How to Improve Your Endurance While Staying Strong and Powerful

STACK Expert Doug Fioranella explains how athletes can build endurance for their sport without losing strength or power.

We all want to perform better at our sport, but sometimes figuring out the proper training approach can be more complicated than actually playing. Beyond learning and refining your sport skills, you need to train your strength, mobility, speed, power and endurance.

Some of these training modalities can be completely different and even contradict each other if not programmed correctly.

Here are some suggestions on how to avoid the pitfalls and build your endurance without losing power.

Understand the Demands of Your Sport

Basketball

First, you need to fully understand the demands of your sport. If you envision a spectrum with absolute power on one end and absolute endurance on the other, then position various sports on the spectrum, you will find that few sports belong at either end. Most sports are in the middle. As I mentioned in a previous STACK article, most sports are not characterized by all-out maximal efforts, nor are they completely efforts of sustained movement for long durations.

In sports like basketball and soccer, a professional player can run anywhere from 2 to 9 miles a game. These distances are comprised of a series of repeated sprints and stops of sub-maximal force production.

For instance, soccer players need the capacity to run for 9 miles. However, simply running that distance at a sub-maximal level without stopping will not give you the game conditioning you are looking for. You need to be able to replicate power production for the stop-and-go nature of the sport and sustain it throughout the course of a game.

Being in optimal shape for your sport should not be measured by how far or how long you can run, but rather, by how well you can recover and replicate repeated sprints over the course of a game. You might be able to run 5 miles at a slow pace, but can you sprint 20 yards and have your muscles and cardiovascular system recover quickly enough to replicate this over and over during a game? That's true endurance.

Understand Your Personal Demands

Tired Athlete

Do a self-audit and find your strengths and weaknesses. If you can run for days but can't generate the power for, or have a hard time recovering from, repeated sprints, you need more power-focused work. If you are the quickest person out of the gate at 20 yards but are only useful for half the game, you need more prolonged running-focused work.

Don't focus solely on your weaknesses. You want to foster your strengths, too, so include them in your plan, but place a slightly greater emphasis on your weaknesses.

Customize Your Sprint Program

Sprint Faster

After assessing what an athlete needs, I design a customized program. Beyond the weight room, I lay out a sprint program the athlete can do 1 or 2 days a week during the off-season to promote endurance or power production for their sport.

For someone who is fast and powerful but lacks the conditioning to last a full game, I emphasize distance sprints and keep only a few of the shorter, more powerful ones for maintenance.

Distance Intensity Recovery
2x400 yards 65-75% speed 200-yard walk
4x200 yards 75% Speed 200-yard walk
2x100 yards 80% speed 100-yard walk
2x50 yards 85-90% speed 50-yard walk

For an athlete who can run longer distances but lacks the speed and power to replicate game-type demands, I emphasize more of the opposite:

Distance Intensity Recovery
1x400 yards 65-75% speed 200-yard walk
2x200 yards 75% Speed 200-yard walk
6x100 yards 80% speed 100-yard walk
8x50 yards 85-90% speed 50-yard walk

Add Strength Circuits

How to Improve Your Endurance While Staying Strong and Powerful

Most of my athletes perform some type of conditioning circuit at the end of the training day once a week. The goal is to train both the power replication and sustainable performance needed for success in their sport. These circuits are perfect for building both power and endurance, and they can be adapted to emphasize one over the other, depending on what the individual's needs.

My formula for this is pretty simple. When selecting exercises, I like to prescribe movements that are not directly in the strength portion of the workout—e.g., bodyweight exercises, unilateral movements (Lunges, etc.) and Kettlebell Swing variations.

I don't get fixated on the amount of weight used. Rather, I like to see the exercise performed with proper technique for the duration that we chose for that particular day.

Again, depending on what a particular athlete needs to work on, I create a circuit including anywhere from 3 to 6 exercises, usually for a specific time duration with a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio. If the athlete needs to focus on more power, then shorter rounds, fewer exercises and power movements are best.

Exercise Work to Rest Ratio
Kettlebell 2-Arm Swing 30/15 sec.
TRX Push-Ups 30/15 sec.
Medicine Ball Slams 30/15 sec.
Jump Rope 30/15 sec.

Perform this circuit three times, with 2- to 3-minute breaks between rounds.

For an athlete who needs to work on conditioning, include longer durations and less emphasis on power.

Exercise Work to Rest Ratio
Front Plank 40/20 sec.
Kettlebell 2-Arm Swing 40/20 sec.
Battle Ropes 40/20 sec.
Farmers' Carry 40/20 sec.

Perform this circuit three times, with 1- to 2-minute breaks between rounds.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: STRENGTH TRAINING | PUSH-UP | ENDURANCE TRAINING | KETTLEBELL EXERCISES