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Types of Endurance Training Explained

September 17, 2012 - Posted by

What are the different types of endurance training? What are the benefits of different endurance training types? How long and at what intensities should the training intervals be done? This post gives an overview of these topics to provide you with tools for mastering your own endurance training system specific to your sports and your individual case.

Disclosure: All meaningful content for this article was provided by Sportlyzer’s sports scientist Jarek Mäestu (PhD). Thanks, mate!

Endurance means a general ability to do any kind of physical activity that increases your heart rate above 50% of your maximum. On the higher level it can be divided into general endurance and specific endurance.

Specific endurance is the ability to stand against fatigue in sport specific conditions. The better your sport specific endurance, the better you perform at this specific sport. It can be characterised as a combination of various types of endurance you need to maximize your ability to succeed in your discipline. Basically this is what everybody does for their own sports – for example, if you’re a 1500m runner, you use a combination of endurance training methods to perform better at your specific distance.

General endurance charactarizes the ability of your whole body to tolerate endurance exercises and diminish fatigue. The better your general endurance the better you can stand longer efforts at various sports disciplines. For example, if you as a 1500m runner have high level general endurance, you can perform at a relativley high level also at 10K, but you can’t compete 10K runners who have been developing their distance specific endurance.

Types of Endurance training

As mentioned above, your endurance training is always a combination of different training methods. We have listed below the main types of endurance with short descriptions of their nature. (As there are several different classifications for endurance training types, it should be mentioned, that the following classification relys on the physiological processes that different intensities elicit in human body.)

Basic endurance

Intensity: around your aerobic threshold (heart rate around 60-70% of your maximum – you can talk easily with your mate).
Length: workout 30-… min, interval N/A (constant pace, no intervals)
Rest between intervals: – (constant pace, no rest)
Benefits: Basic endurance is the main type of endurance training and is characterized by low intensity, high volume exercises. Training at this intensity trains your cardiac output and heart muscle, strengthens your immune system, and reduces cholesterol level and blood pressure. As most of the energy produced at this intensity comes from your body fat, it also improves the economy of your metabolism.

Tempo endurance

Intensity: just below the anaerobic threshold (heart rate around 75-85% of your maximum – talking is possible only sentence by sentence).
Length: interval 10-30 min (total length of work intervals does usually not exceed 45-60 min)
Rest between intervals: no general rule, but continue at easy tempo during rest
Benefits: This type of endurance training is meant for improving your workload or speed at anaerobic threshold. The energy for this workout comes mainly from carbohydrates (sugar), but body fats play also a substantial part.

Maximal endurance

Intensity: around your VO2max intensity (heart rate around 90-95% of your maximum – talking is possible only word by word). During the intervals lactate accumulates pretty fast that makes your muscles stiff.
Length: interval 3-5 min (total length of the work intervals should not exeed 15-20 minutes)
Rest between intervals: 3-6 min
Benefits: Maximal endurance can also be characterized as maximal aerobic power. It is the best way for the development of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max). Most of the energy comes from carbohydrates (sugar) and only a tiny part from your body fat.

Lactic speed endurance

Intensity: nearly maximal (so is your heartrate – no talking, just push yourself). This type of training is characterized by very high lactate values, that make it very hard to tolerate.
Length: interval 30-60 sec (total time of the work intervals should not exceed 5-6 minutes)
Rest between intervals: 6-10 min (if you want to increase lactate production – your ability to respond short increases in intensity) or 2-4 min (if you want to improve lactate tolerance – this results in continuous increase of lactate).
Benefits: Lactic speed endurance training improves your ability to tolerate high levels of lactate (increase your ability to continue with high intensity when your legs are already stiff) and increases your ability to improve the speed of relatively long high intensity spurts (e.g. 400m).

Alactic speed endurance

This type of training improves your sprinting abilities. The length of the intervals should not be more than 10 seconds and you need plenty of time to recover before taking the next interval.

Intensity: max speed (heart rate is not important).
Length: interval 10 sec
Rest between intervals: usually longer than 10min, until full recovery
Benefits: Alactic speed endurance training improves your ability to maintain maximal speed for a relatively short time (5-7 sec).


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Tõnis Saag

Tõnis is the founder of He was an active sports karate athlete, representing the Estonian National Team 53 times over a 10-year period and winning numerous international tournaments and Estonian Championships. Tõnis was a certified youth coach for 13 years, working constantly with 100+ athletes. Half of that time he was also responsible for their club's development and daily administration. He was also a co-author of the first Estonian textbook for karate coaches and a board member of the Estonian Karate Federation for 2 years. Before starting with Sportlyzer, Tõnis founded and managed functional testing and sports medicine lab

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