To understand the basics on how to build endurance you should know what components make up endurance and which main systems are involved when developing it.
With a degree in Sports Science from the Physical Culture Institute in Minsk, Pavel Tsatsouline explains how to build endurance the right way in the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Tsatsouline is the author of several books on strength training and is known for having popularised the use of kettlebells in training in the West. He has also a Subject Matter Expert to the elite of US military and law enforcement.
Table of contents
- Learn how to build endurance
- How to develop cardio
- How to develop endurance in the muscle
There are two main systems you can build when training to increase your endurance:
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular endurance
When we talk about cardiovascular endurance we primarily talk about your body’s ability to supply fuel and oxygen to your working muscles and remove the by-product from exercise from them for an extended period of time.
Muscular endurance is, primarily, the ability of your muscles to, over a long time, use the fuel and oxygen delivered to them (by your cardiovascular system) to create energy and movement.
Learn how to build endurance
How to develop cardio?
Steady state exercise
“The healthiest way to develop your cardio is just steady state exercise,” says Tsatsouline. This would involve, for example, running at a specific speed that isn’t too fast.
How this happens, in a nutshell, is that when you increase your heart rate to a certain level, your heart starts stretching and this allows for an increased stroke volume.
This stretching of the heart for an increased stroke volume means more fuel and oxygen can be provided to your working muscles and more by-product cleared away. This way you increase your cardiovascular endurance.
This works to about 90% of your maximum heart rate. When you get closer to your max heart rate, your heart has no time to relax, explains Tsatsouline. “You’re no longer stretching that heart.”
To develop endurance you should train at a metabolic intensity, which simply means exercising at a level low enough to allow you to maintain a conversation.
This is the basic method to stretch your heart.
You could also build endurance through interval training. The theory comes from the fact that our bodies have inertia – think about the last time you finished a hard workout, your heart rate continued to be high a few seconds or minutes after you were done.
If you get your heart rate to 85-90%, which is hard but not max, and then stop, your heart will still pump high and get stretched.
Interval training works for building endurance, but its best results come after a period of steady state training, explains Tsatsouline. This is because interval training is a very demanding training method that comes with a higher risk of injury.
High heart rate under heavy loads
While it’s technically possible to develop your endurance with static exercises at high heart rate under heavy loads – think about performing a handful of heavy back squats – this isn’t the most optimal way to train the heart.
In this case, Tsatsouline explains, your heart gets thicker rather than stretched.
How to develop endurance in the muscle
The heart is only a small part of endurance, and while everyone definitely needs to do cardio for health (and athletes for performance) you also need muscular endurance to grow your engine.
Mitochondria are key to muscle endurance.
Mitochondria in the muscle cell are in charge on converting energy aerobically – which essentially means producing energy efficiently.
We have three main energy systems:
- Creatine phosphate: only goes for a few seconds, so is useful for a 1-rep-max for example.
- Aerobic system: is not powerful but is longer-lasting.
- Glycolytic system: sits between both above systems but creates many fatigue metabolites such as lactic acid in the process.
Developing mitochondria in slow twitch fibres
Developing mitochondria in slow twitch muscle fibres will help you access your muscles’ full power without acid and other fatigue metabolites.
This is done by training in a way that produces less acid, working right below anaerobic threshold, to train your muscle to endure the by-products of exercise and release them efficiently. Training right below anaerobic threshold is the primary training method of endurance athletes, explains Tsatsouline.
Work at an intensity in which you can continue to dispose acid without crashing.
Only increasing the intensity of your workouts a couple of weeks prior to your competition or event so you know what this feels like.
Developing mitochondria for fast twitch muscle fibres
Developing mitochondria for fast twitch muscle fibres can be done through repeat training, which will in turn increase your muscle endurance efficiency. This essentially involves pushing your muscles to the edge over and over again.
One way to train for this would be to sprint, stop before you redline, and start all over again when you’re ready.
“When you’re ready” is, of course, incredibly subjective. There are three types of rest periods:
- Stress period: resting for a period of time that will make it harder or impossible for you to perform or repeat the same work load you have just finished, as seen in interval training.
- Super compensation period: a rest period where, if you rest for the right amount of time, you might be able to perform more in your next set.
- Ordinary period: where the rest period is just enough to allow you to repeat your task and maintain the same level of performance throughout, as seen in repeat training.
Repeat training, where you rest for an ordinary period, has a great effect on building endurance and is how to develop mitochondria in fast twitch fibres.