Endurance Training: Benefits, Mechanics & Breathing Tips

Endurance Benefits, Mechanics & Breathing Techniques

Dr. Galpin emphasizes that endurance training is not just about losing fat or maintaining long-term health. He explains that endurance comes down to two independent factors: fatigue management and fueling.

To achieve a complete health spectrum, individuals need to be able to manage both fatigue and understand fuel storage, regardless of their fitness level.

When asked about nonobvious tools or mechanisms that can improve endurance, Dr. Galpin highlights the importance of proper mechanics. He states that the quickest way to improve endurance is to focus on breathing techniques, posture, and movement efficiency. Efficiency, he notes, will always trump force when it comes to endurance.

Dr. Galpin suggests nasal breathing as a “cheat code” for correcting breathing mechanics. He also stresses the importance of maintaining proper posture during endurance activities, such as cycling or running, to avoid hunching over and compromising breathing.

The conversation then shifts to Dr. Huberman’s personal experience with a 1-minute sprint on an assault bike.

Dr. Galpin critiqued his posture and pointed out that something “magic” happens around the 42-second mark, making the sprint feel easier. While the reasons behind this phenomenon remain unclear, Dr. Galpin emphasizes that strategic breathing patterns and approaches can help prevent over-breathing early on, which can lead to problems later in the workout.

Endurance Categories

According to Dr. Galpin, endurance is not just about being able to perform a specific task for an extended period.

It also includes having sustained energy throughout the day, the ability to repeat small efforts without fatigue, performing a tremendous amount of work for a short duration, maintaining proper posture and position, and covering maximum distances while still feeling good afterwards.

To better understand endurance, it is crucial to examine the underlying mechanisms of fatigue management and energy production.

Dr. Galpin explains that each functional capacity has different points of failure, and optimizing performance in each category requires identifying where the failure occurs.

Some aspects of endurance may be limited by fatigue management, while others may be hindered by energy production issues.

By delving into the processes of energy creation and fatigue handling, individuals can gain a better understanding of how to improve their endurance in specific areas.

Whether you’re looking to enhance your daily energy levels, improve your muscular endurance, increase your maximum anaerobic or aerobic capacity, maintain better posture, or cover longer distances with ease, understanding the intricacies of endurance is key to unlocking your full potential.

“Exercise Snacks”: Boosting Endurance and Cognitive Function in Just 20 Seconds

Dr. Galpin explained that while both steady-state cardio and HIIT have their benefits, incorporating exercise snacks can provide additional advantages. He cited a series of studies conducted in Canada that demonstrated the effectiveness of a 20-second, all-out effort performed multiple times a day.

In one study, office workers were asked to run up a flight of stairs (approximately 60 steps) three times a day, taking about 20 seconds each time. This intervention was performed three times a week for six weeks, totaling 18 sessions.

The results showed significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, specifically VO2 max, as well as cognitive benefits and increased work productivity.

Another study looked at the effects of exercise snacks following a high glycemic index meal. Researchers found that the same 20-second intervention improved postprandial glucose control, insulin levels, and other biological markers associated with the meal.

Dr. Galpin emphasized that the mode of exercise is not as important as the level of exertion. While the studies used stair climbing, other options such as jumping jacks, burpees, or sprinting can be just as effective.

The key is to perform the exercise at a high intensity for a short duration.

It’s important to note that the specific protocol used in the studies (20 seconds, every 4 hours, three times a day) is not a rigid requirement.

Dr. Galpin encouraged listeners to adapt the concept to their own schedules and abilities, emphasizing that even shorter durations or fewer repetitions can still provide benefits.

Incorporating exercise snacks into daily routines can be a convenient and effective way to improve endurance and cognitive function without the need for a gym or extensive time commitment.

Maximizing Anaerobic Capacity

When it comes to exercise choice, Dr. Galpin emphasizes the importance of selecting movements that you are comfortable with and confident in executing.

