• Introduction
  • Basics of cardiovascular endurance exercises
  • Best methods to train cardiovascular endurance
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Cross-country skiing 
  • Physiological effects of cardiovascular endurance exercises 
  • Samples of cardiovascular endurance exercises
  • Suitability for developing athletes and physical education
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources

Introduction

Cardiovascular endurance, or cardio, describes how well your cardiovascular system (heart, lungs & veins) is able to provide oxygen to your muscle tissue and remove carbon dioxide. It is especially important in endurance exercises where you must maintain a certain level of activity for a prolonged time. If you’ve yet to read our full theoretical guide of cardiovascular endurance, we highly suggest you take a look at it here.

If you already know what cardiovascular endurance is and want to focus on improving it, you’ve come to the right place! Here you can find all the information you need to take your training to the next level. We’ve even created a couple of samples to for you to try out. Enjoy!

Basics of cardiovascular endurance exercises

Cardiovascular endurance creates the basis for sport-specific endurance and it utilizes small weights of around 0-30% of your maximum. The most common way to train for cardiovascular endurance is through bodyweight exercises such as swimming, jogging, cross-country skiing or cycling. Because the main goal of cardiovascular endurance is to help you perform for a prolonged amount of time, the amount of repetitions is much higher than with any other training methods.

In a gym setting, you should perform 20 to 50 relatively fast repetitions with shorter rest periods of around 30s between each set. This also produces a moderate amount of lactate, which is one of the main causes of fatigue during exercise. Therefore, cardiovascular endurance exercises enhance your body’s ability to perform aerobically (with oxygen) in which lactate is not produced.  On the other hand, it also improves your ability to tolerate and buffer lactate when workout intensity gets higher.

For the best results, we recommend working out three to four times a week at the right intensity and in a variety of different ways depending on your fitness level. As long as you keep your heart rate up you’re all set! You’ll be glad you did the next time you are competing with your fellow athletes!

Here’s a quick chart on how to build your own cardiovascular endurance program.

Cardiovascular Endurance Training


Running, cross-country skiing, rowing, swimming & other light continuous exercisesBodyweight, 0 - 30% of your maximum20 - 50 relatively fast & continuous repetitions3 - 5 setsRest for 30s - 2min between sets3 - 4 times a week depending on the season, often combined with pre-season training

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Best methods to train cardiovascular endurance

Cardiovascular endurance exercises consist of prolonged low-to-medium resistance training that puts your cardiorespiratory system (heart, lungs and veins) to the test. This means that your heart rate remains elevated throughout the whole duration of the exercise and is heavily related to how well you can provide oxygen to your muscles and remove carbon dioxide. Along with light gym training, some of the best methods to improve your cardio are running, cyclingswimming, rowing, and crosscountry skiing.

Running

Running is probably the easiest and most versatile exercise to improve your cardiovascular endurance. It is cheap, easy to do and readily available to anyone looking to improve their overall fitness regardless of your physical shape.

While running can be used to slowly build a strength basis for more intense and challenging tasks, its biggest benefit is its ability to strengthen your heart. As your training progresses you will be able to pump more blood with each stroke which results in a lower overall heart rate. This also means that you can also increase your steady state during exercise, which means the highest possible intensity where energy is still produced aerobically (with oxygen) and therefore without lactate. In short, better performance with less effort. 

Cycling

Cycling has been slowly increasing in popularity in recent years. And for good reason! It is a great exercise to maintain cardiovascular endurance. The reason for this is that it incorporates all the major muscle groups in your legs. It is also incredibly friendly for your joints and ligaments due to having less impact than running, for example. 

Much like other exercises that rely on cardiovascular fitness, cycling also sports a wide array of benefits; improved bone, muscle and joint strength as well as better posture and coordination. It even reduces anxiety and helps prevent depression.

Cycling is also a good alternative to long-distance running because the scenery changes quicker. So, no more boring slow jogs that seemingly go nowhere!

Swimming

Swimming is a great cardiovascular endurance exercise for anyone looking to improve their fitness. It is cheap, fun, effective and gentle for your joints and muscles. It can also be a great alternative training method for athletes from a variety of different sports. Furthermore, exercising in the water may also be the best way to rehabilitate after an injury or illness. 

