Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup with Peripheral Heart Action: Know These 5 Facts

get a clueLearn to lift longer. The secret to delaying the burning sensation you feel in your muscles is all about peripheral heart action. The PHA method of working out was strategically designed and developed by weight lifters but athletes and fitness enthusiasts everywhere are using it to better understand their bodies and get the most out of their workouts. I’m going to tell you the 5 things you need to know in order for PHA style workouts to make sense and work for you.

1. Your body makes energy all day every day

When your body is fueling a workout, several energy systems are pumping out ATP to ensure you have the energy you need. One system does a great job of producing energy AND handling clean up. I’m talking about the aerobic method of energy production – the one that uses oxygen. It’s the body’s primary method of converting food energy to fuel. The other two energy systems, the anaerobic methods of energy production, can’t sustain production for too long (seconds, maybe a minute or two) without the mess they make interfering with metabolic pathways. 

If you’re curious about the effect lactic acid has on your muscles, you’re no stranger to burning muscles during workouts. You likely use all three energy systems at different points throughout your workout, dictated by your workout intensity at any given second.

2. You can’t get strong, quick or powerful without increased lactic acid concentration in your blood and muscles

When athletes and body builders need energy quickly, the anaerobic methods of energy production kick in. On easy street, your body converts your food energy to useable energy with ease and efficiency. You breath in and out, casually and without concern, while making energy casually and without concern. It happens every second of every day until your body says, “hey, I need ATP a little faster please!” Whether you’re hitting it hard at the gym, running from a burning building, or chasing down a thief who snatched a handbag, you’re no longer on easy street. Sprints are exhausting. Building muscular strength and endurance requires a heightened level of intensity. Developing speed, agility, quickness, and explosive power is uncomfortable. Your body senses the urgency for energy and works to deliver. Enter lactic acid.

3. When you physically exert yourself, your body has to make ATP without oxygen and production is sloppy

When your body needs fuel fast, oxygen is on short supply. Your body can make energy without oxygen, but things get a little messy in your blood stream. The anaerobic methods of energy production leave lactate piling up in their wake of productivity. A bi-product of anaerobic energy production is pyruvate but without oxygen, it converts to lactate. Using the terms interchangeably for simplicity sake, lactic acid sits around your muscles and travels your blood stream until you restore oxygen levels. Oxygen sweeps up lactic acid and makes the burning sensation in your muscles subside.

4. When you stop, lactic acid melts away

Elevated levels of lactic acid bring on muscle fatigue. The lactic acid phenomenon is one of many changes that occur within and around muscle cells during intense exercise that can lead to fatigue. Our muscles get tired for many reasons, of course. But the muscle pain and soreness you feel cranking out your last rep melts aways after the last rep, right? Sweet relief from the burning sensation comes when you finish the set. Feelings of release. When you stop, the lactic acid immediately begins to clear away. Oxygen comes in and melts away the burn. Sometimes the rate at which the burning muscles feel relieved hinders our ability to continue working that particular muscle group.

5. You can reduce lactic acid from building up by keeping your blood circulating

Imagine lactic acid building in your legs because that’s where your blood is, helping you squat up and down or lunge across the room. Don’t you just wish you could flush the lactic acid out of your leg muscles? That bothersome burning sensation showed up sooner than you wanted it to. Imagine for a second that you can control your blood flow… wait! you can control your blood flow! Ocourse you can, right? Blood travels to muscles being worked. If you want blood in your back muscles, just start doing bent over rows!  Want it in your calves? Do calf raises! Want it moving all around? Try combo moves or pair upperbody exercises with lower body exercises and do them in quick succession.

takeawaysHere’s the major takeaway! Move blood through the muscles and not to the muscles to keep lactic acid from building up. Delay feelings of muscle soreness with peripheral heart action (PHA). Choosing exercises to perform in circuit-like fashion that will allow you to pump blood to extreme ends of your body, back and forth and back and forth, will keep lactic acid from building up. It won’t reduce lactate concentrations in your blood, only oxygen can ultimately clear it, but it can keep the blood flowing so the lactic acid doesn’t pool or localize in any one muscle our group of muscles. And just like that, you’ve increased the amount of work you can do before muscular failure as a result of lactic acid buildup

Learn to work out smarter so you can workout harder.
Tomorrow I’ll give you three sample PHA circuits you can try on your own.

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  1. [...] keep you from developing lactic acid build up and delay feelings of muscle soreness. More on peripheral heart action tomorrow. Stay tuned for a PHA workout that keeps lactic acid buildup from interfering with your [...]

  2. [...] a variation of circuit training. Circuit training, loosely defined, is performing a series of exercises one after the other, in quick succession with minimal rest. The peripheral heart action circuit alternates upper and lower body exercises to keep blood flowing. Blood flows through the muscles, not to the muscles, reducing lactic acid buildup. [...]

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