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Heart rate, stress response and sloppy town

We've all seen some strange decisions (and the degeneration of motor skills) during max effort lifts or conditioning elements on the gym floor.

It turns out that conditioning the heart can help prevent that detour into sloppy town.

Check out the chart below, it details the stress response of Miltary Servicemen as it relates to their heart rate:

Heart Rate and Subject's Response to Stress
HR 60-80bpm  Normal Resting Heart Rate
HR 115-120  Fine Motor Skill deteriorates
HR 120-145  Optimal for Complex Motor Skills and Reaction Time
HR 145-150  Complex Motor Skill Deteriorates
HR 170-175

 Loss of Peripheral Vision (Tunnel Vision)

 Loss of Near Vision

 Cognitive Processing Deteriorates

 Loss of Depth Perception Auditory

 Auditory Exclusion (Tunnel Hearing)

HR 175-200

 Loss of Gross Motor Skills

 Irrational Fleeing, Fighting or Submissive Behaviour


As the heart rate moves further and further from a normal resting rate, the decline of certain physical and cognitive qualities get more and more exaggerated.

Their findings imply that the more cardiovascularly trained a soldier is, the better their decisions will be when under stress.

Example 1-

Ranger A's heart rate hovers around 140 bpm after a 200meter sprint from one building to another with 40lbs of combat gear.

Ranger B's heart rate ramps up to 175 beats per min after the same task.

Ranger A is much more likely to be able to take in complex information, plan and execute an appropriate course of action. 


I don't think it's too big of a stretch to suggest that this parallels what happens on the gym floor.

Example 2-

In this example, we have two athletes with similar strength and skill levels.

Athlete A's heart rate hovers around 140 bpm after peddling the air bike at 400w for 2min.

They calmly walk over to the bar and snap off 6 pretty 185lbs Split Jerks.

Athlete B's heart rate ramps to 175 bpm after peddling the air bike at 400w for 2min.

Gasping for air, they stumble over to a barbell.

"Wait, this isn't my bar...that's my bar."

They stumble over to their barbell and heave 185lbs to their shoulders.

Swaying a little bit they try to remember if the Split Jerk involves a broad jump of some sort.

"Ya, that feels right. Ok, here I go"

Athlete B closes their eyes and invents an awkward 'I'm on rollerskates' interpretation of the Jerk called 'Face runs away from Bar, in split'.


In the above example, Athlete A's cardiovascular system was tuned up. They were able to exicute a complex task while under duress.

Athlete B's cardio was not up to par. But they made an invaluable contribution to the interpretive arts.

Cardio isn't just for endurance athletes, conditioning the heart can help prevent that detour into sloppy town.


But, "how do I condition my heart"?

I'm glad you asked. 

One of the of the targets of the Project Endurance program is developing a powerful cardiorespiratory system.

You can find more information here: What would you do with a bigger engine?

Here: What's holding you back?

And you can secure your spot by filling out the following: PE 2018 Scheduling Survey