Water is also a unique element when it comes to exercise. Not only does it offer a feeling of weightlessness but the underwater pressure also has a hugging effect on the body. This also results in a few interesting physiological effects. For example, in addition to exercising in a horizontal position which reduces blood being concentrated in the legs, being submerged also causes blood to return to the heart more efficiently. This effect, also known as bradycardia, lowers your overall heart rate by 15-40% in an attempt to fight against loss of oxygen (hypoxia).  

While this hugging effect has some obvious physiological effects on the body, it also offers a calming sensation that reduces stress and promotes mental health. 

Rowing

Rowing is a solid alternative to other cardiovascular endurance exercises because it incorporates nearly every muscle group in the body. Naturally, this leads to a more challenging workout and higher oxygen and energy consumption, which also promotes a healthy body composition. What’s even better is the fact that it is often considered to be more gentle for your joints due to the lack of impact you may experience in other activities, such as running. 

Rowing can also be a great hobby to socially interact with others, especially if done with a pair or a team. Not to mention the mental benefits of spending a day out in the sun and enjoying a fresh salty breeze. 

Cross-country skiing 

Good news for all of you winter sports enthusiasts out there, cross-country skiing may very well be the best way to improve your cardiovascular endurance. This is due to the fact that it challenges the whole body and therefore requires more oxygen to maintain performance. Hence, it is often considered the ultimate endurance sport. In fact, some of the highest maximum oxygen consumptions are recorded from cross-country skiers.

Some elite athletes even incorporate altitude training to their seasonal training routine, which is often done around 2400m (8,000 ft) above sea level. The reason behind this is that there is less oxygen as the elevation gets higher which results in increased hemoglobin content and red blood cell size. While this can improve your oxygen delivery for endurance activities, the effects may only last for 10-14 days. 

Cross-country skiing doesn’t just improve your cardiovascular endurance. It is also a great method to train for muscular endurance and dynamic balance. Not to mention the stress-relieving mental health benefits of being outside in the fresh air and enjoying a nice crisp winter day. 

The more muscles you use, the more oxygen you need.

Physiological effects of cardiovascular endurance exercises 

Cardiovascular endurance exercises improve your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles while removing carbon dioxide, leading to better endurance capability. This effect is a result of better aerobic (VO₂max) and anaerobic capacity, higher lactate threshold, increased hemoglobin amountimproved stroke volume, faster metabolism, as well as enhanced venous return. As you can see, cardiorespiratory fitness is a combination of many factors. However, the good thing is that all of them can be improved through consistent and well-structured training. 

Aerobic capacity (VO₂max) describes the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during an exercise. It is also more commonly known as maximum oxygen uptake, and it is one of the main factors in endurance capability. Consistent endurance training improves your ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles, leading to significantly improved performance. Oftentimes endurance athletes perform at 75-85% of their maximum capacity while athletes of fast-paced sports may train closer to 100% of their maximum. 

Anaerobic capacity describes the total amount of energy that can be produced without oxygen, or anaerobically. This only occurs in intense exercises where aerobic energy production (with oxygen) is not enough. However, if the intensity grows above the lactate threshold (highest level of performance where energy can still be produced aerobically), your body starts producing lactate, which is one of the main causes of fatigue. Continuous cardiovascular exercises not only improve your maximum oxygen uptake and lactate threshold, your ability to buffer lactate and fight against fatigue.

Metabolism also changes as a result of long-term cardiovascular endurance training. This is due to the fact that as your energy consumption increases, so does your need for more energy. In a way, your body gets used to using more energy to maintain a balanced state (homeostasis) in the body, which results in a faster resting metabolism rate. This, on the other hand, promotes a healthy body composition.

Consistent cardiovascular endurance exercises also provide significant changes in your bloodstream as well. First, it increases the amount of hemoglobin in the blood, which is responsible for delivering oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. Second, it improves venous return, which describes your veins’ ability to return the blood back to the heart more efficiently. Lastly, long-term cardiovascular exercising also significantly increases the stroke volume of the heart. This means that your heart can pump more blood with each heartbeat, resulting in a slower resting heart rate as well as during exercise.

Cardiovascular endurance exercises improve your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles while removing carbon dioxide.

