Pavel Tsatsouline explains how to build endurance the right way


To understand the basics of how to build endurance, you need to know what components make up endurance and what main systems are involved in its development.

A sports science graduate from the Minsk Institute of Physical Culture, Pavel Tsatsouline explains how to develop endurance the right way in the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Tsatsouline is the author of several books on strength training and is known to have popularized the use of kettlebells in training in the West. He also has a subject matter expert with the elite of the US military and law enforcement.


There are two main systems you can build during training to increase your endurance:

  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular endurance

When we talk about cardiovascular endurance we principally talk about your body’s ability to supply your working muscles with fuel and oxygen and to eliminate exercise byproducts for an extended period of time.

Muscular endurance is, primarily, the ability of your muscles to, over a long period of time, use the fuel and oxygen supplied to them (by your cardiovascular system) to create energy and movement.

Learn to build your endurance

How to develop cardio?

Steady state exercise

“The healthiest way to build up your cardio is to simply exercise at a steady state,” Tsatsouline explains. This would involve, for example, running at a specific speed that is not too fast.

How it happens, in a nutshell, is that when you increase your heart rate to a certain level your heart starts to stretch and this allows stroke volume to increase.

This stretching of the heart for increased stroke volume means that more fuel and oxygen can be delivered to your working muscles and more byproducts eliminated. This way you increase your cardiovascular endurance.

It works at around 90% of your maximum heart rate. When you get closer to your maximum heart rate, your heart doesn’t have time to relax, explains Tsatsouline. “You are no longer stretching this heart.”

To build endurance, you need to train at a metabolic intensity, which simply means exercising at a low enough level to keep you going.

This is the basic method of stretching your core.

Interval training

You can also build endurance through interval training. The theory stems from the fact that our bodies have inertia – think about the last time you finished a hard workout, your heart rate continued to rise a few seconds or minutes after you finished.

If you get your heart rate to 85-90%, which is hard but not maximum, and then stop, your heart will continue to pump high and stretch.

Interval training works to build endurance, but its best results come from after a period of steady-state training, explains Tsatsouline. This is because interval training is a very demanding training method that carries a higher risk of injury.

High heart rate under heavy loads

While it’s technically possible to build endurance with high heart rate static exercise under heavy loads – consider performing a handful of heavy back squats – this is not the most optimal way to train the heart. .

In this case, explains Tsatsouline, your heart thickens rather than stretches.

Source: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

How to build muscle endurance

The heart is only a small part of endurance, and while everyone absolutely needs cardio for health (and athletes for performance), you also need muscle endurance to build up. your engine.

Mitochondria are the key to muscle endurance.

The mitochondria of the muscle cell are responsible for aerobically converting energy, which essentially means producing energy efficiently.

We have three main energy systems:

  • Creatine phosphate: only lasts a few seconds, so is useful for a 1-rep-max for example.
  • Aerobic system: is not powerful but lasts longer.
  • Glycolytic system: sits between the two systems above but creates many fatigue metabolites such as lactic acid in the process.

Development of mitochondria in slow-twitch fibers

Developing mitochondria in slow twitch muscle fibers will help you access the full power of your muscles without acid and other fatigue metabolites.

This is done by training in a way that produces less acid, working just below the anaerobic threshold, to train your muscles to endure the byproducts of exercise and release them effectively. Training just below the anaerobic threshold is the primary method of training endurance athletes, explains Tsatsouline.

Work at an intensity where you can continue to remove acid without crashing.

Only increase the intensity of your workouts a few weeks before your competition or event so that you know what it looks like.

Develop mitochondria for fast twitch muscle fibers

The development of mitochondria for fast twitch muscle fibers can be done by repeat training, which in turn will increase the efficiency of your muscular endurance. It basically involves pushing your muscles over and over the edge.

One way to train for this would be to sprint, stop before the red line, and start all over when you’re ready.

“When you’re ready” is, of course, incredibly subjective. There are three types of rest periods:

  • Period of stress: Rest for a period of time that will make it more difficult or impossible for you to perform or repeat the same workload that you just completed, as seen in interval training.
  • Super compensation period: a rest period where, if you rest for the right amount of time, you may be able to perform better in your next set.
  • Regular period: where the rest period is just enough to allow you to repeat your task and maintain the same level of performance throughout, as seen in repeated training.

Repeated training, where you rest for an ordinary period, has a great effect on the development of endurance and helps to develop the mitochondria in the fast-twitch fibers.

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