How To Build Strength and Endurance At The Same Time

A question I often get is if it’s possible to gain more muscle and strength while also building up some solid endurance at the same time??

Well, I think it is very possible! 

In fact, I just got done running 6 400m sprints this morning… 

And to tell you the truth, it feels like everything I’ve eaten today has just been burned up within seconds after ingesting it!   I was pretty much waxed after I was done but, now I feel great and I’m ready for more.

And in addition to that, I’ll be hitting a strength session later today, but I thought it would be good to explain how a person can continue to gain strength, pack on lean muscle and get highly conditioned since a ton of my readers out there have sent in emails for the past few weeks asking if it can be done.

For those of you that have sent this question in (some of you multiple times 😉 ) here you go!

The short answer is YES.

But why would you want to gain more endurance??

Well, this type of “cardio endurance” training is mostly ideal for MMA fighters, Military Athletes, Wrestlers, Rugby Players, Soccer, and those who want to simply be SHREDDED and overall badass!  Any sport that requires a good amount of strength and power endurance is ideal.

Most of the sports specifically listed above have more longer goes and extended play times.  For instance, an MMA fighter is constantly hitting burst of all out goes over the course of 5 mins.  It’s good to have a high anaerobic threshold build up for that sport (meaning you can go at HIGH INTENSITIES for longer durations).  Same goes for Military Athletes (SEALs, Marines, Rangers, ect) as they need to be ready for anything!  Having strength and power endurance is key.

One of the things about this type of training that really chaps my ass is the fact that most guys think that endurance / cardio is the absolute devil when it comes to adding more muscle to your frame.  With this thought, most people stay far away from any type of real cardio training in fear that it will make them shrink in size and lose strength.

Look at some of these 800m and 400m sprinters….

Yeah these guys are top athletes and had to train and eat at an elite level but a physique with both strength and power can be achieved by anyone!

The only thing I would say that’s bad about cardio endurance is when it comes to  hard gainers, AKA “ectomorphs“, as with these guys, I would avoid most cardio just because it’s hard to gain muscle anyways…

But, for most guys, endurance cardio will help get you lean while helping you retain muscle and strength.

Most people’s idea of endurance training or “cardio” is running on a treadmill for 45 mins or jogging a mile or two.  Those two types aren’t the best when it comes to helping you retain muscle and strength.

When I think of endurance type cardio, the best forms is anything under an 800m run.  When you start getting over 800m, you start getting into more of an “aerobic” dominated state of training.

If you don’t know, “aerobic” training refers to training at a lower intensity and longer duration so, longer races and distances would account for this type of running.

In fact, I would actually say that for most guys, unless they have a background in running mid distance sprints, the 800m and even the 400m run would be more of an aerobic cardio exercise for them because they wouldn’t be able to sustain a high enough intensity throughout the whole run.

For the longer endurance cardio runs including the 400m up to 800m, you would want to progress to over time.   Most guys will never need to do 800’s…

But, for more conditioned folks, if you can sustain a high speed stride and sprint for at least a whole 400m, you can make it into an anaerobic exercise, or higher intensity, mid distance sprint.

In order to retain the most strength and muscle, you’ll want to focus in on doing anaerobic type cardio and running.  For these, you should be able to sustain a high intensity.  I say at least 80-90% speed throughout the whole run or anything under 3 maybe even 4 mins.

Perfect distances for most people running these are the 400m down to a 100 yard sprint.

I say this because with these distances, most guys can go close to ALL OUT for the whole distance, which is what you want in this case…

I’ve been experimenting with myself and some of my ELITE clients with 400m repeats to help build up some serious cardio endurance and fat loss.  It’s worked wonders thus far…

I’ve been personally doing 400m and 100 yard repeats for the last 8 weeks or so.  I’ll run either an 400m or 100 yard sprint at about 85-90% speed then rest for about 2-3 mins and repeat for anywhere from 5-8 rounds.  To really push it, I’ll time myself and make sure I hit that time or below each round.

I haven’t seen any loss in strength or size nor have any of my clients.

The best and worst cardio endurance runs are by far the 400m repeats….  Usually for me, it’s about 75 secs of pure hell!  You could of course run these at 100% but you would only have enough in ya for one or maybe two after a 10-15 min break!

