Approach this workout regimen two different ways to train your body and build stamina.

A big part of our personal health and fitness goals revolves around looking and feeling good. Whether it’s gaining muscle or losing fat (or both!), the majority of our efforts are working toward those intentions. Training to build endurance and stamina aren’t necessarily on our list of priorities, unless we’re involved in sports or activities that require them.

Yet conditioning training is essential for our heart health and our overall ability in life to get things done!

Endurance work can do more than just improve your physical stamina. Learning to keep moving, even when you want to stop and get some ice cream, builds your ability to press on. Grit and perseverance are great psychological qualities to have, not just in your workouts but in the rest of life as well.

But that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to the treadmill and exercise bike if you absolutely dread them. There are quite a few ways to build up your endurance and conditioning in the same way, and it may even be fun!

This is where a good selection of different body-weight exercises can come in handy, especially when performed in a specific way that allows you to keep moving at the pace you need to improve your stamina.

The two ways to build stamina

While there are lots of different specific cardiovascular and endurance programs, there are essentially just two general methods of training for endurance. They are steady-state training and interval training.

Steady-state training

This is a regimen where your effort level is easy to moderate, and it’s been a go-to cardio approach for decades.

Generally performed for at least 20 minutes and upwards of a couple of hours, it’s traditionally done at around 70 percent of your maximal heart rate, or using the method of “being able to talk but not sing” breathing test. This is a good way to start building your cardiovascular work capacity if you are new to exercise or getting back into it. Even for more experienced exercisers, the lower intensity can be a good recovery regimen to intersperse between harder sessions.

Interval training

Interval training can have many variations with differing “work” and “rest” times at differing intensities. In general, the shorter the work and rest times, the more intense you can go. Just as sprinting for 100 meters is much faster than running 800 meters, the longer you work necessarily restricts your speed.

Depending upon the specific work and rest periods, interval training can be adjusted to fit the intensity levels that are best for you.

Both methods affect different aspects of your body’s capacity for endurance. You shouldn’t think that because intervals can be more intense that they are automatically better. Steady-state work is great for improving your aerobic capacity and cardiac output (how much blood your heart can pump out per minute) and should definitely be part of your routine.

Four body-weight exercises for your conditioning routine

Let’s look at four great exercises that you can put together to make a fun, yet challenging, conditioning routine!

Alternating jump lunges

This exercise gets your heart pumping right away as you need good leg strength, power and overall balance to keep in good form.

Keep your chest up and make your landings controlled and steady. Make the quality of your movement a priority and slow down the pacing as needed to do so. You’ll still get a good workout in, even at a slower pace, and your body will thank you for it.


The frogger has you jumping forward and back on all fours, combining a good squat with forward and backward motion. It’s an excellent whole body movement that especially emphasizes your hips and core.


The monkey is another locomotion exercise that has you moving in a squat pattern, but this time you’ll go sideways.

Reach to the side and plant your hands firmly before you swing your legs over to follow you. Work on this with good control and you’ll feel it in your shoulders and core.


The bear is on all fours, too, but with straight arms and legs. The alternating movement pattern (right arm/left leg, left arm/right leg) is great for core stability and coordination. Adding a press-up at the end gives your arms some nice additional work.

Spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with these moves if you haven’t done them, before combining them into a routine.

Body-weight conditioning circuit

Now let’s go over how to put these exercises together as a conditioning circuit.

  • Frogger, forward twice and back twice
  • Alternating jump lunges in place for 10 seconds
  • Monkey, three to one side, then back again
  • Alternating jump lunges in place for 10 seconds
  • Bear, forward two times then do a push-up, then back twice and push-up again
  • Alternating jump lunges in place for 10 seconds
  • Then cycle through the movements again

You see that we’ve placed the alternating jump lunges in between the movements as a way to get your heart rate going. But the movements in between allow you to control the pacing so you can continue moving in the routine. For most of us, 20 minutes straight of alternating jump lunges would be very difficult!

Two ways to use this routine

Steady-state method

Here, your speed and pacing should be as such that you can do at least 10 minutes without a break. This will be your first step. Start with just one 10-minute circuit and see how you feel. Work your way up to a maximum of three rounds if you like. Begin with resting in between rounds for two minutes, then gradually cut down your rest periods by 30 seconds at a time, until you are no longer resting at all.

Interval method

With interval training, your speed and pacing can be much higher because you’ll have repeated rest breaks after a set amount of time. For our suggested interval program here, we’ll use a 30-second effort and 15-second rest period, which has been shown to be a very good protocol for cardiovascular improvement.

You’ll do the circuit as written above, but set a timer for 30 seconds. When the timer goes off, stop where you are for 15 seconds to rest, then pick up where you left off for another 30 seconds and repeat. Start with four minutes total as a first trial. Then see how you feel and work your way up to four sets of four minutes. Take a rest period of two minutes between rounds to start, then gradually decrease by 30 seconds until you are no longer resting at all, for a total of 16 minutes.

As for how often to do this routine, aim for two to three times per week of steady state, depending upon your workout schedule and exercise tolerance. The interval workouts can be done once or twice per week, preferably on separate days. Doing these routines after your regular training or on separate days is best.

Conditioning your body to persevere is not only good for your heart and health, but also transfers over to how you can endure trials and difficulties in your life in general. That’s one of the benefits of physical fitness training that we often don’t realize when we first start out. But as we continue to be consistent in our workouts and push ourselves out of our comfort zone, we notice this mindset helping us outside of the gym. Train your body, mind and spirit together!

Want a more resilient body? Use these three strategies to train your body to prevent injury.

Photo credit: undrey, Thinkstock