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Heart rate variability for maximum strength gains

heart rate

When you think about heart rate, you might be thinking about someone doing cardio – treadmills and beeps.

In reality, there’s a lot to heart rate that you might have missed. There are important overlaps between heart rate and performance in strength training that mean a better rate can improve strength.

Read on, because today we’ll be taking you through the two biggest ways that heart rate and heart rate variability impact strength training!

Heart Rate and Variability: Why it Matters

What do you already know about heart rate?

You probably know that an elevated heart rate is a risk for heart attack, stroke, and other common causes of death. You might even be working on your endurance exercise to keep your heart healthy and make sure that everything from sexual health to mental health are up to scratch.

Lowering your resting heart rate decreases the strain you’re putting on the love muscle, helping you to live a longer and healthier life.

How Strength Training Helps Your Heart

Strength training isn’t often discussed for the benefits to the heart, or the other way around – how the heart can benefit strength.

It’s a two-way system. Resistance-trained people are healthier and have a better tolerance for blood pressure without the negative effects.

The heart undergoes some serious stress during strength training but its only short-term. Additionally, your arteries become more flexible and reduce your risk of clogs, clots, and other serious conditions.

HRV: Benefits for Strength and Muscle Gains

The key benefit we’re going to discuss today is how the variability of your heart rate – the range it can go through – is key to strength training.

You’ll mainly notice this between sets. The ability to get back to resting heart rate between sets is key to improving your recovery – a key factor in keeping your performance up over long workouts.

This is the kind of recovery and performance that many people ignore, since it doesn’t increase your maximum performance right now. However, it helps you accumulate more volume over time which is a direct cause of building strength and muscle mass.

Heart Rate and Psychological Factors

You’ll also want to control your heart rate through psychological methods too.

This is one of the ways that your choice of music when training can make a big difference.

Psychological arousal is all about how hyped up you are – controlling this is a key way to adjust how heavy weights feel and help push yourself.

However, for the recovery we mentioned above its equally important to bring psychological arousal – and your heart rate – down after intense training.

Again, music can be a great choice here, and the music that you use to hype-up between sets isn’t appropriate continuously. Too much psychological arousal, or a chronically elevated heart rate, are bad for both training and health.

That’s why it’s good to find the right tempo playlist for pre and post workout and of course for the workout itself.

Learning to switch on and off when you need to is a great way to develop yourself as an athlete and bring about the best results with the most sustainable, healthy methods.

Post-Training Recovery: How the Heart Supports Muscles

Heart rate and arousability aren’t just about when you’re in the gym, however.

What you’ll find is that intense exercise will keep you in an elevated state of anxiety for a while after finishing. This keeps your heart rate up and places additional stress on your heart if you don’t balance it out.

This is clear from the relation we see between other forms of stress and the risk of heart problems. Any chronic increase in anxiety and heart rate can negatively effect your health, so it’s a significant matter.

Balancing your stress levels out after a training session is one of the ways you can reduce the chronic loading of your heart. This also helps with your exercise recovery and the development of strength.

Improving your return to a resting, restorative heart rate and psychological state can improve your session-to-session progress. Heart rate and relaxation methods – from low-BPM music to meditation to yoga – can all aid in this balancing act.

The Big Lesson

The benefits of proper heart rate and anxiety management for training is a huge deal.

If you’re planning on pushing yourself to new personal bests – and recovering so that you can keep doing it – you need to consider the physical and psychological impacts.

Fortunately, you can manage these changes in both the short and long-term. Developing good habits and being aware of how and handling the stress levels is easy with practice and the right tools.

How to Implement and Improve HRV for Strength Training

How do you improve your heart rate – and variability – without losing all your strength?

This is a question we hear a lot, since a lot of strength enthusiasts see endurance and strength as exact opposites.

Obviously, if you’re doing ultra-marathons you’ll struggle to keep the meat on your body – it’s easy to lose muscle. However, endurance and cardio training don’t have to be long-haul, and you can use them to improve your strength performance.

To start with, you actually need to track your heart rate.

