‘I’m a Cardiologist, and These Are the 5 Best Strength-Training Moves for Boosting Your Heart Health’

Photo: Getty Images/ Drazen Zigic
There are certain types of workouts, like running and spinning, that we know are good for our hearts. They are, after all, literally called "cardiovascular exercises." But if you want to keep that blood pumping at peak capacity, those daily three-mile jogs can't do the job on all on their own. So grab a set of heavy weights and get ready to hit the mat, because cardiologists say that regular strength and resistance training is more important to heart health than you might have realized.

First, the basics. Strength training is an anaerobic form of exercise, which means that your body is creating bursts of energy to produce motion. Unlike aerobic (or cardio exercises) these moves don't require external oxygen consumption, and therefore allow you to go all out for very short periods of time. According to Satjit Bhusri, MD, board-certified cardiologist and founder of Upper East Side Cardiology, kicking that anaerobic system into high gear has beneficial effects on your heart health. "As an anaerobic form of exercise, strength training typically increases heart rate and blood pressure to higher levels than what you would typically see in regular jogging," he says, adding that heavy weight training is similar to sprinting in that you can only do both for a short amount of time because it requires such high amounts of energy exertion.

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"Your heart doesn't know what exercise you are doing—it's a pump and it's built to meet supply and demand—so the higher the demand, or intensity of the exercise, the more blood that is needed to meet those demands," he says. The result? Increased heart rate and blood pressure, which help to strengthen the organ over time. If you need more proof, a 2019 study found that combination training (aka integrating aerobic and anaerobic workouts throughout the week) increased lean body mass, strength, and cardiorespiratory fitness better than an aerobic-only routine.

In addition to boosting your heart health, Dr. Bhusri adds that strength training also has the ability to build muscle, improve bone strength, and ultimately help you perform daily activities more easily. "The end result allows a person to be more active in their everyday life while improving their overall quality of life, too," he says. "Also, the increased cardiac output correlated with strength training helps control and lower a person's blood pressure."

In order to reap the maximum benefits from your strength-training workouts, Dr. Bhusri recommends exercises that work multiple joints at the same time. "Multi-joint exercises help improve coordination, flexibility, burns more calories, and elevates cardiac output compared to simple movement strength exercises," says Dr. Bhusri. Keep scrolling for a few of his favorites.

1. Squat

2. Lunge

3. Bench press

4. Shoulder press

5. Plank

Get the best of both cardio and strength-training in 30-minutes flat with this weighted HIIT workout.

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