This paper introduces a probabilistic graphical model for continuous action recognition with two novel components: substructure transition model and discriminative boundary model. The first component encodes the sparse and global temporal transition prior between action primitives in state-space model to handle the large spatial-temporal variations within an action class. The second component enforces the action duration constraint in a discriminative way to locate the transition boundaries between actions more accurately. The two components are integrated into a unified graphical structure to enable effective training and inference. Our comprehensive experimental results on both public and in-house datasets show that, with the capability to incorporate additional information that had not been explicitly or efficiently modeled by previous methods, our proposed algorithm achieved significantly improved performance for continuous action recognition.