Afraid a chest workout will give you a heart attack or at least strain your heart in some way more than workouts for other body parts will?

When you do chest routines at the gym, you may have wondered if this puts particular strain on your heart…since chest routines work the chest muscles, which are over your heart.

Furthermore, while performing chest routines (or shortly after, or the day after), perhaps you’ve had “chest pain” (i.e., sore pec muscles)

This may lead you to think that chest routines strain the heart more than other weightlifting exercises, including exercises that are far more taxing and difficult.

Words of Reassurance: Chest Workouts Do Not Strain the Heart Any More than Workouts for the Legs or Elsewhere

As a former personal trainer I say this: Chest routines do not  —  I repeat  —  do not strain or work the heart harder than other routines of lifting weights just because the chest muscles are being worked. You can verify this.

When the heart is working very hard, it’s beating strong and rapidly, and you’re breathing heavily.

Is this what happens after you’ve completed a set of “pec deck” ? It’s highly unlikely that after doing a pec deck set, which really targets the chest muscles, that you’ll be sitting there heaving for air and feeling your heart thumping.

How do you feel after doing a 12-rep max deadlift?

That’s a whole new ballgame, isn’t it? The chest muscles aren’t targeted in a deadlift, but dang, do a 12-rep max deadlift, and you’re heaving, and your heart is pounding.

Same thing with some 20-rep max barbell squats: This is anything but a chest exercise, but at the end, your heart is racing and you’re breathing hard.

Fierce sets with compound movements put the most strain on the heart.

Chest-isolation exercises don’t work the heart much; you can tell because after doing those flyes, though the muscles are burning and have reached “failure,” your pulse rate is still pretty much baseline, and you’re not even out of breath.

I’ve found that a 6-rep max on prone hamstring curls will really kick up my pulse rate and get me breathing heavily. This means that much demand was placed on my heart.

But when I do decline barbell presses, as much as these kill my chest and arms … I’d be lying if I said that these get me out of breath. And my pulse is nearly normal after each set.

Another kind of exercise that’s demanding on the heart is that of high intensity interval training, regardless of type of cardio. Anything that gets you totally out of breath is hard on the ticker.

Plyometrics done to failure will also tax a person’s heart. Do squat jumps to failure, and then see how your breathing is. Same with chin-ups; go to failure, then take your pulse.

In conclusion, location of the muscle worked doesn’t necessarily dictate how hard your heart is working.

However, quantity and size of muscles simultaneously worked, and how intense you make the routine (to failure or not; minimal rest in between), strongly determine how much the heart is pushed.

So go ahead, do your chest workouts without worrying that this will have a particularly harmful effect on your heart.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.