Training With Heart


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10 Question Exam (sent via email)

Why spend three, four, five or more hours per week training aerobically? The reasons vary, but the common answers are for longevity, health, improved appearance, fitness, and/or competition.

Chronic effects of cardiovascular training on the cardiovascular system.

Characteristic Change
Oxygen consumption (VO2max) Increases
Maximal MET capacity Increases
Cardiac output Increases
Stroke volume Increases
Coronary circulation Increases
Diameter of vessels Increases
Resting heart rate (RHR) Decreases
Blood pressure Decreases
Cardiac tissue of left ventricular wall Increases
Size of left ventricle Increases
Contractile state of myocardium Increases
Plasma volume and total hemoglobin Increases
Tidal volume Increases


What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic training utilizes oxygen as fuel and is therefore relatively low intensity exercise (as opposed to anaerobic exercise: high-intensity activity that does not use oxygen as fuel).  Aerobic activity is normally sustained for longer durations of time while using large muscle groups. The common aerobic training methods include: walking, running, stair climbing, gardening, vacuuming the house, rowing, biking, swimming, and cross-country skiing.

Aerobic dance, water fitness classes, spinning, and other group exercise classes are often performed in an anaerobic format, even though they become aerobic at various times during the activity, depending upon the intensity of the activity and the conditioning of the participant.

Tennis is generally classified as an aerobic activity. Tennis is actually short spurts of high-intensity activity followed by short rest periods.  Even though a tennis match may last two to five hours, the actual exercise periods last only five to thirty seconds followed by 30 seconds (or more) rest breaks.

The fact that tennis is an anaerobic activity should not preclude anyone from participating in aerobic exercise. Athletes who are well conditioned aerobically performed better anaerobically.  Aerobic conditioning increases the efficiency of anaerobic systems, and therefore world-class tennis players should be conditioned in both their aerobic as well as their anaerobic systems.

This article will focus on the program design for aerobic conditioning.  Future articles will look at anaerobic conditioning.

It is essential for both safety and effectiveness that everyone understand a few basic exercise science concepts before discussing program design.

Although no two training programs should be identical, the underlying principles to develop all training programs are the same. The first principle to keep in mind is the adaptation or specificity principle. The entire principle is summarized through the acronym S.A.I.D., which stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands.

To avoid injury, all training programs must follow the principle of Gradual Progressive Overload, G.P.O. Doing too much, too soon, is a common reason for injury and participant dropout.

How you apply G.P.O. is determined through the F.I.T.T. principle, Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.

Frequency is the number of training sessions per week.

Intensity in aerobic training is measured by percentage of Maximum Heart Rate (M.H.R.), more on this later.

Time is the total amount of time spent exercising (muscles contracting).

Type is the method of exercise: walking, running, swimming, etc.

The F.I.T.T. principle is what you use to vary the program to meet your individual needs and goals.

It should be intuitively obvious that training for improvements in longevity requires less Overload than improvements in health, which requires less Overload than improvements in appearance, which requires less Overload than improvements in fitness, which requires less Overload than improvements for competition.

Analyze critically and precisely what your clients current medical and health condition is. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to their doctor before beginning any exercise program.  Ensure you are just as analytical when assessing their fitness goals.

Most training methods can be classified as primarily anaerobic or aerobic in nature. Resistance training is one of the more common anaerobic training methods in a general fitness setting.  Resistance training can be varied according to the intensity of the exercise, the number of sets and repetitions, handgrips and stances, and the exercises utilized in the resistance training program.

Aerobic training is designed to elicit a cardiorespiratory response. Any activity that is prolonged and utilizes major muscle groups is considered aerobic. Monitoring intensity levels in aerobic training is accomplished predominantly through monitoring heart rate and perceived exertion. In the interest of brevity, this article will discuss aerobic training utilizing Maximum Heart Rate (M.H.R.) not perceived exertion.

The most accurate method to determine M.H.R. is to perform a Graded Maximal Exercise Test (G.X.T.).  G.X.T.’s should only be performed with physician supervision and by trained exercise physiologist who are degreed and certified to perform such tests. In lieu of the G.X.T., it is possible to estimate M.H.R. based upon age. The equation most often used is 220 minus your age. This is only an estimation since 33.3 percent of the population can be off by as much as 10-12 beats per minute (B.P.M.) higher or lower than the estimation.

