Strength training to manage heart health

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Endurance training used to be the default for those wanting to strengthen their heart, improve their circulation and protect themselves from illness and serious problems, such as heart disease. However, recent research has shown that strength training is beneficial not just for our musculoskeletal and metabolic systems, but for the cardiovascular system as well.

As a result, strength training is now regarded as an essential part of prevention and rehabilitation programs for clients with cardiovascular conditions.

Increasing muscle efficiency reduces the strain on the heart

Trained muscles provide more support for the body and its movements, thus the body becomes more self-sufficient and efficient. Trained muscles, unlike untrained ones, need to activate fewer fibres which means that increases in pulse rate and blood pressure are reduced. Strong muscles can also protect the heart by reducing the strain on the heart in daily life. 

In other words, with a strong body the heart needs to work less to support everything.

A strong heart improves performance

Studies have shown that regular strength training also improves endurance by improving oxygen intake. The left ventricle fills more quickly and so the stroke volume is increased. At the same time, the resting heart rate – an indicator for endurance fitness – is lower. In addition, strength training improves the absorption of blood sugar into the muscles. For those with diabetes, this improves metabolic control and reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke and help manage symptoms of other chronic deseases. 

Endurance Training versus Strength Training

Endurance training involves doing more repetitions with lighter weights (or body weight) which will help you build up endurance and stamina.

Strength training is the ability to exert a maximal amount of force under resistance for a short period of time.

In contrast to endurance training, moderate strength training puts less strain on the cardiovascular system. The heart rate and hormonal stress levels remain lower and even the increase in blood pressure is only moderate (and less than during endurance training), provided we observe the following rules; avoid forced exhalation, do each exercise slowly and without jerking, do 9 – 12 repetitions at medium intensity and don’t clench the fists excessively. 

Strength training performed correctly is beneficial for the heart and a valuable complement to endurance sport. 

The truth is, you need both endurance and strength and use both in your everyday life.


If you are interested in building strength for your heart health, chat to a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist at your local Kieser clinic.