This No-Kit, 5-Move Home Workout Is Designed To Build a Stronger Heart

Editors of Men's Health
·2-min read
Photo credit: Halfpoint
Photo credit: Halfpoint

From Men's Health

You can’t tense your heart at will but, just as with your biceps, the right workout will improve its strength, shape and function. “As we age, our hearts become stiffer and smaller,” says cardiologist Aaron Baggish. “Potentially, this starts as early as in our twenties or thirties.”

A smart training programme doesn’t just slow down that process – it improves the structure of your heart. Specifically, it increases the size and efficiency of your left ventricle, which receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it around your body.

New research has found that those who engage in sustained aerobic exercise, such as runners, tend to have spacious, elastic hearts. This reduces the risk of a heart attack. So far, so obvious.

But not all people we consider fit have hearts of this kind. For example, Baggish’s team found that some powerlifters have stiffer hearts, closer to those of sedentary people. Explosive training is all about withstanding pressure: producing sudden, intense muscle contractions that make blood pressure surge. To stop you from passing out, your heart grows thicker.

Cardio is therefore king, but that doesn’t have to mean a steady plod around the park. In a seminal study of older adults in cardiac rehab, those who did a HIIT session three times per week (four minutes at 90-95% effort, paired with three minutes’ recovery, four times over) increased their VO2 max three times as much as those who power-walked for 45 minutes.

Crucially, the HIIT rehabbers also remodelled their hearts. Their stiff, ineffective left ventricles became stronger and springier. There was no such improvement among the “easy” exercisers.

In short? It’s not just whether you exercise that matters, but how you choose to do it. If you're stuck for inspiration, try the workout below. Bonus: it will give the muscles you can see a boost, too.

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