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Don’t Just Work Your Chest, Work Your Heart

The muscles in the chest are just as important as the muscles on it.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that your heart is a muscle, just like all of the muscles that make up your limbs. Like those muscles, your heart benefits from regular exercise. The reason you want to try and raise your heart rate while exercising isn’t just to increase your flow of blood to your extremities; it’s also to make your heart stronger and more resistant to pressure.

Technically, any exercise that raises your heart rate is a good way to exercise your heart, but if you want to go the extra mile, you can perform specialized chest exercises that target the muscles of your heart a little more directly. In fact, you’ve probably been doing them already; one of the best exercises to promote strong hearts is the humble plank.

Holding up your bodyweight with your core forces your heart to constantly divert blood to your extremities, getting it pumping almost nonstop. This is part of why planks can be so tough for some people with weaker constitutions; your heart needs to fire on all cylinders just to keep things running smoothly.

If you’re a tougher sort and want to get a little more heart-pounding action out of your plank, you can mix it up with add-ons. Instead of just holding yourself upright in a classic plank, try adding motion to the process in a bear plank or a pike plank. This way, even if you’re holding that plank for a long time, you’ll keep your heart guessing, instead of giving it time to adjust and plateau. Heck, mix all three of those plank types together, and you’ll really kick your heart’s butt. Just remember not to overdo it, or you’ll be glued to the floor for a little while afterward.

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