The Best Stamina-Increasing Exercises

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Stamina, also commonly referred to as endurance, refers to your ability to sustain physical effort over a longer period of time. It involves not only organs like your heart and lungs, but your muscles as well. So, whether you want to improve your performance in your sport of choice or you simply want to be able to carry your groceries without gasping for breath, these are the exercises you need to be doing.


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a time-efficient method for increasing your stamina. In fact, research suggests it may be a better endurance-builder than steady-state cardiovascular exercise. For example, a study in American Journal of Physiology found an eight-week interval training regimen was more effective for improving subjects’ VO2max — also known as maximal aerobic capacity — than a continuous cardiovascular training program of the same duration. By the end of the study, subjects in the interval group experienced a 15 percent increase in VO2max, while increases in the continuous cardio group were nine percent.

There are many ways to perform HIIT, but one tried-and-true method is the Tabata protocol: Perform one dynamic exercise (think: sprints, burpees, push-ups) as quickly as possible for 20 seconds. Then, rest 10 seconds. Repeat for a total of eight rounds. To avoid injury and burnout, limit HIIT sessions to two or three per week.

Moderate Aerobic Exercise

When it comes to building endurance, nothing beats good old-fashioned aerobic exercise (think: jogging, walking or cycling.) So, make aerobic exercise a regular part of your weekly routine. First, choose your activity of choice, then perform for a minimum of 30 minutes. The University of Colorado Denver recommends performing aerobic activity at least three days per week, but ideally you’ll do five. Aim to increase your time by five to 10 minutes each week, or try to cover more ground in less time. Minimize the wear-and-tear on your muscles and joints by choosing a variety of high- and low-impact activities (i.e. jogging and swimming). And be sure to pick activities you enjoy doing, as this will make it easier to stay consistent.

Strength Training

Lifting light for high reps is a great way to build muscular endurance. (Image: junce/iStock/GettyImages)

To build muscular stamina, you need to lift weights. However, in order to place continuous demand on your muscles, you need to think beyond the standard eight to 12 reps. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing two to four sets of 10 to 25 reps with a weight that totals 40 to 60 percent of your one-repetition maximum. In other words, if you can squat 150 pounds one time, shoot for 60 to 90 pounds for the multiple reps and sets. And resist the urge to camp out on the bench in between sets. Limit your rest to 30 to 60 seconds.

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