For those new to endurance training, figuring out what exercises, rep ranges, weights, sets, times, etc. can be a real challenge. That's why I'm here to tell you how you can progress your endurance workouts from novice to expert!
I'll be discussing exercise formats in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Circuit training workouts specifically for this article. If we included running, sprinting, and rowing individually this could go on forever.
Always begin with the basics; keep it simple. Use foundational movements to, well, build your foundation. Starting with dumbbell cleans and burpees for your first attempt at an endurance workout is a great way to get hurt and a great way to overdo it and discourage yourself from moving forward.
The exercises you should begin with are: Squat, Row, Pushup, Crunch, Lunge, and Shoulder Press.
Depending on your fitness level, you may have to work with regressions of these movements to exercise safely and with proper form. If that's the case, regress as necessary.
If you're watching your favorite athlete on Youtube and see them doing thirty box jumps with twenty pullups and fifteen dips and you want to do that also, stop. One day you'll be able to if you work at it. Until then, start low and build from there.
Fifteen reps is generally considered the threshold for muscle endurance. Does this mean that YOU should start with fifteen? Not necessarily. If even very light weight is difficult at fifteen reps, consider starting with twelve reps and working up to fifteen. Once you've completed a circuit with good form at fifteen reps per exercise, try taking the reps up to twenty for each exercise. If that's immediately too challenging, try adjusting the reps on just two of the exercises. If you are really good at squats but have trouble on pushups, increase the squat reps and keep working on the pushups at an achievable range. The examples below are just a few ways to progress a simple Circuit Workout.
Week 1: Week 2: Week 3: Week 4:
Squats x 15 Squats x 20 Squats x 20 Squats x 20
Pushups x 15 Pushups x 15 Pushups x 20 Pushups x 20
Lunges x 15 Lunges x 20 Lunges x 20 Lunges x 20
Rows x 15 Rows x 15 Rows x 15 Rows x 20
In the example above we have someone with a stronger lower body who is struggling with upper body work; specifically Rows. *Do not expect yourself to be able to make large rep jumps week by week. The reference above is just an example*
I'm going to keep this very short. If you can't do the number of reps listed with proper form, take the weight to where you can. If you don't have to try hard to reach the rep goal using the current weight, increase the weight.
A very EASY but very EFFICIENT way to improve is to adjust the number of times you perform the circuit. If you're on Week 4 from the progression above and after three rounds you feel good enough for another set, give it a shot!
This can work two different ways. The first is that you can be performing certain exercises for time. In that case simply increase the time by five or ten seconds and things will be much harder. The second way is to run a stop watch and time each set individually. Try to improve your time on each set - that means finishing faster.
If you follow these guidelines you should see your endurance levels increase. You'll also see increases in your strength; not on the same level as heavy lifting, but that's also not your goal.
Progress your exercise difficulty, progress your reps, progress your weights, your sets, your times; progress, progress, progress.
Go make lots of progress!