Samples of cardiovascular endurance exercises

Looking to improve your endurance but don’t know where to start? Well, you’re in luck! We’ve created a few cardiovascular exercise routines to kickstart your new athletic lifestyle. Simply scroll through our selection and pick out one that suits you best. Happy training!

Beginner circuit 1

1. Squats

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

2. Push ups

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

3. Plank

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

5. Jump rope

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

6. Lunges

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

7. Crunches

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

8. Left side plank

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

9. Right side plank

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

9. Back raise

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

10. Leg raise

  • 45s per exercise
  • As many repetitions as possible
  • No rest between exercises

Intermediate running program 1

Week 1

  • Monday: 40min low intensity jog
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 40min low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30min high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 2

  • Monday: 40min low intensity jog
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 40min low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30min high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 3

  • Monday: 40min low intensity jog
  • Tuesday: 1h light strength training
  • Wednesday: 40min low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30min high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 4

  • Monday: 50min low intensity jog
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 50min low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 35min high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 5

  • Monday: 50min low intensity jog
  • Tuesday: 1h light strength training
  • Wednesday: 50min low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 35min high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Intermediate swimming routine 1

50m crawl stroke with pull buoy

  • Maintain good technique
  • 10s rest before next set

50m crawl kick with kick board

  • Maintain good technique
  • 10s rest before next set

50m breast stroke with pull buoy

  • Maintain good technique
  • 10s rest before next set

50m breast stroke kick with kick board

  • Maintain good technique
  • 10s rest before next set

50m back crawl stroke with pull buoy

  • Maintain good technique
  • 10s rest before next set

50 back crawl kick with kick board

  • Maintain good technique
  • 10s rest before next set

100m swim style of your choice

  • Maintain good technique

Yasso 800s

  • 4x 800m run in the same minutes/seconds as your hours/minutes for a marathon.
  • For example: 3mins 40s run for 3h 40mins
  • 4min rest between sets
  • Add one more each week until you are at 10 sets

Note that we are not responsible for any injuries that may occur during these drills or practices. Always remember to train within your own limits and at the guidance of a professional instructor. 

You can increase cardiovascular endurance training volume by going faster or longer distances.

Suitability for developing athletes and physical education

Versatile exercise is one of the most important things that a developing athlete can do to keep progressing in their sport. Not only does this improve motor skills, but it also helps build a solid foundation for future specialization. This is especially important during youth when your body grows taller and heavier. This means that you must be able to support your weight even during intense exercise.

Cardiovascular endurance exercises are great for anyone regardless of your age or physical fitness. It is one of the few exercise styles that can provide the same benefit for inactive individuals and athletes alike. For younger or more inexperienced people, it provides a great way to build up strength and endurance for many different kinds of physical activity. It even promotes overall wellness in your everyday life. On the other hand, more experienced athletes can maintain or even improve their performance by increasing the intensity of the exercise.

With this in mind, cardiovascular endurance exercises fit very well into physical education and the lives of developing athletes. In fact, teaching younger students the basics of physical training can provide a motivational boost for a more active lifestyle, which also promotes lifelong physical activity.

Final thoughts

Cardiovascular endurance may be the most important physical attribute in an athlete’s arsenal. Oftentimes it is even considered to be the main building block of physical performance. Not only does it help you perform longer, but it is also be used as a stepping stone towards more intense sports-specific workouts such as strength and power training. So, whatever sport you want to specialize in, we suggest you incorporate endurance training into your workout program. 

Cardiovascular endurance exercises offer improved performance for nearly all sports out there. What’s even better is the fact that you can do any cardio exercise regardless of your current physical shape – everyone can find a new way to challenge themselves. Longer light-intensity exercises can even be used for rehabilitation purposes after an illness or an injury! 

So, whether you are an average Joe or a professional athlete, you can still enjoy the benefits of cardiovascular endurance exercises. You’ll be sure to maintain consistent and healthy progress long as you remember to train for a prolonged time without rest – and at the right intensity.

Keep in mind that athletic progress also requires a balance between training, the right nutrition and sufficient rest. This way you’ll not only reduce the risk of possible injuries but also improve your performance in the long run.

Did you learn anything new about cardiovascular endurance training? Let us know in the comments below!

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