A guide on how to build or increase stamina for athletes

By Lucas Keating, 15 May 2023

Image source:  by Endure IQ

Stamina, also known as endurance, is a crucial component that allows athletes to perform at their peak for extended periods, resist fatigue, and recover quickly. In this in-depth guide, we will show you how to increase stamina, including both well-known methods and some unorthodox recommendations supported by research papers, renowned coaches and specialists.

Understanding Stamina and its Importance

Stamina refers to the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. It is a combination of cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and mental resilience. Stamina training is essential for athletes across a wide range of sports, including soccer, long-distance running, cycling, swimming, and more.

Many factors can contribute to a decrease in an athlete’s stamina. Age, genetics, muscle type, and other medical conditions can all be factors that contribute to decreased stamina. Additionally, physical fitness levels and nutrition also play a significant role. Any high-level athlete needs to have a well-rounded training plan that includes exercises that focus on building endurance and stamina.

There are many effective ways to increase endurance. An athlete’s training plan should include a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises that are specifically designed to help athletes improve their endurance. Additionally, athletes should also focus on their diet and ensure that they are eating the right foods to provide their body with the nutrition it needs for optimal performance.

Improved stamina helps athletes to maintain a high level of performance during intense training sessions and competitions, outlast opponents, and recover efficiently between bouts of exertion. It also reduces the risk of injuries, enhances overall fitness, and positively impacts an athlete's confidence and mental fortitude.

The Fundamentals of Stamina Building

To increase stamina and build endurance effectively, athletes should adopt a well-rounded approach that includes various training methods and lifestyle adjustments. Let's explore some key strategies:

(1) Aerobic Exercise: The Foundation of Stamina

Aerobic exercise plays a crucial role in enhancing stamina. It primarily focuses on improving cardiovascular endurance and increasing the body's capacity to efficiently transport oxygen to working muscles. Regular aerobic exercise sessions, such as running, cycling, swimming, or rowing, stimulate adaptations within the cardiovascular system, leading to improved stamina.

Research has shown that incorporating a mix of low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) yields excellent results. LISS workouts involve maintaining a steady pace for an extended duration, while HIIT involves alternating between periods of high-intensity exercise and short recovery intervals. Many pro soccer clubs, for example, develop their soccer endurance training by incorporating both LISS and HIIT workouts. 

Watch an informative video about difference in LISS and HIIT if you would like to dig deeper:

(2) Increase endurance with strength training

While stamina is often associated with cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance is equally important for athletes. Strength or as some call it “resistance” training is a fundamental part on how to build stamina as you enhance the muscles' ability to withstand fatigue over extended periods. These kinds of exercises increase jumping ability, sprinting performance, and overall physical performance in soccer players (Little and Williams, 2006).

Integrating resistance exercises into your training program helps develop the necessary muscular strength and endurance to perform at your best. Focus on compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, and push-ups, as they engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Renowned strength and conditioning coach, Mark Verstegen, emphasizes the significance of strength training for stamina building: 

Strength training builds the foundation for endurance training. It enhances the body's structural integrity, allowing athletes to maintain proper form and function during prolonged exertion (c).

Remember to gradually increase the intensity and volume of your strength training sessions to avoid overtraining and injuries. Aim for two to three sessions per week, targeting different muscle groups to promote overall strength and endurance.

(3) How to boost stamina using interval training

In addition to traditional aerobic exercise, interval training can provide a significant boost to your stamina. Interval training involves alternating between periods of high-intensity exercise and active recovery. This method challenges the cardiovascular system, simulating the demands of intense athletic performance.

Soccer, a sport requiring both endurance and bursts of high-intensity efforts, greatly benefits from interval training. By replicating the intermittent nature of the game, soccer players can improve their stamina and better cope with the physical demands of matches. You can mix it with soccer workout strength and conditioning routines. Soccer players need to be able to run, jump, and kick for an extended period of time. This type of workout should include exercises that focus on the entire body, not just the legs. Core exercises, such as sit-ups and planks, are especially important for soccer players since they are used extensively during the game.

Fundamental speed training is another variety of interval training that Improves an athlete’s speed and builds stamina. It involves having athletes focus on specific techniques such as acceleration, deceleration, and agility. This type of training helps to build an athlete’s coordination and agility as well. This type of training has been shown to improve VO2max, lactate threshold, and running economy in soccer players (Buchheit et al., 2010).

To incorporate interval training into your routine, you can try the following workout:

SprintHigh intensity30 seconds
JogActive recovery60 seconds
RepeatAlternating intervals10-12 sets

Perform this workout on a track or a field. Start with a dynamic warm-up, including exercises such as high knees, butt kicks, and leg swings. Then, begin the workout by sprinting at maximum effort for 30 seconds, followed by a 60-second active recovery jog. Repeat this sequence for 10-12 sets.

Interval training challenges the cardiovascular system, improves anaerobic capacity, and trains the body to recover quickly between high-intensity efforts. Incorporating this type of training can significantly increase stamina and performance in various sports.

(4) Cross-Training: A Holistic Approach

Cross-training, or participating in different forms of physical activity, can be highly beneficial for athletes. Engaging in alternative sports or activities not only adds variety to your training routine but also targets different muscle groups and energy systems.

Fundamental agility and speed training are excellent forms of cross-training that improve overall athleticism and stamina. Agility training involves drills and exercises designed to enhance coordination, quickness, and change of direction. Speed training focuses on developing sprinting mechanics, acceleration, and top-end speed.