You can’t set and achieve goals if you can’t measure the changes. This is why you probably want a heart rate monitor – so you can see if you’re getting better!

You won’t need to use this for all your sets and we recommend avoiding it for top-sets. Use it for warm ups and some of the lighter weights to see how you respond. Make a quick note of them and compare from session to session.

A weekly average is probably your best bet, since everything from sleep to stress can change your heart rate.

How Should You Train Your Heart for Strength Training?

HIIT is the best way to do this.

There are a lot of myths around HIIT – like the idea that it’s “better” than normal cardio, or that it burns more calories – but neither of those matter.

The important part is that HIIT allows you to focus on high-power, intense exercise. This assists with your heart rate variability while also helping you focus on explosive strength.

This is also specific to the kind of heart rate improvements you need: the ability to produce huge efforts and then recover quickly.

How to Build a Great HIIT Session for Strength

The kind of HIIT we’re talking about here comes in many forms. HIIT isn’t a single type of exercise, just a way of structuring different types of training. You’ll find there are some great choices for building other athletic characteristics (such as power, coordination, and speed):

  • Sprint intervals
  • Med ball/wall ball throws
  • Lunges and single-leg work
  • Jumps, hops, etc.
  • Core exercises
  • Rotational and single-leg work

If you combine these types of exercises into high-intensity circuits (using things like Tabata), you can make big differences in a way that helps your strength training, rather than harming it.

This is also great since it helps you cover muscle groups you might not focus on in training and can help prevent injury.

Effort Equals Results: Give Your Cardio Some Love

As with the rest of your training, you should be putting some thought into how you improve your heart rate for strength training.

Too much work in long-haul endurance can lead to slow-twitch adaptation. This can be a problem for strength, so you should aim to implement these lessons in your own training.

Heart rate isn’t the most glamorous way to improve in strength training – it’s not a good as a big bench press or huge squat – but you’ll be setting yourself up for those changes with a healthier, stronger heart.

Closing Remarks and Final Thoughts

Cardiovascular health and training don’t have to compete with your strength training.

Aside from the health benefits, these kinds of changes to your heart rate and efficiency can support better recovery and handling more volume.

Controlling and improving your heart rate are the two factors you need to consider and work on. Controlling your heart rate comes with psychological methods – from music to active relaxation – while improving it for the long-term is all about training smart.

Use these tips to add some high-quality, explosive HIIT to your training. You’ll find that your strength goes up, you cover some of the most under-rated areas of training, and you have the best chance for overall progress!

Joe Bailey

Joe Bailey

Joe Bailey is the Wizard of Lightbulb Moments at GetSongBpm. He’s recently developed a heart rate calculator to help people find their target heart rate simply by tapping their screen. When he’s not behind his own screen he’s in front of the crowds in the UK running 5km and 10km events and cross-training regularly.

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Starting Your Weightlifting Efforts Off Correctly

Starting Your Weightlifting Efforts Off Correctly, workout, training, fitness

People all around the world, no matter their race, gender, or reasonable age, are finding the distinct benefits present from a weightlifting lifestyle. Weightlifting, particularly lifting in a compound fashion with the use of free-weight barbells, is perhaps one of the most restorative training plans one can embark on. In fact, there’s a solid difference between training and exercise. While exercise is something committed to in order to stay in shape, training through a functional sport such as this aims at a result, either growth, functional strength, or a combination between the two.

Much has been written about weightlifting, and many people have their own foundational knowledge of it. But unfortunately, sometimes the myths surrounding weightlifting can lead people in the wrong direction, and prevent them from starting their weightlifting efforts off correctly. Thankfully, if you are reading this, you have made the correct search in order to ensure you do things right. That means you have an innate drive to perform well, and that will see you through in the best manner possible.

In order to respect that ambition, we would like to volunteer the following advice, and hope it truly helps you in your weightlifting journey:

Your Tools

While many will often try to sell you on the longform purchases you need to make in order to get started weightlifting, you actually need very little from an equipment perspective. First, you need access to information. The Starting Strength manual is quite cheap for a digestible piece of exercise literature, and the Stronglifts 5×5 program and exploration can be found for free online. Reading this from cover to cover and once more for good measure should help you understand the vital necessity of weightlifting, and the fundamental methods of building strength in the best manner.

