Cardiac Capacity

So, to recap, I've discussed conditioning and why it's been so confused. Then I discussed fatigue and why it's an important defensive mechanism for our body.  If you've missed them check them out here.

Conditioning - http://www.hpi-ibji.com/blog/2015/2/16/conditioning-is-confusing

Fatigue - http://www.hpi-ibji.com/blog/2015/2/23/fatigue-or-as-we-used-to-say-in-the-90s-phat-igue

All that being said, it should go without saying that the better conditioned you are the longer your body can produce energy before it needs to fatigue.

The thing with conditioning is that it's so complex that I could spend days upon days writing about the topic.  In the previous two blogs I just wanted to introduce you to a couple principles, and now I want to introduce a method that you can start incorporating right away.

I learned this method from the conditioning master Joel Jamieson.  Called different names whether Cardiac Capacity or Cardiac Output it's a very effective method, that could and should be staple in your training. 

Our heart is a muscle, and like any muscle it goes through a concentric phase and an eccentric phase. Concentric simply means when the heart is contracting and thus becoming a little smaller, whereas eccentric means the muscle is relaxing and as a result becoming bigger.

Strength and conditioning professionals, myself included, have been very good at improving the concentric contraction of the heart.  Just go out and push a sled as fast as you can for as long as you can.  You'll love it... Okay maybe not... But in any case the closer you get to your max heart rate the stronger you will make your heart concentrically.  However, while this type of training is a must, this is just one piece of the puzzle. 

What we miss is the fact that if you make your heart, in a sense, bigger you'll thus improve the ability of your heart to get oxygenated blood to the body. (I bet you the Grinch became really well conditioned that one fateful christmas day). With more of this blood you're body can better tap into the aerobic system and produce energy for longer periods of time. 

So that's where Cardiac Output/Capacity comes into play.  By maintaining your heart rate between roughly 130 to 150 beats per minute for an extended period of time, over time you can increase the size of the your hearts left ventricle that makes up your hearts main pumping chamber. 

So by now you're probably thinking this is all well and good but what's the practical application.  Well, I'm glad you asked.  Here's the guidelines for how you can start to incorporate this into your own training.

  • Frequency: 1 to 3x per week
  • Duration: 30 to 60 minutes
  • Exercises: Low impact exercises
    • At HPI we typically like to alternate between exercises that "spike" your heart rate, and then correctives/movement pattern training to help stabilize your heart rate back down.

Pretty simple right? Typically we'll perform this in a circuit.  If you have a heart rate, that's even best, because then you can just continue to monitor your heart rate the whole entire time.  Sometimes I'll go a little low tech, and just have the athlete to jog over to an elliptical and check it there. If it's too high (above 150) then I have them slow down a little bit as they go through the circuit, and if it's too low then we up the tempo.

So here's an example of what it may look like.  To start just keep going through the exercises until 30 minutes are up. After a solid warm-up of course.

  1. Sled x20yds down and back
  2. RDL x10
  3. Bear Crawls x 10yds down and back
  4. Glute Bridge x10
  5. Ball Slams x15
  6. Planks x"20
  7. Elliptical (To check heart rate)

There you have it. It serves as both great conditioning and even a good workout to do for active recovery. Stick to the guidelines and have fun with it!

-Dave