Your Heart Rate (Part 3b): Interval Cardio and Strength Training

Two conventional types of training are interval cardio and strength training, or weight training.  Interval training is used for quickly improving your cardiovascular system and also burning more calories in a shorter period of time.  Weight training is done to gain strength.  Here’s what you need to know about your heart rate and these types of workouts.

photo by Ev
Interval Training

Interval training is the quickest and most efficient way to increase your cardiorespiratory fitness level.  It is done using intervals of short, high-intensity phases throughout the main portion of your workout.  I do not recommend doing this type of workout unless you are in at least intermediate condition, or under the guidance of a professional – exercise physiologist, experienced trainer, etc.

The benefits of this type of workout include better heart function, more caloric burning per minute of exercise as well as the rest of the day, and shorter workout times.  Because you are working out at a much higher intensity during portions of your workout, it may only take you 15 minutes of interval training to do what you would normally do in 30 minutes of steady state cardio.

This type of workout is hard.  You will be pushing yourself beyond what is comfortable.  That’s how it is designed.  Push yourself harder than you think you can and your body has to respond.  Your heart will get stronger.  Its job is to try to get ready for the next time you push yourself.

The spikes of harder work are what cause your heart rate to climb.  Your heart rate may even reach your theoretic maximum heart rate during and shortly after these spikes of harder workloads.  (Remember:  220 – your age = MHR)  If you are healthy, this is normal for the extreme workloads.  During the rest, or recovery, phases your heart rate will drop significantly, but will not fall below what is considered aerobic.  This up and down pattern of workload, and resulting heart rate pattern, is what makes this type of training so effective.

Get a fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate.  Or, learn how to take your pulse and check it often during your workout.

athlete-barbell-body-Victor Freitas
photo by Victor Freitas
Strength Training

Strength training, or weight training, and heart rate have their patterns, too.  You do put stress on your heart during weight training and your heart rate will increase during and a little after your set.  It won’t increase as much as it will during interval training.  But, it will fall back down during your rest period and make a similar up and down pattern.  It is not the sustained increase as in aerobic exercise, nor does it typically stay elevated enough to be considered aerobic.

Do not use your heart rate as a guide during normal weight training.  Instead, listen to your body and let that be your guide.

I often tell my clients that a good length of time to rest between sets is about the same amount of time that it took you to do the set.  So, if you did 12 repetitions in the set, count slowly to 12.  If your body does not feel ready to do another set, rest a bit more.  Listen to what your body is telling you.

Supersetting and Circuit Training

There are types of weight training which are exceptions to the general heart rate pattern of regular weight training.

Supersetting is a type of weight training where two exercises are done back to back, with no rest in between, typically using antagonistic muscle groups.  This can result in sustained periods of elevated heart rate.  It is similar to circuit training.

If you want to mix strength training with cardiovascular training, you may want to try circuit training.  Circuit training is designed to keep your heart rate elevated throughout the workout.  However, it is not the most efficient way to gain strength.

I recommend focussing on basic weight training if you want to get stronger.  Do your cardiovascular workouts separately.  If you want to change up your routine, do circuit training every once in a while.  There are many ways to vary your workouts.

The Last Word

Your heart rate is important to consider when doing cardiorespiratory workouts.  Not so much when doing regular strength training.  Of course, there are exceptions to this.  If you are curious about what your heart rate is doing during your workouts, I recommend getting a wearable fitness tracker.  The one I currently recommend is the Fitbit Versa.

Take care and remember if you have any questions, please ask me.

Thanks for reading.  As with all the exercise information on this site, please get a check-up with your doctor before you begin an exercise program.  And, please sign up to follow  This will help me to continue to provide fitness information to everyone.  Thanks!  Karen

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