From there, all you need is a clean, comfortable set of t-shirts, shorts or stretching tracksuit bottoms. The main purchase you will be best off making is that of weightlifting shoes, which have solid and sturdy soles to help you create a stable formed base when completing a compound movement such as a deadlift. This helps your ergonomic lifting efforts, thus contributing to your overall safety and the form you can achieve. A simple bag of chalk can and should also be used to help you grip a barbell appropriately. Ask your gym if you can use this on the barbells, provided you clean up afterwards. If they say yes, fantastic. If not, it’s best to change gyms.

Excellent Diet & Supplements

You will need to pay attention to your diet heavily when on any weightlifting program. They often say that strength is 20% built in the gym, and 80% built in the kitchen. The two measures of weightlifting, ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting,’ denote two forms of dietary intake. When in the ‘bulking stage,’ high protein is considered essential, as is eating at least 500 calories over your daily caloric maintenance. This will help you grow well, and for your muscles to form correctly. There is no such thing as ‘toning’ or ‘converting fat into muscle,’ so you will put on fat during this process. This is where the ‘cutting stage’ comes in, where you try to cut the fat from your body through high protein and another 500 caloric deficit. If achieved while lifting, your muscle mass should stay maintained. This can help you gain and lose weight in the most healthy, sustainable, and measured manner.

But it’s also essential to consider what supplements you’ll be using. For example, 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is often a good metric, and sometimes you may wish to increase that to 1.5grams per pound. It can be hard to get that through your diet, and so purchasing super supplements such as whey protein, or Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s, the building blocks of muscle development,) can help you gain the most positive results, and to build both strength and muscle sustainably and in the healthiest, most cost-effective manner possible. If you wish to indulge in the helpers, you might also utilize a pre-workout to keep you active and interested each day, particularly if you work out hard early in the morning.

Sleep

Sleep is essential. It’s often important to get eight hours as a minimum if conducting a heavy training pattern such as this, but this is hardly the end of the story. Sometimes, weightlifters need more, in order to ensure their muscles are well-taken care of and the overall scope of their ability is heightened. Sometimes opting for nine hours can help, but be sure to listen to what your body needs, experiment, and see which has the best impact on performance as you continue.

With these tips, you’ll start your weightlifting program off correctly.

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Why Should Kettlebells be A Part Of Your Daily Workout Routine? – by Kettlebell Kings

Today I am delighted to have the Kettlebell Kings as a guest blogger to tell us why kettlebells should be part of your daily exercise routine. Here we go:

Starting a new workout regimen is always exciting and energizing. The learning curve provides a mental adventure that sparks interest and determination in accomplishing new health and wellness goals. Incorporating strength-building tools will help you get better results and feel more confident about the time you put in at the gym. The resurgent popularity of kettlebells has driven many people to incorporate them into their routines to spark their strength and cardio workouts.

Let’s first define what a kettlebell is and its most common uses for fitness. A kettlebell is a cast steel or iron weight with a grip handle that is used for a variety of exercises and movements, including a combination of strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular training. Kettlebells are designed to fit your grip and balance the weight you are working with, using gravity to build muscle strength and increase endurance. The weight is off-center, unlike traditional weights found in the gym, allowing the user to target multiple muscle groups and areas of the body within a single exercise.

The benefits of using a kettlebell during your workout are countless. You will find after consistent use in just a few sessions that your balance, endurance, strength, and coordination are improved.

Kettlebellkings2

Unlike most traditional exercise machines, kettlebells do not isolate particular muscles but rather require whole-body movements that will give you a much more productive workout. By incorporating these useful tools in your workout, you will build strength in your tendons and ligaments, which can prevent injury.

So, you are interested in incorporating kettlebells into your workout regimen. Let’s talk about how you should go about choosing a kettlebell based on your fitness and comfort level. First, note that it is always important to consult a trainer if you are unsure of proper technique to avoid being injured during your routine.

