Doing cardio has clear, in-your-face benefits for everyday life. Unfortunately, though, many people don’t know what constitutes effective cardio for improved fitness. An hour on the elliptical, a walk on a super-inclined treadmill, or a 10-mile jog in your neighborhood won’t get you there.
Instead, a successful routine to boost fitness, endurance and overall stamina involves some key elements. Stick with these basics and tips to bring your fitness to new heights.
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. 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.
REDUCE RESTS BETWEEN SETS
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. Only take a break if you physically can not continue. Something like 10 pull-ups, 10 squats, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups is a good place to start. Do three rounds of the series back to back, taking as minimal a break as possible.
DO FAST-PACED, HIGH-INTENSITY LIFTING
When you use weights at an extremely rapid pace, it will not only improve your strength, but also carry over to improve your endurance activity. It’s one of the best ways to ignite your metabolism. When people do an excessive amount of endurance-only training, they actually slow down their metabolism because it starts to eat away at your muscle tissue.
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.
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. It’s important to keep the mind guessing.
GO FOR HYBRID EXERCISES
A squat with an added overhead press (a “thruster”), jumping pull-ups, and lunges with bicep curls are all great hybrids: exercises that take two separate movements and combine them. The more muscles you can get working in a movement, the more it will stimulate your heart muscles, which in turn improves your stamina.
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. Try adding things like burpees, box jumps, jumping knee tucks and power push-ups to your workout routine.
ACTUALLY COOL DOWN
Bring your heart rate back down. This will improve your recovery process and progressively slow the body down after an intense session.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR ROUTINES AND PRs
You keep a workout log of how much weight you lift, right? Keep track of how far you went and the tempo you used to get there.