Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete, stamina training is a key part of a serious workout routine. Learn how to build stamina, along with exercises to help with your training.
What Is Stamina?
Stamina measures how long a person can perform at their peak or aerobic or anaerobic threshold before becoming exhausted. There are two main types of stamina: physical and mental. Physical stamina refers to the body’s ability to perform, while mental stamina is the mind’s ability to perform. Many athletes identify their optimal heart rate and how long they can perform at this rate to measure physical stamina.
Stamina is closely related to endurance, or the maximum amount of time or distance that an athlete can perform a task. However, endurance focuses on duration rather than effort.
3 Exercises That Improve Stamina
The key in training for stamina is a principle called “progressive overload,” or the practice of increasing the exercise’s difficulty over time. Since it’s all about difficulty, you can use nearly any exercise to train for stamina, including:
- Cardiovascular exercises: High-effort cardio exercises are a great way to train stamina. They allow you to track your heart rate or speed and how long you can perform at a particular rate. The most common approach for cardio-based stamina training is high-intensity interval training. HIIT training involves alternating between short periods of intense workout and short periods of rest. Cardio workouts for stamina training include jogging, sprinting, street cycling, and mountain biking.
- Mindfulness training: To increase your mental stamina, some personal trainers recommend mindfulness training or meditation. These practices can help you feel more in tune with your body, emotions, stress and energy levels, and personal fears. As a result, you may push yourself even further in a given workout routine and maintain a sense of well-being amid significant mental effort.
- Weightlifting: Weightlifting is a type of strength training that uses weights like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells to increase resistance and build muscle. Weightlifting is a great way to train stamina because it allows you to increase the weight and perform more reps with each motion. Popular weightlifting exercises include weighted lunges, squats, and bench presses.
Exercises to Avoid When Trying to Build Stamina
There is one category of exercises to avoid for stamina training: bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight workouts are activities (like push-ups, pull-ups, or sit-ups) in which you use only the weight of your body as resistance rather than added weights like dumbbells.
Since bodyweight exercises rely solely on your body’s weight, they aren’t often many ways to increase their difficulty other than duration. These exercises are more suitable for training endurance rather than stamina (which focuses on effort).
How to Build Stamina
Here’s a step-by-step guide for improving your stamina:
- Fuel your body: Stamina training is a high-energy activity, which means that it’s important your body is ready for it. Before starting any exercise, check in with your body and ensure you’re not feeling hungry, thirsty, or stiff. You may want to eat a high-protein or carbohydrate-rich snack, drink some water or a drink with electrolytes, or go on a brief walk to get your blood pumping before you get started.
- Choose the exercise: Stamina training is a type of targeted training—meaning you should choose the right exercise for your fitness goals. For instance, if you want to increase the length of time you can sustain an eight-minute mile, it might not be productive to spend all of your stamina-training time increasing how much weight you can bench. Instead, choose an exercise that will directly work toward your goal—like running.
- Measure your performance: To track your stamina’s progress, you’ll first need to identify your baseline. Perform the activity until you get fatigued, and then check in with your body: How fast is your heart beating? How long did it take (or how many reps could you do) before you had to take a break?
- Rest: After your exercise routine, take a rest day. Stamina training is a long-term training program, and you can’t increase your stamina all in one day—you need recovery time to help your body recharge from strenuous physical activity.
- Increase the difficulty: After your rest time, increase the difficulty when you’re ready to exercise again. Stamina training goes hand-in-hand with the principle of progressive overload, or the practice of increasing an exercise’s difficulty over time. Regardless of the exercise you’re doing, increase the difficulty the next time around. If you’re weight training, that likely means increasing the weight; if you’re running, that may mean increasing your speed. Perform this more difficult routine until you’re exhausted.
- Remeasure your performance: Once you’ve finished the more difficult routine, check in with your body again, monitoring variables like your heart rate, weight, or reps. You may find yourself able to sustain the difficulty for a longer period, or the newer difficulty may reduce the amount of time you can sustain the performance. Don’t feel discouraged—stamina training is a long-term path, so it may take days or even weeks to see results.
- Continue your routine and monitor: Stamina-building takes time, and the key is consistency and monitoring. Ideally, as you regularly increase the difficulty of your routine, you’ll find that your body can adjust to the small changes—making previous routines easier to perform for longer amounts of time. Suppose you find yourself plateauing (or struggling to increase stamina or difficulty any further). In that case, it may be time to take a break and supplement your routine with another form of exercise or mindfulness training.
How to Work out Safely and Avoid Injury
If you have a previous or pre-existing health condition, consult your physician before beginning an exercise program. Proper exercise technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an exercise program. You may need to modify each exercise to attain optimal results based on your individual needs. Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body throughout the movement. When performing any exercise, pay close attention to your body, and immediately stop if you note pain or discomfort.
Incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program to see continual progress and build body strength. Your results will ultimately be based on your ability to recover adequately from your workouts. Rest for twenty-four to forty-eight hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.