For these “repeat” sets, you want to have incomplete rest but just enough to where you can continue to push hard.  Usually 2-3 mins of rest is enough.

As far as reps go, if you’re doing 800m – 400m, usually anywhere from 4-8 rounds is enough.  Depending on your fitness level, 4 x 90% – 800m runs will wipe you out!

Now the question is, WHEN should you be doing this type of training??

Here’s where you can fit in endurance cardio….

  1. Before your Strength Training – I will many times perform my repeat sets of 100 yard sprints or 400m runs early in the AM, before my strength session.  These training session usually only last about 30 mins so if you can get up in the AM early, you can fit it in and get it done and over with.  I would say this is for more ADVANCED guys that already have a solid cardio and anaerobic base.
  2. During your Strength Session – If you’re familiar with Crossfit at all, you would know there are many workouts that involve running a 400m, maybe even 800m run, or even fast 100 yard sprint while being paired up with some heavy lifting.  This will CRUSH you endurance wise but, you will still be able to sustain strength and build muscle while doing this.  You have to acclimate yourself to this type of training first but, trust me, it works!  Again, this is for ADVANCED guys.
  3. After your Strength Session – I rarely do this but, if you’re short on time, you can still fit in your endurance cardio after a strength session.  I would recommend you keep it short and sweet and try to get it in right after your strength session so you give yourself more time to rest when you’re done.  This is probably the worst time to do it but if your schedule only allows for this, then so be it, you’ll be fine.
  4. ***On separate days from Strength Training***- I would say that for mostly guys, this is the IDEAL way to go for adding in longer endurance type cardio.  This gives your body a chance to rest and you can strategically schedule these sessions in around lower body and upper body days.   I like to get these days in when I know my next strength session is an upper body dominated session OR rest day.  These longer sprints will tear your legs up pretty good, especially when you first start so you’ll want to keep rest and recovery in mind while adding them in.

Other things to consider…

  • Like I mentioned before, you’ll want to build yourself up to the longer distances.  If you don’t currently sprint, start with 20, 30, even 40 yard sprint starts and build up from there.
  • You want to stretch and foam roll like a mo’ fo’!!!  After your first time or even after you’ve grown accustomed to doing these sprint workouts, you’ll want to stretch and foam roll like crazy after and even before any training session.  You should already be doing this anyways…  😉
  • Finally, if you truly want to get SHREDDED, build more STRENGTH, and gain MUSCLE while building up more ENDURANCE, you’ve got to eat right!  I would first recommend following a Paleo-Like Diet while cutting back 99.9% of your sugars and processed foods.  This will help you get on track while getting healthier.  Just keep it LEAN and CLEAN and you’ll see results!

So, here’s a sample very basic template of what a typical weekly plan may look like that you could start implementing into your program that will help you start building up more endurance cardio while still building more strength and muscle!

Day 1 – Full Body Strength

Deadlifts, Push Ups, Pull Ups, Kettlebell Swings, Farmer Walks

Day 2 – Cardio Endurance

5 x 400m Run at 85% OR 8 x 100m sprints @ 85-90% w/ 2-3 mins rest

Day 3 – OFF

Day 4 Upper Body Strength w/ Sprint Work

Overhead Press, recline rows or bent DB Rows, Weighted Dips, Cheat Curls, Core Work

40m Sprints 6-10 x 90-95%

Day 5 – OFF

Day 6 – Lower Body Strength

Front Squats, DB Walking Lunges, Single Leg RDL’s, Rotational Core Work

Day 7 – REST

As you progress over time, you can start building up your endurance cardio sessions to longer runs such 600m, 800m, longer hill runs (60+ yards), and 100 yard sprints at near maximum speed.

Also, as you become more advanced, you can begin to include endurance cardio on the same day as your strength training or even within it.

This is just a sample for the average guy starting out.  When you get more advanced, it gets more way more complex, creative, and fun!  😉

QUESTION FOR YOU – When Do YOU add in sprinting and cardio endurance work?  If not, WHY????

Live Aggressive and Get Strong! 

PS – If you want to get a system that put all of this together for you, CLICK THE LINK BELOW for more details.

