Ischemic heart disease (IHD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. The major pathological consequences of IHD arise from the detrimental effects of acute ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) on the myocardium. Therefore, in order to improve clinical outcomes in patients with IHD, novel therapeutic strategies are required to protect the myocardium from acute IRI and preserve cardiac function (cardioprotection). In this regard, endogenous cardioprotective strategies such as ischemic preconditioning (IPC), ischemic postconditioning (IPost) and remote ischemic conditioning (RIC) may provide novel approaches for protecting the heart in clinical settings in which the patient experiences acute myocardial IRI. In this review article, we provide an overview of these endogenous cardioprotective strategies with respect to the pre-clinical experimental literature, exploring their major characteristics and underlying signaling mechanisms. The application of these therapeutic strategies in the clinical setting for potential patient benefit is reviewed in another article in this special issue.