There are basically two types of kettlebell movements: ballistic and grinds. Ballistic movements are quick movements like lifts, swings, and tosses. Grinds refer more to slow movements like overhead presses, bent presses, squats, and deadlifts. Each type of movement has different results, so depending on your goals, you may select a different type of kettlebell based your needs. Of course, one can combine both types of movements to create a hybrid workout as well, in which case having a variety of kettlebells with fluctuating weights is the most beneficial setup.

Ballistic movements and lifts require heavier kettlebells because there is not quite as much control necessary as with slower movements. Exercises like windmills, get-ups, and overhead presses demand slow-paced, controlled movement in order to get the best results so one would use a more lightweight kettlebell for these types of routines. It is advisable to start off with two kettlebells, one lightweight, and one heavyweight. These weights will vary based on your size, physique, fitness, and comfort levels; however, having a slight variety will give you some options to shake up your routine.

For the man who is just starting out using weights or who is at maximum able to bench press 200 pounds, it is advisable to begin with a 35-pound kettlebell. If you are able to bench press more than 200 pounds, then you could start with a 44-pound kettlebell. After a few months of training with this size kettlebell, you should be able to move to a heavier weight as you build strength. A 53-pound kettlebell is in your future!

Typically, women who are new to training with kettlebells are advised to start with an 18-pound kettlebell. With regular reps and consistent workouts, you will be able to increase the amount of weight you use in the gym or at home. Now, if you’re a seasoned gym user who has used weights in the past, then you could start off with a 26-pound kettlebell. After just a few short months, you will notice your strength increasing substantially and will be able to grow with the size of your kettlebells to begin including heavier weights and denser workouts.

In any case, purchasing a full set of kettlebells will give you a wide variety of weights that will fit your needs from start to finish, no matter your workout routine. You can then match your growing strength with a new weight that will keep you progressing in your fitness goals. Having options to choose from will give you the resources you need to design whatever workout matches your current goals.

The best parts about kettlebells are their small size, mobility, and physical benefits. Some of us need the gym to keep us on track, and others can make their own living room into their workout zone. With these useful fitness tools, you can easily transport them to any space you wish to squeeze in a solid workout. Just like with any fitness routine, with consistency, determination, and practice, it won’t be long before you start seeing results. In a world where we are constantly busy with work and other demands, having a simple-to-use and transportable fitness tool gives us a big advantage when it comes to staying fit.

Kettlebell Kings

Kettlebell Kings

If you are interested in incorporating kettlebells into your workouts, then turn to the kettlebell experts at Kettlebell Kings. Our high-quality kettlebells are guaranteed for a lifetime, and we have the right weight for you, whether you are a veteran or top-level competitor, or are looking to incorporate kettlebells into your workout for the first time. Check out our selection at www.kettlebellkings.com, or call us at 855-7KETTLE today.

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How You Can Keep Moving With A Busy Schedule

Many of us spend on average 8+ hours sitting at our desks, traveling in planes, trains, and automobiles or on the couch; top that off with another 6-8 hours sleeping. That can add up to nearly 20 hours of sedentary sludge. Sitting invites stagnation and our fascia (the material protecting and supporting our body as a unit) begins to reshape so we start to take on the shape of our chairs. Our hips become tight, ankle movement diminishes, our shoulders push forward, we forget to engage our core as we slouch and collapse our lower back, and our necks crank towards the screen.
First, I don´t want to take for granted that everybody knows how much is enough exercise. To stay healthy or to improve health, adults need to do three types of physical activity each week: aerobic, strength and stretching exercises. If you want to read the full Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, here: health.gov
It can be challenging finding time to fit in errands, work, kids, home, exercise and the million other things to get done in a day.  Time is the biggest barrier to an active lifestyle. Remove the expectation that the only way to get in shape is by going to the gym for an hour every day. This time commitment is simply not realistic for most of us.

