Many components contribute to physical fitness, including strength, power, agility, balance, flexibility and multiple levels of endurance. But many people tend to focus on just one or two of these categories. For example, runners sometimes neglect strength training, and powerlifters often avoid cardiovascular training. Both types of athletes can benefit from including strength and stamina training in their fitness programs. Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise regimen.
Some of the many benefits of strength training include increased bone density, weight management, glucose control, improvements in sleep quality and emotional well-being. To train for muscular strength, integrate a variety of resistance exercises into your fitness program using body weight, free weights, machines, cables or functional equipment such as kettlebells and medicine balls. Beginners should train two to three days a week, while intermediates and advanced lifters can train four or more days weekly. To build strength, lift heavy weights at about 85 percent of your one-rep max for two to four sets of about six to eight repetitions. If you can do significantly more reps than that, you probably need to increase the resistance.
Muscle endurance, or stamina, is often associated with endurance sports such as running -- but this component of fitness can be applied to almost any activity that requires strength. Muscular endurance describes the ability to exert muscle strength over an extended period of time -- as opposed to muscular power, which is the ability to exert a singular, explosive contraction. To increase your muscular endurance, integrate resistance training exercises using lighter weights and higher reps. Each set should include 15 to 20 repetitions, as your training your muscles to fatigue more slowly. Use the principles of overload to slowly increase your training intensity over time to prevent plateaus.
Aerobic stamina or endurance describes your ability to perform aerobic activities over a long period of time. Some examples of sports that require aerobic stamina are running, cycling, swimming and rowing. For years, such athletes have faithfully followed high-volume aerobic training regimens that required countless hours of exercise each week -- and although this is an important part of improving aerobic stamina, it's not the only one. According to fitness expert, Ben Greenfield, high-intensity workouts, such as intervals and sprints, can help your body improve heart capacity, VO2 max, increase mitochondrial density and increase the number of oxidative enzymes in your muscles -- all of which are integral for optimizing aerobic stamina. The bulk of your training can still be endurance exercises, but include one or two days of high-intensity workouts to maximize your potential.
Now that you understand that strength and stamina training are important for improving any type of athletic performance, you might have to rethink your current program design. Identify your key goals and areas of weakness when you're designing your program. For example, if you're a bodybuilder who hasn't gotten on a treadmill in years, it's time to write that in. But remember that whenever you're integrating new fitness components or types of exercises into your regimen, you've got to start slow. Give your body a chance to adjust to changes before cranking up the volume on a particular variable.