The International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA) recommends that most cardiovascular exercise be performed at a level that is 60 to 90 percent of M.H.R. to elicit improvements in health and fitness. Exercising at the lower end of this heart rate range will elicit health benefits with less risk of injury or over training. Training at the high end of this range will yield more fitness and performance improvements, but with greater risk of injury and over training. Higher intensities are not recommended for novice fitness enthusiasts.


Individuals on certain heart medications and blood pressure medications will exhibit a much lower heart rate during exercise than other individuals. Pre-screening all participants should help to minimize risks. Individuals who exhibit a lower heart rate, in the absence of an accurate GXT while medicated, should determine exercise intensity by their Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and should typically exercise at a rate that is moderate to moderately strong in exertion.

The IFPA recommends two methods for calculating aerobic training intensity from M.H.R.

The first is the straight-line method. In the straight-line method of estimating heart rate training range, estimates of intensity and physiological response are based upon a percentage of the M.H.R. This method typically works well in a general fitness setting where there is greater room for estimation. In this situation, the goals are to improve fitness while training the body to be more efficient at burning calories. These goals can be met to varying degrees through a broad range of training intensities.

Physiological adaptations to various training intensities.

Goals (Straight Line)

% MaxHR



Train the body to burn fat 60-70 50-65 Increase fat utilization, aerobic energy sources, pathways, capillaries, mitochondria, and free fatty acid mobilization


Endurance Gains 70-75 65-75 Increase aerobic energy sources and pathways


Endurance/Strength 75-80 75-80 Increase aerobic pathways, increase aerobic glycolysis, increase FOG fiber usage, increase oxygen transport system (training at this range should be limited as it may be ineffective in specific adaptations)


Lactate Threshold 80-90 80-90 Increase lactate threshold, aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways, oxygen transport, recruitment of FOG fibers, and lactic acid clearance


Fast Race/ Peak Performance 90-100 90-100 Increase anaerobic energy sources, fast twitch fiber recruitment, speed and neuromuscular coordination


Straight Line Method of Calculating Heart Rate Training Zones


–   AGE


x       % range desired to elicit response

Heart rate training range

Recommended percentage range for general fitness and improving one’s capacity for fat utilization = 60 – 70%.

The second method recommended by the IFPA is the Karvonen method

The Karvonen method of estimating intensity during cardiovascular exercise is based more closely upon the physiological response of the cardiovascular system.  In this method, the physical conditioning of the individual is taken into account by using the resting heart rate to determine a reference point known as the heart rate reserve (H.R R.).

The Karvonen method is recommended for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and elite athletic training when a more accurate estimate of intensity based upon maximal oxygen capacity would be desired. It is also recommended that a true M.H.R. be measured when using the Karvonen method to estimate training heart rate range.

Karvonen Method of Calculation Heart Rate Training Zones


–   AGE


–   RHR (resting heart rate)

    HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)

x       % range desired to elicit response

% range of HRR

+   RHR

Heart rate training range

Recommended percentage range (Karvonen) for general fitness and improving one’s capacity for fat utilization = 50 – 65%

 The correct ranges for the Karvonen method are:

  • Beginner: 50 to 65 percent
  • Intermediate: 65 to 80 percent
  • Advanced: 80 to 95 percent

Another method for determining exercise intensity that remains Aerobic for low intensity “Fat Burning” and therefore using primarily fat as the form of energy is the “Talk Test.” The talk test is performed by ensuring that you can carry on a normal conversation while training.

There are three parts to any exercise program:

1. Warmup: always begin with five to ten minutes of easy activity.

2. Workouts:

  • frequency: how many times do you want to exercise per week
  • intensity: how hard do you want to work
  • time: how long do you want to work out
  • type: what type of exercise do you feel comfortable performing

3. Cool down: always end with five to ten minutes of easy activity.

Remember nutrition is a critical part of your success. Likewise, keeping yourself hydrated is essential.

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