Building strength, stamina, and endurance is not easy. I mean, for someone like me with a neurodegenerative disease or a movement disorder, there can be some challenges.

I definitely have had some challenges around endurance, but that’s mostly due to motivation and maybe self-efficacy. The best thing to do I’ve found is to take things slow.

In this post, I’ll talk about ways to build strength, stamina, endurance, and self-efficacy that I hope will help you with your routine.


Strength is a measure of the maximum amount of weight that can be resisted by any muscle or muscle group. By resisted, I mean pushed, pulled, turned, lifted, or held.

The standard way to measure strength is by knowing your repetition maximum or 1RM.

While 1RM is a very useful tool, it does have limitations. Measuring your 1RM is not simply a matter of grabbing the biggest weight performing a rep. By definition, you will be stressing this muscle to its maximum and placing yourself at risk of an injury if you don’t do it correctly.

You need to prepare to do it properly.

Before measuring your 1RM, you need to perform a few warm-up sets of the exercise to get the muscle ready. A warmed-up muscle is far less likely to be injured. The warm-up may seem time-consuming, but it is essential.

Also, allow twenty-four hours of rest time for a muscle before performing a 1RM test.

Finally: Always use a spotter. Even with a proper warm-up, the risk of injury is high because of the heavy weight you are potentially using. A spotter is essential in helping you avoid injury.

There are also submaximal testing methods that can be used to approximate 1RM. These can be safer methods to use but may not be as accurate.

Muscle Strength and How to Measure It

I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention coordination. As someone with a movement disorder who trains regularly, I fully understand the role coordination plays in one’s overall strength. Sometimes it can be frustrating. A weight may be easy for me to lift, but given my lack of coordination, may be more challenging.

Strength simply isn’t a straight-forward thing. Especially if you have a neurological condition. In the ideal situation, your brain communicates with a given muscle fiber via axons and motor neurons. If any link in this neural connective chain is weak (as it well may be with Ataxia, PD, MS, HD or ALS), strength will be negatively affected.

There are lots of ways to build strength. Weight training is great, but I don’t see how heavy weight training would be helpful in the long-term to people in movement disorder situations. I prefer to adopt a more fluid mobility or functional movement training plan. We need to be moving our whole bodies (if possible) instead of isolating muscles or muscle groups.

I have just started a great program using the Functional Strength Workout on the Essentials of Strength Training DVD. Get it at your local library or buy it through this link. I would suggest buying one of the used ones. A brand new one will cost you $95.


Stamina is a measurement of the time that a muscle or group of muscles can perform at maximum capacity. While you may be stronger than a friend and able to curl 50lbs once, they may be able to curl 40lbs for 10 reps. Hence, they have greater stamina.

There are a few principles to keep in mind if you want to improve your stamina:

  • Combine strength days with cardio days
  • Reduce rest between sets
  • Compound movements (movements that use multiple muscle groups instead of one: barbell press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, dip, leg press)
  • Change up your routine so you don’t develop overuse
  • Combine separate movements (eg./ a squat with an overhead raise)
  • Add explosive movements (eg./ plyometrics)

Source: 7 Ways to Boost Your Endurance and Stamina


Similar to stamina, endurance is measured over time. Unlike stamina, endurance is not concerned with maximum capacity as much as maximum time. Endurance athletes might include long-distance runners, biking, martial arts and a host of others. The endurance athlete is less concerned with speed and more concerned with going the distance. However, stamina may play an important role in their training.

To build muscular endurance (or the ability of your muscles not to quit),  there are two methods you could adopt depending on your goals.

If you are concerned with building endurance for your weight/strength training workouts, read this:

You can use almost any weightlifting or challenging bodyweight exercise for muscular endurance training. As long as you can stay within the 10-25 repetition range the exercise will work. That means push-ups and pull-ups can work if you can do 10 or more. If you can’t, then they’re more of a strength exercise. Cable machine, dumbbell, barbell and kettlebell exercises can also be used for muscular endurance. The bench press, if you use an appropriate amount of weight, would be useful for building upper-body endurance. The squat or kettlebell swing would be useful for lower-body endurance. Just make sure that you’re using an appropriate exercise for the muscle that you want to work. For example, if you want to increase your leg muscle endurance, the bench press wouldn’t help because it’s primarily an upper-body exercise.

Source: Muscular Endurance Training

If you want to improve your endurance for more cardio-based applications like running, biking, martial arts, etc., look at this:

Endurance allows people to work out at a certain intensity or for an extended amount of time (hello, marathon!). There are a number of factors that combine to create an athlete’s “endurance profile,” and two of the most important are VO2 max and lactate threshold. VO2 max, or the maximum rate at which an athlete’s body can consume oxygen during exercise, is the most popular measurement of aerboic capacity (although it’s unclear if it’s necessarily the most accurate). Although endurance ability is mostly a matter of genetics, maximal oxygen uptake can be improved with targeted training. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts have been shown to to do the trick, increasing athletes’ VO2 max. Another piece of the endurance puzzle is the athlete’s lactate threshold,or the level of exertion at which lactate accumulates in the muscles. Luckily, it’s possible for virtually any athlete to improve both of these measures. To improve lactate threshold—and therefore the ability to workout harder for longer periods of time—Greatist Expert Noam Tamir says tempo runs may do the trick. Endurance athletes often have a higher proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which power steady-state activities like running by using oxygen efficiently to generate more energy. Running long can train slow-twitch muscles to fuel such workouts more efficiently and to fight fatigue more effectively. A continuous practice of long-distance running can also help convert fast-twitch muscles to slow-twitch muscles, which will enhance endurance.

Source: What’s The Best Way To Build Endurance?


There’s another more psychological component to strength, stamina and endurance that needs to be addressed – self-efficacy.

This is a common issue among people new to exercise or people who haven’t done any fitness program for a long time. Those with neurological disorders may often suffer from a lack of motivation or even apathy that may affect their stamina, endurance or how often they work out (which should be every day).

Self-efficacy (first discovered by Dr. Albert Bandura) is basically the belief one has about their ability to do something. In this case, a specific exercise or exercise program.

Dr. Bandura identified 4 major contributors to building self-efficacy. We can use these to adopt new habits that will help us reach our goals:

  1. Social modeling – If you see or know other who have accomplished goals, rehabbed injuries, or become comfortable in the gym, you’ll become more confident that you too can succeed. TIP: Get to know people at your gym or find people through social media that have overcome what you want to overcome.
  2.  Social persuasion – This comes in the form of verbal encouragement. TIP: Workout with a friend. If you don’t have one, be your own cheerleader (you might get some funny looks, but it doesn’t matter).
  3. Psychological responses – Elevated mood and lowered stress before a workout can help lessen negative psychological responses that interfere with developing self-efficacy. Understand that your perception and interpretation of your emotional and physical reactions before and after an exercise affect your self-efficacy. TIP: If you stumble or fail, don’t dwell on it.
  4. Mastery experiences – When you succeed, self-efficacy increases. If you are new to working out, it is important to start at the proper stage of progression – exercise should be challenging, but not impossible. TIP: Give yourself more opportunities to succeed. Pick exercises that are just outside your comfort zone.

Source: Ignite The Fire


I hope you got a lot out of this post. I tried to put in all the stuff I’ve learned in the past few years. Please share if you found it helpful. If you want to be notified of future blog posts, subscribe to the mailing list.

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