This is crucial because during high-intensity anaerobic training, your brain will quickly enter a “pain cave,” and you need to focus on your breathing, posture, and performance without worrying about the complexity of the movement.

Total body movements, such as using an assault bike, rowing machine, swimming, or running uphill, are generally favored over isolation exercises. These exercises minimize the risk of injury and allow you to concentrate on pushing your limits.

The number of sets, or “repeats,” per week depends on the duration of each all-out effort. For example, if you’re doing 30-second sprints, you might need to perform at least four rounds, three times a week.

However, if you’re engaging in longer efforts, such as a 1-minute sprint, one to three rounds, two to three times per week, might suffice.

Dr. Galpin suggests that a minimum of five to six minutes of all-out work per week can lead to significant improvements in anaerobic capacity. This could be achieved through various protocols, such as 30 seconds of all-out effort followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated four times, at least twice a week.

Alternatively, you could perform 20-second bursts with 40 seconds of rest, aiming for six to eight rounds.

Rest periods between rounds are crucial for recovery. Dr. Galpin recommends taking one to three minutes of rest before starting the next round, focusing on returning to nasal-only breathing. Once you’ve achieved this and given yourself an additional 30 seconds, you’re ready for the next round.

The “Sugarcane” Endurance Protocol

Dr. Andy Galpin shared a unique endurance protocol that he learned from Kenny Kane, a skilled trainer.

This protocol, which Andrew Huberman dubbed the “Sugarcane,” is a challenging game that you can play with yourself on any equipment, but be prepared to lose.

The protocol consists of three rounds, each separated by two minutes of rest. In the first round, you cover as much distance as possible in two minutes and note the distance covered. For example, let’s say you covered 400 meters.

In the second round, you aim to cover the exact same distance as you did in round one, regardless of how long it takes.

Due to fatigue from the first round, it may take you slightly longer, such as two minutes and 5 seconds or two minutes and 10 seconds.

The third round is where the real challenge begins.

You will now exercise for the same duration as you did in round two. If it took you two minutes and 5 seconds in the previous round, round three will also last two minutes and 5 seconds. The goal is to see if you can cover a greater distance than you did in round one, such as 405 or 410 meters.

The beauty of this protocol lies in its ability to keep you honest.

If you slack off in one round, you’ll make the next round even harder for yourself. Going out too hard in round one will leave you in trouble for round two, but going too easy will result in a brutal third round.

The “Sugarcane” protocol is a great way to standardize your endurance training and track your progress over time.

By selecting a specific distance or time and aiming to improve gradually each week, you can continually challenge yourself and monitor your fitness gains.

Breathing Techniques and Gear System for Optimizing Exercise Performance

Dr. Andy Galpin discuss the importance of breathing techniques and the use of a “gear system” to optimize exercise performance.

The gear system, credited to Brian Mackenzie and his company Shift Adapt, is a simple way to gauge the intensity of exercise based on breathing patterns.

Gear one involves breathing in and out through the nose at a set cadence, typically a two to three second inhale followed by a two to three second exhale.

This technique is beneficial for low-intensity activities like walking or hiking, as it helps maintain efficiency by preventing overbreathing and excessive carbohydrate utilization.

Gear two is characterized by nasal breathing at whatever rate is necessary to maintain the exercise intensity. While the breathing rate may increase, the mouth remains closed, and the individual shifts to burning more carbohydrates as a fuel source.

Gears three and four involve a combination of nose and mouth breathing or exclusively mouth breathing.

These gears are typically used during high-intensity exercises or competition when the nose alone cannot provide sufficient ventilation. Most people cannot maintain nasal breathing beyond 70-80% of their maximum effort.

The gear system is a practical alternative to heart rate zones, which can be less relevant or difficult to distinguish in open environments.

Dr. Galpin emphasizes the importance of being able to tolerate and respond to increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels during exercise, rather than reacting to them with panic.