Aerobic exercise

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. (See Mayo Clinic Web). To find what´s “moderate activity” try the “talk test”, exercising hard enough to break a sweat but not so hard you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation. Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. At this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. You can combine moderate and vigorous exercise over the course of the week, and it’s fine to break up your activity into smaller bursts as long as you sustain the activity for at least 10 minutes. Ideas to add some walks to your day:
  1. Walk while talking on the phone or conduct walking meetings.
  2. Take stairs instead of escalators and elevators.
  3. Park in spaces furthest from the entrance.
  4. Use restrooms on a different floor or furthest from you.
  5. Use half or all of your lunch hour to take a walk with a colleague.  Steve Jobs was at his most creative while walking and thinking outside in the park next to his office, and we can be, too. Apple’s founder knew that the body and mind respond to nature and to moving.
  6. Put on some good music and dance while cleaning the house!
Make a commitment to move at every opportunity, stand whenever you can!

Strength training

The Department of Health and Human Services also recommends strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Studies have shown strength training to increase lean body mass, decrease fat mass, and increase resting metabolic rate. Weight training has also been shown to help fight osteoporosis.
Strength training doesn´t mean a gym membership. There are multiple ways to strengthen your muscles at home or at the workplace: bodyweight training, resistance bands, suspension training… Choose whatever best fit your abilities and preferences. At your desk, or anywhere you spend a good amount of time at, you can perform exercises such as
  1. squats,
  2. lunges,
  3. push-ups and
  4. chair dips.

Stretching

The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults engage in flexibility training two to three days per week, stretching major muscle and tendon groups.
I know all this exercise seems a lot from the point of view of busy people, but all of it only takes one hour, 4% of your day.
Remember, you can break up your activity into smaller bursts. If your job keeps you moving all day long, activity trackers (apps or wearables) are the simplest option to keep track of it. Forget daily steps and aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking. You do so, daily aerobic exercise is done.
Stretching at the workplace is something we all should do, but very few do. Whether you work behind a desk, drive for hours, or spend long hours standing (as waiters and watchmen), some muscles get tired and you feel stiffness, soreness, and at the end of the day, even pain. You can prevent this by taking a few 5 minutes breaks along the day to stretch and relax problematic areas like legs, lower back, shoulders, neck, and wrists. 3 little breaks and you´d be stretching 15 minutes every day. Examples of such stretches or postures can be:
  1. Doing core exercises.
  2. Stretching your legs and back when you are on your desk.
  3. Using a door frame or anything sturdy to stretch your chest.

These stretches will reduce the negative effects that sitting has on your body. It also improves one’s quality of life.

Find an exercise schedule and activities that work for you so that you stay fit and healthy. Once you learn to make time – and it doesn’t have to be a monumental commitment – the benefits will outweigh any desire you may have had to sacrifice your health by staying on the sidelines. Keep in mind that it is possible to get all the exercise you need without using equipment, attending a class or going to the gym.

The most important key is to change the mindset. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore. It should be time for you.  Don’t be afraid to make time for yourself. You are worth it!

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Study finds: Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- vs. high-load resistance training

Schoenfeld, BJ, Grgic, J, Ogborn, D, and Krieger, J, have reviewed the current body of literature and a meta-analysis to compare changes in strength and hypertrophy between low- vs. high-load resistance training protocols. A total of 21 studies were ultimately included for analysis that met the following criteria:

  1. an experimental trial involving both low-load training [≤60% 1 repetition maximum (1RM)] and high-load training (>60% 1RM);
  2. with all sets of the training protocols being performed to momentary muscular failure;
  3. at least one method of estimating changes in muscle mass or dynamic, isometric, or isokinetic strength was used;
  4. the training protocol lasted for a minimum of 6 weeks;
  5. the study involved participants with no known medical conditions or injuries impairing training capacity.

Gains in 1RM strength were significantly greater in favor of high-load vs. low-load training, whereas no significant differences were found for isometric strength between conditions.

Changes in measures of muscle hypertrophy were similar between conditions.
The findings indicate that maximal strength benefits are obtained from the use of heavy loads while muscle hypertrophy can be equally achieved across a spectrum of loading ranges.

You can find the full article (PDF) here.

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