How to Build a Strong Aerobic Base


A strong and robust aerobic base, colloquially known as an ‘engine’, is the central component for athletic performance and general health. Contrary to popular belief, building an elite level aerobic base doesn’t require super intense efforts every day. Instead, we can build a strong foundation by ensuring that we have a consistent and strategic plan in place. This article will present some simple strategies to help you build your or your clients’ aerobic base. We’ll give examples for each strategy along the way. 

Repeatable Efforts

A key part of defining what a strong aerobic base is built from includes the ability to perform sustainable and repeatable workouts. This means being able to consistently maintain intensity and effort over repeated efforts, without a significant drop in pace or performance over time.

You should implement this principle as a training strategy into your plan. You might want to start by establishing a baseline by deciding a pace or effort level that you can maintain comfortably for around 15-20mins without being impacted by fatigue. Alternatively, take your 5km time/1km pace.

Sticking to that pace, carry out 10x1km efforts, or similar repeatable and manageable distances. The key here is that we are maintaining pace over the course of all efforts. From there, each workout you can increase the volume of work done at that pace, or increase the pace for the same number of efforts. The observable metrics here ensure that the session is trackable and progressable over time.

Being consistent with these workouts is key here. Try to perform them a few times per week to help your body adapt to training demands without being too overwhelming.

Low Complexity Movements

Ensuring that you focus on low-complexity movements which don’t require extensive skill or muscle endurance ensures that your or your clients’ progress isn’t bottlenecked or limited by technical proficiency or lack of endurance in a particular muscle.

For example, instead of choosing a complex lifting movement such as barbell snatches or muscle ups, choose cycling, brisk walking, swimming or rowing. Easy to perform, repeatable movement patterns that can be sustained over long durations.

In order to be able to sustain repeated efforts over time (weeks/months of a plan)e, incorporate a variety of these simple movements to prevent boredom through monotony or overuse injuries, whilst still focusing on improving aerobic capacity.

Finally, ensure that you maintain good form over time. It’s easy when carrying out a simple movement to get complacent with it and let your baseline standard form drop. When repeating the same thing lots over time, it’s easier to get injured from repeated stress on the same muscles, so ensuring a certain degree of efficiency by optimising form is always a good idea.

Cyclical Training Progression

Choosing a repetitive motion/exercise which you can easily adjust intensity and duration for is a good idea for practising cyclical training. 

To implement this training strategy, start long and slow, with your sessions focusing on building endurance by training at a slower pace for a longer period of time. From there, you can introduce higher intensity levels. 

You may want to build up the pace and intensity within a single session, increasing pace over the course of a 40 minute session in 5 minute blocks. 

Or you might want to gradually increase per session, by introducing bursts of speed for longer periods into each session.

Alternatively, you can just have days which are dedicated to short burst, high intensity training, and other days which are focused on longer, endurance based training.

Whichever style of cyclical training you incorporate into your strategy, it is important that you get enough rest to allow your body to adapt and improve. Implement some light activity for an active recovery day or take a day on the sofa for complete rest.


Building a strong aerobic base requires consistent effort over time. It is not something that can be built quickly. Implement the strategies outlined in this article, focusing on sustainable and repeatable efforts with low complexity movements and weaving in cyclical training progression, and you will find all your training benefiting from having a better aerobic baseline. To learn more training strategies, be sure to explore the PFCA level 3 pt course.