The CO2 tolerance test, available on Brian Mackenzie’s website, can help individuals assess their sensitivity to CO2 levels.

Interestingly, out-of-the-blue panic attacks have been linked to rises in CO2 levels up to 45 minutes prior to the event. By becoming more attuned to these signals, individuals can improve their exercise performance and overall well-being.

Muscular Endurance: Fuel Sources, Training & Capillarization

Dr. Galpin explained that when training for muscular endurance, such as performing a high number of push-ups or sit-ups, the limiting factors are not the depletion of fat or glycogen stores.

Instead, the primary challenges are the buildup of acid in the muscle tissue and the ability to clear waste products efficiently.

Interestingly, the size of the muscle group being trained plays a role in the body’s response to waste buildup. Larger muscle groups, such as the quadriceps or glutes, can dump a significant amount of waste into the system, potentially leading to discomfort or even vomiting after intense leg workouts.

In contrast, smaller muscle groups, like the triceps, are more likely to be challenged locally without overwhelming the entire body.

To improve muscular endurance, Dr. Galpin highlighted the importance of increasing capillarization, the network of small blood vessels surrounding the muscles.

Capillaries slow down the diffusion rate of blood, allowing for the efficient exchange of nutrients and removal of waste products. By training close to failure and practicing often, individuals can stimulate an increase in blood flow to the local area, promoting the growth of new capillaries.

Dr. Huberman expressed his amazement at the body’s ability to adapt to specific demands, such as building more capillaries in response to repeated muscular endurance training.

Although the exact signals that trigger this adaptation remain unknown, it is speculated that factors such as acidity, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide may play a role.

Building Muscular Endurance: Exercise Choice, Order, Volume, and Frequency

When it comes to exercise choice, Dr. Galpin emphasizes the importance of precision. To improve muscular endurance in a specific movement pattern, one should focus on exercises that closely mimic that pattern.

For instance, if the goal is to increase the number of push-ups one can perform, the training should primarily involve push-ups.

The order of exercises is less critical when training for muscular endurance. However, Dr. Galpin suggests performing exercises that target larger muscle groups first, as they may induce some systemic fatigue that could slightly compromise performance in subsequent exercises.

In terms of volume and frequency, the load should be at or slightly above the target resistance level.

If the goal is to improve endurance at 50% of one’s one-rep max, training with 50-60% of that max is sufficient. Because the load is relatively light, muscular endurance training can be performed more frequently than hypertrophy-focused training, with three to four sessions per week being manageable.

Dr. Galpin provides an example of a training protocol for increasing push-up endurance from 25 to 30 reps.

One approach is to perform three sets of 17 push-ups, three days a week. Alternatively, one could perform a set to failure, recover, and then perform one or two sets at 80% of the maximum, twice a week.

It’s important to note that there is a crossover between hypertrophy and muscular endurance when performing more than 15 repetitions.

A common mistake is to use lighter weights and higher repetitions to avoid “bulking up,” but this approach still falls within the hypertrophy range.

For the typical person looking to improve overall fitness, Dr. Galpin and Huberman suggest incorporating muscular endurance training alongside other forms of exercise, such as resistance training, long-duration cardio, and high-intensity interval training.

A quick five-minute session of planks, wall sits, and push-ups to max duration can be added after interval training or on rest days without significantly impacting overall recovery.

To progress in muscular endurance, aim to add one or two repetitions per week.

If progress stalls, reduce the intensity to 80-85% of the maximum and focus on accumulating more practice, which will help with capillarization and acid buffering.

Anerobic Capacity: Fuel Sources, Training & Oxygen Utilization

Anaerobic capacity refers to the total amount of work an individual can perform for a short duration, typically lasting from seconds to a few minutes.

During this time, the body experiences high levels of fatigue due to the accumulation of acid and other byproducts in the muscles.

