Exercise isn’t one size fits all; depending on your fitness goals, different exercises and techniques can help you achieve what you are looking for. Whether you are trying to drop 15 lbs, run a marathon, or be able to bench 100 lbs, you need to figure out what your concrete goals are and then find the right path to achieving them. For most people endurance, strength, and weight loss are the three categories where they look to improve. Read on for more information on how to enhance your abilities in each one.
How to Building Endurance
It’s generally accepted that running, swimming and cycling are the best ways to increase your endurance, but you can up your stamina with other tactics as well. Here are some top tips and common mistakes people make when trying to build up their stamina.
1. Don’t Separate Strength and Cardio
One of the most common mistakes people make is separating their strength training and cardio workouts. Create a circuit that alternates weight lifting with traditional cardio and repeat this loop for an hour for a holistic workout routine.
2. Reduce Your Recovery Time
You build endurance by pushing your body harder for longer, so try reducing your recovery time between sets. You want to push yourself to the limit to ensure you’re building a strong foundation for further activity. If you’ve chosen to create a circuit routine, you should be sweating and breathing heavily at the end of every set.
3. Skip Isolated Weightlifting
Endurance is about building overall fitness, so skip isolated weightlifting in favor of compound movements. Work your whole body by switching between sets of squats, push-ups and sit-ups with no break in between. These moves use more than one joint, which will stimulate you much more than simple bicep curls. As you build endurance, increase your number of sets to maintain intensity.
4. Add Hybrid Exercises
By adding an extra movement to a basic exercise you create a hybrid exercise like in the below video and multiply its effects. Try upgrading your pull-ups to a jumping pull up, or add a bicep curl to your lunges. Working additional muscles will get your heart pumping even more.
5. Be Patient and Persistent
At the end of the day, there is no magic tip to improve your endurance overnight. By its very nature, it takes time to build stamina. Patience and persistence are the true keys to endurance. Go at your own pace. If you can only run for 60 seconds right now, do that, rest, and repeat. The most important thing is consistency. If you keep to your routine for several weeks, you will see your run times get longer and your workouts get easier. Slowly build on what you have by shortening your recovery time each week and increasing your activity time.
If you are working towards a big goal, like a marathon, scale back on your intensity in favor of distance. Purposefully set your pace a couple minutes slower than is natural, so you can conserve energy and cover more ground. You won’t be able to run a half marathon at the pace you can sprint 400 meters, so decrease your speed to avoid burn out.
How to Measure Improvement
There are many different ways to measure endurance, including exercise time, distance, and recovery time. Choose a day once a week where you put yourself through the exact same routine so you can take note of all of them to track your progress in a comprehensive manner. Just tracking one of these often leaves you blinded to improvements in other areas and can be discouraging.
Be careful as you build endurance, as it requires pushing your body to its max in order to establish new limits. It can be easy to go too far and push your body to its breaking point. Listen to yourself; when your body tells you it is done, stop, before you pull or tear muscles. While consistency is key to building endurance, taking a rest day is also crucial to staying safe and giving your muscles time to recuperate.
How to Build Strength
Whether you are trying to bulk up, or just tone what you already have, strength training is all about working smarter, not harder.
1. Using High Tension Techniques
Get the most out of your weight lifting routine by focusing on your form and using high-tension techniques to double up your workout. By trying to create tension throughout your entire body as you lift, you are activating your muscles far more than when you passively exercise.
When using barbells, grip the weight until your fingertips turn white; you will be able to feel the energy pulsing through your arms and shoulders. Add some heat to your shoulder presses by corkscrewing your feet into the ground as you press up, which will work the glutes and quads.
2. Activate Your Abs
When you are lifting and are reaching your breaking point, tighten your glutes and abs, purse your lips and hiss. By pushing air up out of your core with this hissing motion, you will activate your abdominal muscles and deepen your strength training.
Building Strength Without Weights
Strength training doesn’t have to be limited to pumping iron. There are many moves you can do without any weights at all, so you can build muscle from the comfort of your living room.
- Stand in front of a high bench or chair that’s at knee height.
- Step on and then off of the bench.
- Start with 3 sets of 20 reps, with a 15 second rest in between.
- Increase reps and number of sets as you improve.
This move is great for toning your hamstrings and glutes, and will help your running practice. It can also be incorporated into your weight-lifting routine by simply adding bicep curls with small dumbbells.
- Stand with your feet wider than your hips with one foot forward on a low step.
- Sink into a low squat trying to bring your thighs parallel to the ground.
- Do a set of ten squats before switching legs.
This variation on a traditional squat will really give your quads and glutes a work out. Because your legs are in an uneven position, you will also be working on the auxiliary muscles that control balance and stability; muscles that are essential to building long-term strength.
How to Lose Weight
If you are trying to lose weight, the best thing you can do is start with a focus on cardio. You might assume that cardio means running, but there are a lot of great work out routines for weight loss. Pick whatever you enjoy most, as sticking to your workout consistently is crucial.
A good way to motivate yourself to lose weight is to sign up for exercise classes that will hold you accountable to a workout routine. Get a spin cycle membership, or try Krav Maga, a high intensity martial art that can really work up a sweat. Even joining a zumba class can be helpful in making cardio part of daily life.
If you’re already doing cardio, up your regular cardio routine by adding interval training to your gym time. Research shows that adding short intervals of high intensity activity into your standard cardio can elevate your metabolism for up to 24 hours post-workout. If you are a runner, start adding a few sprints into your run, or crank up the tension on your stationary bike and get out of the saddle for 90 seconds. High intensity exercise raises your metabolism temporarily and takes hours to slow down, helping you burn calories long after you get home from the gym.
Strength training is also great for weight loss. Your muscles require constant fuel, so increasing muscle mass will help increase your metabolism, letting you shed excess pounds. Here is an ideal workout to activate all your major muscles groups:
- Two sets of 10 push ups to work your chest, shoulders, and arms
- Two sets of 15 crunches for abdominal strength
- Three sets of 15 curls to tone your biceps
- Two sets of 10 squats which will work your thighs and glutes
- Three sets of 10 reverse dips to activate your triceps
- Three sets of 15 lunges to strengthen your leg muscles
Adjust the reps and number of sets to your particular level and increase slowly as you grow stronger.
Putting Everything Together
While many people assume that going to the gym is enough to help them reach their goals, your entire lifestyle affects losing weight, gaining strength, and increasing stamina. Take your training to the max when you incorporate proper nutrition and sleep into your routine.
About the Author: Bryan Carlos is a freelance writer and fitness expert from Los Angeles, California. He has been a personal trainer and lifestyle coach for 15 years and loves inspiring others to improve their lives. When he’s not working or writing, Bryan likes to explore new hikes with his dog, Bruno.