How Well Do You Know Your Heart?

February is National Heart Awareness Month!

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The basics, “Heart 411”:

Heart + Blood  + Blood Vessels = Cardiovascular System


Trachea + Bronchi + Alveoli + Lungs = Respiratory System


Cardiorespiratory System:

How the body provides oxygen and nutrients to its tissues and removes CO2.

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Main Structural Components:  Atria, Ventricles, SA Node, AV Node

  • Atrium (singular):  Upper chamber of the heart, which receives blood from the veins and passes it to the ventricles. The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the body (systemic circuit), whereas the left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs (pulmonary circuit).
  •  Ventricles:  Lower chamber of the heart, which receives blood from the atrium and passes it through arteries to the lungs (right ventricle) or body (left ventricle).
  • Sinoatrial (SA) Node:  Cardiac tissue located in the right atrium, which initiates electrical impulses to determine heart rate; the “pacemaker” of the heart.
  • Atrioventricular (AV) Node:  Cardiac tissue located in the wall of the right atrium, which receives electrical impulses from the SA Node and sends the impulses to the walls of the ventricles.

How does the heart function?

The stroke volume (SV) is the amount of blood pumped out of the heart (to the lungs or body) with each contraction. When the (right or left) ventricle fills with blood before contraction is referred to as end-diastolic volume (EDV)End-systolic volume (ESV) is the amount of blood remaining in the ventricle after the blood is ejected (to the lungs or body). The SV is determined by finding the difference between the EDV and ESV. A healthy heart has an EDV of about 120mL and ESV of about 50mL, resulting in a SV of 70mL.

An average resting heart rate of an untrained adult is 70 – 80 beats per minute (BPM). Athletes tend to have much lower resting heart rates, often as low as 30 – 40BPM!

How do I know if my heart is performing well?

One way to determine your heart’s performance is to calculate your  cardiac output, or the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute (mL blood/minute). To find out your cardiac output, multiply your heart rate by stroke volume. For example, if an individual has a resting heart rate of 70BPM and a resting stroke volume of 70mL/beat, his/her cardiac output at rest is 4,900mL/minute or 4.9L/minute.

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Peripheral Heart Action System

The peripheral heart action system is a type of circuit training that incorporates  upper body (UB) and lower body (LB) exercises in order to increase blood flow between the upper and lower extremities and improve circulation.

The number of exercises performed during each circuit varies according to the program’s goal and client’s fitness level.

An individual performs between 8 and 20 repetitions of each exercise depending on the phase of training:

Stabilization EnduranceStrength Endurance, or Power.

Peripheral Heart Action:  Sample Stabilization Workout

  • Ball Dumbbell Chest Press (UB)
  • Ball Squat (LB)
  • Single-Leg Cable Row (UB)
  • Step-Up to Balance (LB)
  • Single-Leg Dumbbell Shoulder Press (UB)

Peripheral Heart Action:  Sample Strength Workout

  • Bench Press (UB)
  • Barbell Squat (LB)
  • Seated Cable Row (UB)
  • Romanian Deadlift (LB)
  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press (UB)

Peripheral Heart Action:  Sample Power Workout

  • Medicine Ball Chest Pass (UB)
  • Squat Jump (LB)
  • Soccer Throw (UB)
  • Power Step-Up (LB)
  • Front Medicine Ball Oblique Throw (UB)

End Result: A Happy, Healthy Heart

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What is your favorite upper and lower body exercise?




Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C., & Sutton, B.G. (2012). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.











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