the most muscular growth because they work many big muscle groups. The big range of motion from these exercises also stimulates a greater metabolic response (i.e. burns fat at a more rapid rate), as opposed to an exercise like calf raises that isolates a very specific area. I could write at great lengths about this topic, but just “keep it simple” – perform compound multi-joint movements. Seven to nine exercises are sufficient for a complete workout. In general, one set is sufficient, but two sets can be performed.

The Workout

A “set” consists of 8 to 20 repetitions using impeccable form taken to a point of momentary muscular fatigue or close to that point. A typical workout would look like this: pushups – 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions, chin-ups – 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions, squats – 1 to 2 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions, presses- 8 to 15 reps, rows – 8 to 15 reps, lunges – 12 to 20 reps, and crunches or sit-ups – 15 to 20 repetitions. Take about 3 to 4 seconds to raise the weight and 3 to 4 seconds to lower it. Make sure you allow at least 48 hours between workouts in order for your muscles to recover and grow. These are very broad and basic guidelines for setting up a strength program. I would suggest consulting a qualified strength coach or fitness professional regarding any questions you may have and or designing a more personalized strength-training regime.

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