With the barrage of obstacle course races popping up across the country and around the world encompassing short sprints and herculean distances alike, it’s no wonder people are looking to improve their endurance and stamina. The thing is, “people tend to focus on cardio activities like running or cycling,” says Will Torres, a New York-based personal trainer and founder of the personal training studio, Willspace. “But that’s only a small part of the equation—you also need to improve your strength.”
1. Combine strength days with cardio days
It’s a simple equation: the more muscle you can get working, the more it will challenge your heart and your cardiovascular system. Instead of building cardio-only workouts (the pitfall that’ll prevent you from building endurance) make sure to weave strength days into your training. “Most people reserve one day for strength and another day for cardio. Try combining the two instead,” says Torres. “Use a bench press, immediately followed by pull-ups, then run a mile as fast as you can… and repeat.” Another good example: Jump rope for a minute, followed by squats, an overhead press, and finally sit ups. Repeat.
2. Reduce your amount of rest
Men typically give themselves between 30 and 90 seconds of recovery time in between sets, but if your goal is greater endurance, be prepared to sacrifice break time. “By the end of your sets, your muscles should be burning—you should be breathing heavily and sweating,” says Torres. “Only take a break if you physically can not continue.” Torres suggests selecting a series of movements like 10 pull-ups, 10 squats, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups. Do three rounds of the series back to back, taking as minimal a break as possible.
3. Do fast-paced, high-intensity lifting
4. Choose compound movements over isolation
Compound moves that require using more than one joint—like squats, step-ups, push-ups and pull-ups—will improve your endurance more so than exercises in isolation. “Isolated exercises like bicep curls and leg lifts aren’t going to stimulate you enough to increase your stamina,” he says.
5. Remember: Routine is the enemy
Switching up your workout is essential to building endurance and stamina. According to Torres, the human body gets used to a workout after two weeks. So if you’re always running, start doing Muay Thai instead. Or if you’re an avid cyclist, change it up by running stairs. “You need to move the muscles in a different way so that you don’t develop overuse. Plus, it becomes more motivating,” he says. “It’s important to keep the mind guessing.”
6. Go for hybrid exercises
7. Add explosive movements to your workout
Explosive movements that take a lot of energy challenge your strength, endurance and stamina simultaneously. Once you become more explosive, you’ll notice that you’ll actually start moving faster. Torres says: try adding things like burpees, box jumps, jumping knee tucks and power push-ups to your workout routine.