Plyometric exercises are a great way to help an athlete improve their speed, agility, and how to increase stamina. Plyometric exercises, which involve rapid stretching and contracting of muscles, improve muscular power. Exercises like box jumps, bounding, and squat jumps challenge the muscles to generate force quickly and efficiently, leading to enhanced overall endurance and explosiveness. This type of training has been used as a way to increase vertical jump and sprinting performance in soccer players (Markovic et al., 2007). 

By incorporating a holistic approach to training, you can improve your overall explosiveness and on-field performance. 

(5) Proper Nutrition

Healthy diet is a vital component to overall athletic performance. Consuming a well-balanced diet provides the necessary energy, nutrients, and hydration to support endurance and recovery.

Fuel your body with complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for endurance activities, while proteins aid in muscle repair and recovery. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, and fatty fish, provide sustained energy and support overall health.

Ensure you stay adequately hydrated before, during, and after training sessions. Dehydration can lead to decreased stamina, impaired performance, and increased risk of injuries. Consume water and electrolyte-rich fluids to maintain optimal hydration levels.

How to improve stamina with nutrition: 


During Training:


(6) Rest and Recovery

There is a lot of justified talk about rest and recovery in the pro sports community. Adequate sleep, typically between 7-9 hours per night, allows the body to repair tissues, regulate hormones, and optimize overall performance. Insufficient sleep can impair stamina training, increase the risk of injuries, and hinder recovery processes.

Additionally, incorporating active recovery days into your training schedule is essential. Engage in low-intensity activities such as yoga, light jogging, or swimming to promote blood flow, reduce muscle soreness, and enhance overall recovery.

Renowned sports performance specialist, Dr. Michael Yessis, highlights the significance of recovery for stamina: 

Rest and recovery are not a sign of weakness; they are an essential part of the training process. It is during the recovery phase that the body adapts and becomes stronger, leading to improved stamina and performance" (c)

You can follow this rest and recovery plan: 

Rest Days:

Recovery Time:


By following this rest and recovery plan, athletes can prevent injury and maximize the effectiveness of the training plan. 

(7) Unorthodox Recommendations: Challenging the Norm

While traditional training methods are effective, incorporating unorthodox recommendations can provide a fresh perspective. Altitude training, heat training, and hypoxic training have been shown to be effective for building stamina in soccer athletes (Girard et al., 2013). Let’s review the most applicable: 

  1. Breath control exercises: Developing efficient breathing techniques can enhance oxygen uptake and utilization, improving stamina. Practices such as yoga, tai chi, and specific breathing exercises can contribute to better respiratory control and endurance. Yoga improves flexibility, balance, and overall physical performance in soccer players (Bhattacharya et al., 2016).
  2. Altitude training. How to improve endurance for a professional career in skiing, biathlon, boxing? -  Implement altitude training. Exercises at high altitudes or utilizing altitude simulation devices can enhance stamina by increasing red blood cell production and improving the body's ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles. However, it is crucial to consult with a sports medicine professional before attempting altitude training to ensure proper safety and adaptation. See a very informative video on altitude training below if needed:

(c) Mental training techniques. Stamina is not solely physical but also relies on mental resilience. Implementing mental training techniques, such as visualization, positive self-talk, and mindfulness, can enhance focus, motivation, and the ability to push through fatigue. Sports psychologist Dr. Jim Afremow emphasizes the power of mental training in building stamina: 

Training the mind is just as important as training the body. Mental techniques can help athletes overcome physical barriers, sustain effort, and maximize their stamina potential (c) 

(d) Underwater training: Underwater training, such as aqua jogging or swimming, provides a unique challenge to the cardiovascular system and muscular endurance. The resistance offered by water increases the intensity of the workout while reducing impact on the joints. Including underwater training in your routine can improve stamina, strengthen muscles, and enhance overall fitness.

Remember, if you are serious about unorthodox approaches,  it is crucial to prioritize safety and individualize the training regime based on your needs and your body’s sport-specific demands.

How to build stamina: a scince based approach
Source: Lima LCR, Blagrove RInfographic. Strength training–induced adaptations associated with improved running economy: potential mechanisms and training recommendations British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:302-303.

Practical implementation 

The following is a training plan that incorporates a variety of exercises and techniques to increase endurance and stamina:

1. Interval Training:

2. High-Intensity Continuous Training:

3. Plyometric Training:

4. Resistance Training:

5. Yoga:

6. Mental Training:

7. Unorthodox Approaches:

Monitoring the progress: 

- Regularly assess the progress and determine the effectiveness of the training plan;

- Use a variety of assessment tools, such as fitness tests and performance evaluations, to measure the progress; 

- Identify areas where you may be struggling and make adjustments to the training plan as needed


Stamina training is a multi-faceted process that requires a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, interval training, cross-training, proper nutrition, rest, and recovery. By following a comprehensive approach, athletes can enhance their endurance, outlast opponents, and excel in their respective sports.

Remember to gradually progress your training intensity, listen to your body, and seek guidance from qualified professionals when necessary. Stamina building is a journey that requires patience, consistency, and a commitment to overall physical and mental well-being.

By integrating these evidence-based strategies and incorporating some unorthodox recommendations, you know how to increase stamina and improve endurance. Train smart, fuel your body properly, recover adequately, and never underestimate the power of mental resilience. With the right mindset and training, you can push your limits and achieve your athletic goals.

Now, go out there, lace up your shoes, and embark on your journey to becoming a stronger, fitter, and more resilient athlete!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute professional guidance. Always consult with a qualified coach or sports medicine specialist before implementing any new training methods or making significant changes to your exercise routine.