When engaging in anaerobic activities, such as sprinting the straightaways and walking the corners of a track, or performing Tabata-style workouts with 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest, the limiting factors for performance are not fat or carbohydrates.

Instead, the primary challenges are the buildup of acid and the depletion of muscle glycogen, especially during prolonged bouts.

As the duration of anaerobic exercise increases, such as in the case of professional fighters who engage in five-minute rounds with one-minute breaks in between, the body begins to rely more heavily on aerobic processes.

This shift occurs because the continuous buildup of byproducts requires an increased need for oxygen to clear carbon dioxide from the system.

To improve anaerobic capacity, specificity is key. Engaging in the exact activities that mirror the desired outcome is the most effective approach. However, when limitations arise, incorporating lower-intensity training can provide significant benefits.

Improving cardiovascular fitness through a combination of high, moderate, and low-intensity exercises is a proven strategy.

Dr. Galpin emphasizes that even professional fighters, who heavily rely on anaerobic capacity, should not solely focus on high-intensity training. Incorporating moderate-intensity workouts, often referred to as cardiac output training, which falls between zones two and four, is essential for optimal performance and adaptation.

The Versatility of Long Duration Endurance Training

Dr. Galpin suggested creating a circuit of various exercises that can be performed consecutively with minimal rest in between. This circuit can include exercises like farmers carries, planks, bodyweight squats, shadow boxing, jump rope, and gymnastics movements.

By rotating through these exercises, individuals can achieve the same endurance benefits without the monotony often associated with traditional endurance training.

Another alternative mentioned was utilizing gym equipment in a circuit format. For example, performing 10 minutes each on the rower, treadmill, and bike, resulting in a 30-minute steady-state session.

This approach adds variety to the workout and can be more engaging for those who find traditional endurance training tedious.

Dr. Galpin also shared a training method used with fighters, which involves using light loads (around 50% of max) on various exercises such as squats, bench press, and crab walks.

By cycling through these exercises with minimal rest, athletes can maintain a steady heart rate while performing 15 to 30 different movements.

This method is particularly beneficial for athletes like NFL players who may not be suited for prolonged running sessions.

The specific adaptation occurring during long duration endurance training is related to the fat-burning system. While this doesn’t necessarily equate to fat loss, it is an important aspect of overall endurance development.

Exploring Anaerobic Capacity and Training Progression

One key aspect of progression that Galpin highlighted was the concept of incrementally increasing the amount of work done in each training session. He suggested that athletes could aim to improve their work capacity by around 5% each week or by adding an extra round to their training protocol.

For example, a person might start with three rounds in the first week, then progress to four rounds in the second week, and continue adding rounds until they reach six to eight rounds by the end of the training cycle.

Galpin also discussed the significance of varying the duration of work intervals to target different aspects of anaerobic capacity. He encouraged individuals to incorporate shorter bursts, as low as 20 seconds, to challenge the phosphocreatine energy system.

On the other end of the spectrum, he recommended intervals lasting up to 90 seconds to focus on improving acid buffering and force production.

To illustrate these concepts, Galpin shared his personal training approach. He often incorporates 15 to 22-second high-intensity bursts followed by a rest period that is twice as long as the work interval.

This ensures that each burst is of the highest quality. Additionally, he includes 30 to 52-second intervals with a one-to-one work-to-rest ratio, which places a greater emphasis on the body’s ability to handle waste product accumulation.

Galpin also employs longer intervals, such as 60 to 70 seconds, with rest periods ranging from equal to the work time to three times as long.

These varied rest periods allow him to target different adaptations, such as improving nutrient delivery and the efficiency of the anaerobic energy system.

Aerobic Output: Training Protocols and Modifiable Variables

When it comes to training for maximum aerobic output, the goal is to push yourself to the highest intensity possible for a duration of 5 to 15 minutes.

At this level, the primary challenge is dealing with waste products, especially towards the end of the workout. While muscle glycogen and fat are not significant issues, oxygen transportation becomes increasingly important.

