Fitness Articles

Strengthen Your Heart with Strength Training

Pumping Iron Is Good for the Heart

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If you're new to strength training, read this reference guide first and follow these basic principles for safety and efficacy:
  • Lift weights in a slow and controlled pace,
  • Aim for a full range of motion—or as close to a full range of motion as your body will allow in good form.
  • Exhale during the contraction (the hardest part of the lift) and inhale during the relaxation phase. Never hold your breath! Get more tips on breathing here.
  • Always warm-up with light cardio for five minutes before starting a strength-training workout. End your session with some stretching as a cool down.
Beginner Plan
If you've never lifted weights or don't do so regularly, start with any one of three workout plans below. Perform the workout twice a week on non-consecutive days.
Intermediate plan
Once you've mastered the beginner routine(s) above, move on to one of these intermediate plans to keep challenging your muscles and your heart! Perform the workout twice a week on non-consecutive days. Select a weight that feels heavy yet allows you to complete the prescribed reps with the last two being challenging. Advanced plan
These advanced workouts are only for those who have been lifting weights for a year or more. Perform your workout three times a week on non-consecutive days using a weight or body position that feels heavy yet allows you to complete the full reps with the last two being very challenging.
  • Option #1: This gym-based plan includes some tough combination lower- and upper-body moves and challenging balance work!
  • Option #2: Put that stability ball to good use with this challenging Total Body Ball Challenge!
  • Option #3: Don't have access to fitness equipment? No worries! This Advanced Workout puts your body weight to good strength-building use!
Although weight training has incredible benefits, the AHA is quick to point out that strength training shouldn't be seen as a replacement to cardio exercise; instead it should act as a complement. So ideally, in addition to the strength-training recommendation, you should also get in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise most days of the week. So what are you waiting for? Boost the strength of your muscles—and your heart—with strength training!

This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople fitness experts and certified personal trainers, Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols.

Sources
Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. "Resistance Exercise in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease," accessed March 2011. www.circ.ahajournals.org.

Cybex Institute for Exercise Science. "Strength Training for a Healthy Heart," accessed March 2011. www.cybexinstitute.com.

DeNoon, Daniel J. "Weight Training for Heart Disease," accessed March 2011. www.webmd.com.

Pried, Robert. "Weightlifting Can Break Your Heart," accessed March 2011. www.armytimes.com.
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • Thank you for such an informative article, however, I think for safety sake the portion of this article marked "An Important Caveat" should have been placed WAY at the beginning of the article in the event that someone glances at the article but doesn't finish reading it all the way through. That's a very important caveat. It should be stated up front and then go on with the article. Seriously. - 5/24/2012 12:55:34 PM
  • Thank you for such an informative article, however, I think for safety sake the portion of this article marked "An Important Caveat" should have been placed WAY at the beginning of the article in the event that someone glances at the article but doesn't finish reading it all the way through. That's a very important caveat. It should be stated up front and then go on with the article. Seriously. - 5/24/2012 12:55:29 PM
  • AZURE-SKY
    I didn't see much in the way of recommendations on the weights to start out with. I had lymph nodes removed due to breast cancer 13 years ago. My doctor advised using lower weights (starting out with lifting 5-lb dumbells) & doing more reps to avoid the risk of lymphedema - swelling of the arm because the lymphatic fluid can't drain. She said when I became stronger, to increase the weight about 2 lbs at a time.

    I've been doing upper body weight machines for a while, and use 10-15 lbs on the bicep curls, 4-5 sets of 10; 30 lbs on the tricep machines, also 4-5 sets of 10; chest press - 30 lbs - 4 sets of 10 lbs; low row (for the back) 50 lbs - 4 sets of 10. I don't know why I can't get past 10 lbs on the bicep curls but have more strength in the other muscles, but that works for me. When I try higher weight on the chest press, the mucles in the breast where I had surgery get sore, even after all this time. I'm 59 years old. - 5/26/2011 1:43:01 PM
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