While many lifters might be concerned with building bigger biceps or increasing their bench press, you don’t want to forget about basic health markers, either. For example, according to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US. You might not think this affects you, but you’re never too young or in shape to not think about how to strengthen your heart.
There are many reasons why you should learn how to strengthen the heart. The first is basic health concerns. The American Heart Association says that 70% of Americans simply just don’t get enough exercise. While this likely isn’t you, it is still quite a sobering statistic that should keep you going to the gym and endeavoring to stay healthy.
That aside, a stronger heart can greatly improve your gym results. A stronger and more efficient heart can pump more blood with fewer beats. This means your muscles can get more blood, more easily without the use of supplements or stimulants.
This helps you in a few ways. First, it simply means getting better pumps. When you get better pumps, you’re generally going to build more muscle. At the same time, more blood to the muscle means bringing it more oxygen and nutrients – both during and after your training. This is going to lead to quicker recovery, which means you can train harder and more often. Both those then lead to even more size and strength in a shorter period of time.
The question now would be how to strengthen the heart the right way. Well, there are various things you can do. Simply adding slow and easy cardio to the mix might seem old school, but it works. Going for a jog, hopping on a cardio machine, or even a quick walk will all go a long way toward building a stronger heart. Keep your heart rate at 50-60% of your maximum for 30-60 minutes a few times per week. Read more about low intensity steady state training here.
Interval training should be part of your overall plan, too. You don’t have to go crazy on Tabatas or work yourself into an overtrained frenzy, though. The goal here is to elevate your heart rate much higher than normal so as to stimulate anaerobic threshold response. Going for 30 seconds hard alternated with 30 seconds off for 10-15 minutes once or twice per week is more than enough.
If you’re interested in how to strengthen the heart in “alternative” ways, then consider deep breathing exercises, building a strong core, and focusing on flexibility / mobility. Sometimes, the issue isn’t with the heart itself. Rather, it could be being constrained by the body.
For instance, if you lack a strong, yet flexible core, you may have a hard time completely expanding your diaphragm. If you can’t expand your diaphragm, then you’re going to have a hard time ever getting consistent and full breaths. Breathing and your heart beat are inter-related, and if you can’t get full and deep breaths, your heart is going to end up having to work harder to make up for the inefficiency.
Ensuring a strong core with decent mobility will give you the capability to take the deep breaths you need. However, if you actually practice deep breathing, you’re training your body to take those deeper than normal breaths naturally. The great side effect of this is that when you do, it slows your heart rate down. When your heart rate slows down, your heart then becomes stronger and more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body.
You should always want to improve performance and heart health. However, don’t over-think how to strengthen the heart. Old school slow cardio and occasional intervals are all you need on the conditioning side of things. After that, improved mobility and core strength can allow you to take deep breaths, which can lead to a slower and more efficient heart rate. Add deep breathing to the mix to intentionally slow the heart down, and it’ll be stronger than it’s ever been in short order.