To train effectively for maximum aerobic output, consistency is key.

A classic test is the 1-mile run, which typically lasts between 5 and 10 minutes for most people. Practicing this once a week can be a great way to track progress and improve performance.

When choosing exercises for this type of training, it’s essential to select movements that you’re comfortable with and can progressively increase in intensity without interruption.

Continuous activities like running, cycling, or swimming are ideal, as they allow you to maintain a high level of effort without breaks.

For those looking to take their training to the next level, repeats can be incorporated. Endurance athletes often use 1-mile repeats or 800-meter repeats to push their limits.

However, it’s important to note that this type of training is highly demanding on the body and should be done no more than once or twice a week.

In addition to high-intensity work, it’s crucial to include lower-intensity support work, typically at less than 85% of your maximum heart rate but higher than a conversational pace.

This helps improve oxygen transportation and capitalization without overtaxing the body.

A simple way to measure progress is to set a fixed duration, such as 10 minutes, and aim to cover as much distance as possible within that time frame. Tracking your distance each week can provide valuable insights into your aerobic capacity improvements.

When incorporating both anaerobic capacity and maximum aerobic output training into your weekly routine, it’s best to perform them on separate days to avoid compromising recovery.

Combining these workouts with speed or power training is generally well-tolerated, but pairing them with strength or hypertrophy sessions may lead to suboptimal performance due to local muscular fatigue.

Secrets of Long Duration Endurance Training

Dr. Galpin emphasized that engaging in at least 20 to 30 minutes of steady-state exercise once a week is beneficial for most individuals, regardless of their training goals. He noted that there is substantial evidence supporting the effectiveness of this type of training for overall health and performance.

One crucial aspect of long duration endurance training that often goes overlooked is the fatigue of the intercostal muscles and diaphragm.

As the intensity increases and the heart rate reaches its maximum, both inhalation and exhalation become active processes, requiring the muscles to work harder.

To prevent fatigue in these muscles, Dr. Galpin suggested incorporating breathing drills and exercises that target the musculature around the lungs.

When it comes to the factors that limit performance in long duration endurance training, Dr. Galpin highlighted that posture and breathing mechanics are more likely to break down than other physiological factors such as acid buffering or glycogen depletion. He emphasized the importance of monitoring technical breakdown as a marker of fatigue and failure during training sessions.

To improve long duration endurance, Dr. Galpin recommended focusing on exercises that target the intercostals and diaphragm, in addition to the primary endurance training itself. He also stressed the significance of maintaining proper technique throughout the training session, as a massive technical breakdown is often an indicator that the individual has reached their limit.

Endurance Training Protocol for Longevity, Energy, and Aesthetics

Dr. Andrew Huberman and Dr. Andy Galpin discuss a comprehensive endurance training protocol that can help individuals achieve longevity, maintain high energy levels, and improve their overall aesthetics.

The first component of the protocol involves long-duration, low-intensity work, such as a 60 to 120-minute weight-vested hike or a similar activity without external load.

This type of training can be done in one long session or split into two shorter sessions throughout the week.

The goal is to maintain a level of intensity where you can still carry on a conversation but are breathing harder than usual.

The second component focuses on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which can be further divided into two categories: anaerobic capacity work and maximum aerobic output work.

Anaerobic capacity work involves short, intense bouts of exercise lasting 20 seconds to a minute, with rest periods in between. Maximum aerobic output work, on the other hand, involves slightly longer intervals, such as 10 minutes of running or sprinting on a bike or rower, performed once a week.

Lastly, the protocol includes muscular endurance work, which targets the ability to perform repetitive tasks for an extended period.

This type of training can be incorporated into the other components or done separately.

Dr. Galpin emphasizes that the combination of these different types of endurance training can provide all the necessary adaptations for achieving the primary goals of longevity, energy, and aesthetics.

