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High-Intensity Interval Training

How to Work Out for Heart Health (Without Boring Cardio)

This group of workouts will get your heart pumping.

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Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming 25 percent of lives  as of 2022. And while we often think of heart health as something to worry about when we’re older, heart disease doesn’t have favorite ages, genders or ethnicities. 

The stats may seem inevitable, but they don’t have to be. The good news is your heart is a muscle. Like other muscles, you can train it every day, and the stronger it gets, the more resilient it is to becoming a statistic. 

Unlike other muscles, the “how” part of strengthening the heart can be quite ambiguous. For example, you can do biceps curls to strengthen your biceps, yet there are no “heart curls” to strengthen your heart. General heart health guidelines say you should do moderate intensity cardio for 30 minutes, 5 days per week. While this can be accomplished with running, swimming, or biking, what if you don’t love traditional cardio?  

If traditional cardio options appeal to you, don’t worry. We’re about to share a solution to building your heart health without stomping on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a time: peripheral heart action (PHA) workouts.

What is a PHA workout? 

PHA workouts are a type of circuit training that focuses on shifting blood between the upper body, lower body and core to enhance cardiovascular health. 

The workouts include a variety of functional movements like squats, lunges, step-ups, jumping jacks, pushups and planks. They can be done without any equipment, or you could add light resistance with dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, medicine balls or even household objects. 

The Workout Structure

The sequence for the workout is: upper-body movement, lower-body movement then core movement. You repeat this sequence throughout the workout to get blood flowing to each of these muscle groups as you train. 

The structure includes six exercises in a row followed by a 30- to 45-second rest. 

If you like to keep it simple, you can repeat your six exercises for the entire duration of your 20- to 60-minute workout. If you prefer variety, you can use multiple lists of six exercises in any order for the entire duration of your workout. 

Mix and Match Exercises

Now here’s the fun part! You can use any of the following exercise lists to get started. When you want variety, start mixing and matching. Once inspiration strikes, try subbing in some of your favorite moves to create your own workouts. 

The number of times you perform the circuit doesn’t matter — just pace yourself so you feel like you are working at a 4-6 intensity out of 10 throughout most of the workout, however long you aim to move. 

Workout 1

Muscle Group Worked Exercise Reps
Upper Plank Shoulder Taps 15-20
Lower Burpees 15-20
Core Bike Crunches 15-20
Upper Crab Position Tricep Dips 15-20
Lower Side Lunges 15-20
Core Side-plank Hip Dips 15-20

Workout 2

Muscle Group Worked Exercise Reps
Upper Push-ups 15-20
Lower Squats 15-20
Core Plank Hip Twists 15-20
Upper Big Arm Circles 15-20
Lower Lunges 15-20
Core Crunches 15-20

Workout 3

Muscle Group Worked Exercise Reps
Upper Downward Dog Push-ups 15-20
Lower Curtsy Lunges 15-20
Core Side-Plank Leg Lifts 15-20
Upper Crab Taps 15-20
Lower Plie Squats 15-20
Core Diagonal Crunches 15-20

Workout 4: Dumbbells

Muscle Group Worked Exercise Reps
Upper Shoulder Press 15-20
Lower Split Squats 15-20
Core Russian Twist 15-20
Upper Rows 15-20
Lower Plie Squat 15-20
Core Weighted Crunches 15-20

Workout 5: Bands

Muscle Group Worked Exercise Reps
Upper Delt Raises 15-20
Lower Monster walks 15-20
Core Door-anchored Torso Rotations 15-20
Upper Rows 15-20
Lower Hip Bridges 15-20
Core Banded Mountain Climber 15-20

Workout 6: Kettlebells

Muscle Group Worked Exercise Reps
Upper Single-arm Shoulder Press 15-20
Lower Goblet squat 15-20
Core Turkish Get-up 15-20
Upper High Row 15-20
Lower Kettlebell Reverse Lunge 15-20
Core Swings 15-20

Next Steps

Let’s get up and get moving! Not ready to move right now? Save this article. These 36 mix ‘n’ match exercises can be remixed to create virtually unlimited workouts! Even better, help spread heart health awareness by sharing this article with friends and family.