Many sports require a combination of cardiovascular movement and explosive strength, meaning that running laps around your gym won’t cut it if you want to build up your game day endurance. However, you don’t have to switch up your regimen entirely, either. Here are a few simple ways you can tweak your existing strength and cardio workouts to help reach your goal of lasting longer out on the court.
Improve your aerobic fitness
Your cardiovascular system is the foundation of your body, so you’ll have to start there no matter what. When it comes to running (or other aerobic exercises, such as swimming), avoid the temptation to go all out speed-wise. Taking the activity at a slow pace for a longer period will help you strengthen your heart and veins, allowing them to grind it out longer and efficiently transport oxygen to your muscles. Just bear in mind that you’ll still want to get your heart rate up, so you can’t go too slowly. During the activity, keep your heart pumping steady at roughly 60-80 per cent of your maximum heart rate, otherwise known as your maximum aerobic heart rate. To get an idea of yours, simply subtract your age from 180 to get your target beats per minute and track your next workout with a heart rate monitor.
Less weight, more speed, more reps
It’s easy to get bogged down doing weight training with high weight and few repetitions—that technique only really increases your maximal strength and power. Instead, drop the weight down and opt for a high-intensity set performed at a rapid pace. You’ll be able to complete more lifts each round, increasing your endurance—literally, your body’s capability to repeat an action—while building functional muscle mass. However, it’s best to avoid isolation exercises, such as bicep curls, that only work one muscle at a time. Shoot for exercises that incorporate two or more joints to get the full benefit of endurance weight lifting.
Minimize downtime between sets
Endurance is chiefly built when an action is done continuously and the blood stays pumping, so get rid of as much downtime as possible in between sets during your current weight lifting workout. Rather than following the rule of thumb that dictates around a minute of rest between sets, jump back in within 30 seconds, tops. This will keep your heart pounding, and it will also ensure that you’ll earn a burn even if you’re following our previous bit of advice and you’re putting up less weight.
Incorporate explosive movements
Plyometric exercises that use only your bodyweight often also hit on many aspects of aerobic exercise—think jump squats, burpees and other moves that build muscle while elevating your heart rate. One plyometric exercise in particular that hits on both points (and trains up a common in-game movement) are box jumps. Like compound weight exercises, they stimulate multiple muscle groups to boost your stamina.
If you want to endure when it counts, play hard when it doesn’t. Recreational play can last long periods and break up the routine of an endurance workout—boredom can be a killer to your long-term goals.