By engaging in a little bit of each type of training, individuals can check the boxes for fat loss, mitochondrial enhancement, increased blood flow, oxygenation, and fatigue management.

Moreover, this comprehensive endurance training protocol is compatible with strength and hypertrophy training, allowing individuals to maintain or build muscle while improving their overall fitness.

The key is to strike a balance between the various types of training and to be consistent in their application.

Breathing Techniques and Gear System for Optimizing Exercise Performance

Dr. Andy Galpin discuss the importance of breathing techniques and the use of a “gear system” to optimize exercise performance.

The gear system, credited to Brian Mackenzie and his company Shift Adapt, is a simple way to gauge the intensity of exercise based on breathing patterns.

Gear one involves breathing in and out through the nose at a set cadence, typically a two to three second inhale followed by a two to three second exhale.

This technique is beneficial for low-intensity activities like walking or hiking, as it helps maintain efficiency by preventing overbreathing and excessive carbohydrate utilization.

Gear two is characterized by nasal breathing at whatever rate is necessary to maintain the exercise intensity. While the breathing rate may increase, the mouth remains closed, and the individual shifts to burning more carbohydrates as a fuel source.

Gears three and four involve a combination of nose and mouth breathing or exclusively mouth breathing.

These gears are typically used during high-intensity exercises or competition when the nose alone cannot provide sufficient ventilation. Most people cannot maintain nasal breathing beyond 70-80% of their maximum effort.

The gear system is a practical alternative to heart rate zones, which can be less relevant or difficult to distinguish in open environments.

Dr. Galpin emphasizes the importance of being able to tolerate and respond to increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels during exercise, rather than reacting to them with panic.

The CO2 tolerance test, available on Brian Mackenzie’s website, can help individuals assess their sensitivity to CO2 levels.

Interestingly, out-of-the-blue panic attacks have been linked to rises in CO2 levels up to 45 minutes prior to the event. By becoming more attuned to these signals, individuals can improve their exercise performance and overall well-being.

Tool: Mixed Endurance Training, Half Marathon Example

Dr. Galpin recommends that 60-70% of an individual’s training mileage should be at a moderate intensity, or what runners often refer to as “tempo” training.

This intensity level allows for the accumulation of necessary mileage while also developing tissue tolerance, which is crucial for handling the impact of a 13-mile race.

Additionally, training at this intensity (70-85% of maximum heart rate) effectively improves oxygen delivery, fat utilization, and capillarization.

The remaining 30-40% of training should be divided between high-intensity intervals and maximum speed work.

Dr. Galpin suggests dedicating 10% of this remaining training to 22-second bursts, which help to improve the body’s ability to recover from waste production. The rest of the training should focus on intervals lasting 5-15 minutes, with rest periods double the duration of the work intervals.

These longer intervals, such as 800-meter repeats, help to develop the ability to maintain a higher heart rate and recover effectively, which is essential for a 2-hour half marathon.

Dr. Galpin emphasizes that solely focusing on increasing mileage each week is a suboptimal strategy.

Instead, incorporating a mix of training intensities and durations is more effective for improving endurance performance.

When structuring a training program, he recommends splitting the high-intensity work into two days per week, with one day dedicated to the 22-second bursts and another day focused on the longer, high-intensity intervals.

The podcast also touched on the relationship between fat loss and exercise, with Dr. Galpin highlighting that the specific type of exercise is less important than meeting certain criteria, such as overall energy expenditure. He also discussed the connection between breathing and energy utilization, noting that we literally exhale fat to some extent during exercise.

In conclusion, the key to maximizing endurance performance for events like a half marathon is to incorporate a mix of training intensities and durations, with the majority of mileage at a moderate intensity and the remaining training split between short, high-intensity bursts and longer, high-intensity intervals.

By understanding the mechanisms behind these adaptations, athletes can create a more effective and personalized training program to achieve their goals.

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