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  • Tom

    Hey Travis pretty interesting post! I try to add in pretty intense cardio like hill sprinting every so often and definetly think it helps, especially ingetting shredded. I was wondering though if you could provide more information on stretching and foam rolling like what you do, why you do it etc. Would be interested in your opinion.

  • peter

    hey Travis,
    great blog. have been doing just that for a couple of weeks and feel great! i feel like i could jump over a house! i’m almost 50 btw. I think you will find the hardgainer to be an ectomorph not endo and they/we need to keep things short and EAT EAT EAT massive amounts of paleo style like you say . keep up the good work. really look forward to ur blogs

  • Markus

    Ectoderms are the men. We rule this lifting shix

    • forgedstrength

      ECTOMORPHS! LOL! Thanks for catching my error Markus! I had my mind on “ENDURANCE” hence the ENDOMORPH… I got her changed up though 😉 Thanks!

  • aizan

    Great post, Travis. I’m a hardgainer and have been avoiding andurance training for sometime. It works. I’ve gained some very hard earned mass but the thing is… My endurance sucks big time. So far, I’ve incorporated KB swings to deal with my lack of endurance. But I don’t think it’s sufficient, though. Do you think running 100 meter sprints would give me better endurance but would let me keep whatever mass I’ve gained? Would love to know what’s your take on this.

    • forgedstrength


      The best thing to do for you would be to EAT and EAT more.

      You can keep in your 100m sprints and be fine. I would just make sure you’re eating enough food in general.

      If you’re after more endurance than speed, the main thing to focus on would be to decrease your overall rest periods between sprints. And maybe incorporate 200, 400, maybe even 800m sprints.

      Bottom line, EAT and LIFT HEAVY to keep that mass brutha!

  • wim

    Hey Travis, great post. Do you maybay have a set/rep schema for the exercises on day 1, day 4 and day 6?
    Looks great! As always :-)

  • Jonah

    Hi Travis,
    Interesting post and i like this way of cardio based training.
    Im a rugby player and have been injured but am beggining to do alot more running ect in my sessions. I split my week up as such Monday- Uperbody hypertrophy(mainly chest), Tuesday- Your 100m 12min body weight session with a fewleg exercises after, weds – upperbody hypertrophy (mainly shoulders), thurs – Sprint session ( 10m up to 40m and some sled sprints, with full recovery as aiming to increase speed and power for rugby), Friday is upper body (mainly arms and back), And sat is sometimes some more legs if i feel alryt. I will also through in the odd rowing or spinning sessions after weights or if ive got some time as im tryin to cut down, ive lost around 11kg recently which is great as i am looking in better shape, also packing on some good muscle mass, thanks to your sugestions of bodyweight training and good conditioning advice.
    Keep it up,


    • Jonah

      also enjoy the picture on linford christie as i train in the same place that he does

      • Travis

        Jonah, that’s crazy man!

        Question, are you deadlifting ever?

        • Jonah

          yeah started doing deadlifts on tuesdays after conditioning seeing as my back is startin to get stronger i am more able to complete better compound exercises

  • Strahinja

    I do sprints but not as often as I should!
    Just did some INTENSE hill sprints, gotta push it HARD if you want to be in the game 😉

    • Travis

      That’s the TRUTH!

  • Eric

    Great post Travis,

    I did my (twenty) 40 yard sprints today as part if your 28 day muscle building experiment. Finished in about 18 minutes. It is amazing how my endurance and overal speed has improved since implementing sprinting into my workouts. I just wish I started doing them a long time ago!!

    • Travis

      Nice Eric!

      I hear that all the time!

      People shouldn’t be afraid to sprint! Athlete or not….

      Keep up the solid work man!

  • Mik

    Dude 400m repeats are brutal. Nothing like a few of those to make yourself mentally tough.

    Solid post…as always!

    • forgedstrength

      Thanks Mik!

  • Keith Berry

    I sincerely don’t know where to start….the exercises you do I can’t do…where do I start.Help!!

    • forgedstrength


      Just to let you know, I have something HUGE specifically for guys like you coming very soon!

      In the meantime, don’t sweat it too much! Just do what you can and regress the movements to your level.

      Hammer the basic bodyweight movements – push ups, pull ups, rows, squats, lunges, planks, ect…

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