Friday, January 22, 2010

What do we mean when we say strengthen the heart?

Your heart is a MUSCLE. It’s called the cardiac muscle. It’s the most important muscle you have. When you do any exercise, no matter how strenuous, your muscles need oxygen. This oxygen is supplied by the blood. The blood, of course, is pumped by the heart. When we increase the intensity of our exercise, our muscles become tired, and need more oxygen to keep going so that they do not cramp or burn [lactic acid]. The more oxygen we need, the more blood needs to be pumped; the faster the heart has to work, which is the increase in heart rate. Exercise, continued over time, will grow your heart in size, allowing it to pump a larger volume of blood with each stroke (or pump). This allows more oxygen to be delivered to all the cells in your body. At the same time, your heart also becomes stronger and more efficient at pumping blood. The seven time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong’s heart can pump nine gallons of blood per minute, compared to five for the average person. His maximum heart rate is 200 beats per minute (NO JOKE: Do NOT try and get yours that high!) A Resting Heart Rate anywhere in the range of 60 - 90 is considered in the normal range. Many athletes have pulse rates in the 40 - 60 range, depending on how fit they are. Lance Armstrong in his prime was known to have a resting heart rate as low as 32 beats per minute.1

To make your heart muscle stronger, you need to exercise vigorously enough to make your heart pump more blood. The formula for heart-lung fitness is to exercise intensely enough to raise your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute above your resting rate at least three times a week. If you can't exercise continuously for thirty minutes, work until you feel tired, rest, then repeat the cycle, and gradually build up your endurance. The longer and harder you exercise, the more blood you circulate and the stronger your heart will become.2

Jay says: 20 minutes - 3x a week.

For more see our CARDIO newsletter at

Future blogs we’ll talk about VO2 Max and High Intensity Training. And PLEASE, if you have your own fitness topics you would like to see discussed send us an e-mail to

1. Edward F. Coyle, Ph.D.; Professor, Director, Human Performance Laboratory, Lance Armstrong's Physiological Maturation
2. Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health E-Zine

1 comment:

  1. Senor J--

    Please I not need your health tips. What I need in a gym club is owner who care what his members say. Who come ask his people, "How I make gym better?" Not someone who sit in office all day in back and write health tips I know.

    How many member read this blog or care what it say, you think? How many?

    You want make better the gym:

    1) Make more space in gym
    2) Keep gym open more hours on weekend
    3) More new equipment
    4) Pay person to put weights back
    5) Shut up those birds.
    6) Fix soap and sink in bathroom
    7) Make GYM not so hot in winter. I get sick all time because hot in gym and cold outside. (Write about that!)

    Do that and then maybe I care what you write.