Hypertension and bodybuilding – how to safely train at the gym with this ailment?

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At first glance, hypertension and weight training do not go hand in hand. However, research suggests that such an unequivocally unfavorable position should not be taken. If someone is struggling with hypertension on a daily basis, can he or she do strength training and, if so, how to do it safely?

Hypertension and strength training

According to statistics, about 57% of the population suffers from chronic hypertension, and this group also includes many bodybuilders, for whom strength training is, after all, their daily bread. However, the facts are that this type of exercise increases systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which for people with hypertension can be tragic in its consequences. For this reason, physical activity enthusiasts struggling with the condition often forgo weight training for fear of much more dangerous consequences such as stroke or heart attack.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact response of the cardiovascular system to strength training, as it depends on a variety of factors: the ratio of muscle mass to total body weight, the weight lifted and how fast it is lifted, or breathing technique. To avoid the negative effects of strength training and to tailor training to the needs of people with hypertension, it is best to consult a specialist. There are also some universal tips for those who, despite hypertension, do not want to abandon bodybuilding.

Strength training – rest between series

This is the most universal tip that applies to all strength trainers. The correlation between rest and the increase in blood pressure has been shown in studies – when the break between series lasts 30-60 seconds, blood pressure increases with subsequent series, while with a rest of 90 seconds or more, blood pressure does not increase. You don’t have to be an expert to point out what length of rest is recommended for people suffering from hypertension.

Strength training – correct breathing technique 

Breathing technique is often downplayed, even by experienced bodybuilding athletes. In fact, it is the one that plays a key role in minimizing the blood pressure response to exercise. First of all, one should not hold one’s breath – as this can lead to a phenomenon called the Valsalva maneuver. The exerciser then tries to inhale, but the closed epiglottis blocks his airway, leading to a sharp increase in lung and blood pressure. The proper breathing technique during training is to exhale air as the weight is lifted and inhale air as the weight is lowered. In this way, airway patency is maintained.

Strength training – choosing the right load

Determining the right load for ourselves is the absolute basis in the context of safe strength training – not only for people with hypertension. First of all, we should remember that as the amount of muscle mass participating in training increases, so does the response from the circulatory system. If we choose the right load, measuring strength against strength, there is nothing to fear.

main photo: unsplash.com/Mufid Majnun

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