Tip for HIIT – Train Your Upper Body for More Fat Burning

Tip for HIIT – Train Your Upper Body for More Fat Burning

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Tip for HIIT – Train Your Upper Body for More Fat Burning

Study – Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy

Looked at the cardiac autonomic responses during upper versus lower limb resistance exercise in healthy elderly men


Ten volunteers underwent the one-repetition maximum (1RM) test to determine the maximum load for the bench press and the leg press

Discontinuous RE was initiated at a load of 10% 1RM with subsequent increases of 10% until 30% 1RM, followed by increases of 5% 1RM until exhaustion


Parasympathetic indices decreased significantly in both exercises from 30% 1RM compared to rest and HR increased (69 to 90 bpm for upper and 66 to 89 bpm for lower)

Cardiac autonomic change occurred from 30% of 1RM regardless of RE limb – however, there was more pronounced sympathetic increase and vagal decrease for upper limb exercise than for lower limb exercise

Why This Is

Upper limb RE generates different cardiovascular responses compared to lower limb exercise

Upper limb exercise leads to higher blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) than lower limb exercise due to a higher work component and elevated peripheral resistance caused by reduced active muscle mass

In addition, upper limb exercise also induces greater perceived exertion compared to leg exercise at the same relative workload

Peripheral Vascular Resistance & Hemodynamic Demand

As mentioned, upper and lower body exercise produce significantly different blood pressure and heart rate values at similar cardiac outputs

The greater peripheral resistance could possibly be due to the greater hemoconcentration elicited by arm-crank exercise than that elicited by cycling

Peripheral vascular resistance is the resistance that must be overcome to push blood through the circulatory system and create flow


Blood pressure is increased with upper limb exercise since the muscle contractions increase the peripheral vascular resistance to a greater degree than what is found in lower limb muscle contraction

This is because muscle volume has an impact, and the muscles in the upper limbs are generally smaller in volume than those in the LE

In other words, exercises have a blood flow redistribution component – arterial dilation is seen in places being exercised and constriction in places where no activity is carried on

In upper limb exercises, blood is redirected to this area and the amount decreases in lower limbs – therefore smallest blood vessels are containing a bigger amount of blood

The heart has to increase its contraction strength to deliver blood to upper limbs

*Simply that the blood vessels in the upper body are smaller which means the heart has to work harder to pump blood*

Note: In arm exercise, the relative obstructed area is greater than in leg exercise and this is another aspect that may explain the higher sympathetic modulation in upper limb exercise


1) Cardiac autonomic responses during upper versus lower limb resistance exercise in healthy elderly men. (2014, January). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183232/

2) Tulppo MP , et al. (n.d.). Differences in autonomic modulation of heart rate during arm and leg exercise. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10451789/

3) Kang J , et al. (n.d.). Physiological responses to upper body exercise on an arm and a modified leg ergometer. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10527319

4) Volianitis S , et al. (n.d.). Effect of fitness on arm vascular and metabolic responses to upper body exercise. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14684372


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