What is Muscular Endurance? How Can you Improve it?

The ability of a muscle or a group of muscle to repeatedly exert force against resistance is classified as muscular endurance.

No matter what sport or form of exercise you do, whether is exercise, running, swimming, or anything else, performing multiple repetitions is the key.

Once your muscles have to contract in a similar pattern more than one time, you are using muscular endurance [1]https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-muscular-endurance-3120360.

There are many factors that contribute to the endurance of your muscles.

Those include training, diet, strength, and fiber type.

Stronger and larger muscle can perform the same task under more load, more times than a weaker muscle.

A larger muscle also has more glycogen, the sugar that we use for energy.

That means that as you improve your muscular endurance, you will be able to sustain a series of contractions, or a work, for a longer period.

Factors to consider

As mentioned previously, there are several factors that can improve or reduce the endurance of your muscles.

The first one is muscle fiber or the type of fiber.

There are several types of fibers that make up your muscles.

Slow fibers, for example, do not generate as much force but are far more resistant to fatigue.

Fast, and fatigue-resistant fibers can generate more force, but cannot maintain that ability for as long as slow fibers.

Fast fibers generate the most force, but wear out the quickest.

Your muscles are composed of all types of fibers, and they are positioned in different parts of your body.

For example, the soleus, one of the muscles in your calf, has a high percentage of slow fibers.

Therefore, it is resistant to fatigue, which is why you can walk for long hours.

The muscles responsible for focusing the eye have a high percentage of fast fibers [2]https://facstaff.elon.edu/ehall/Assets/CD/files/endurance.htm.

And that is why it takes less than a second to focus the pupil.

Another factor is your diet.

Your diet should be low on sugars, but high on glycogen, the one sugar you actually need.

Glycogen is needed for both peak and sustained muscular effort.

Diet low in carbs makes it difficult to sustain muscular endurance.

That is why even bodybuilders consume a lot of carbs, so that they can perform better.

For an optimal muscular endurance, you need to consume fruits and vegetables, both of which deliver glycogen to your body.

Carbs after a workout help you recover faster and better.

Last, but not least, training for endurance is the most important aspect.

Training can promote muscular endurance, but only if you put in extra effort.

If you just lengthen your existing training session, you won’t do much.

Try to perform a workout on the next day off, but train with only 60% volume and intensity.

Why it is important and how to measure?

Muscular Endurance

With all the talk about muscular endurance, the question is why it is so important?

Well, for starters, endurance and strength are the two key components to physical fitness [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076176.

But also for a normal functioning and performing daily tasks.

Minimal levels of muscular fitness are needed in order to perform activities of daily living.

Optimal levels of muscular fitness can reduce the risk of developing low back problems and osteoporotic fractures.

There are a number of tests that are designed to measure muscular endurance.

Training for endurance

It depends what you want to improve with your training [4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4621419/.

Depending whether you like to improve muscular endurance, strength, speed, flexibility, or power, the training is different.

Improving muscular endurance

In order to improve pure muscular endurance, you need to repeatedly work and contract the same muscle groups you want to develop [5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562558/.

Best training for improving muscular endurance is circuit training that involves body weight exercises.

You can customize your circuit training and adapt it to a specific activity.

For example, basketball players do a lot of basketball chest passes.

Another way to improve muscular endurance is with weight room training, which involves loading the muscles with exercises like bench presses and leg extensions.

Strength

If your goal is to improve the strength of your muscles, you need to overload the specific muscle group with heavy weights.

Go as high as 80% of your maximum lift.

You need to perform repetitions at a slow speed.

Speed

There are two ways to improve the speed of your workout and endurance.

The first one is by sprint training.

This method tries to train muscle to act quickly and powerfully.

For this type of training, you need long periods of rest, so that your muscles can recover before the next workout.

One example is doing three sets of ten sprints.

And you can sprint for 10 seconds, and then recover for 60 seconds.

The workout is known as “work to rest ratio of one to six”.

The second way is to increase the strength of the muscle group, as more strength produces more power.

More power in the legs, for example, will produce more body speed.

More power in the arms, on the other hand, will give you more limb speed for striking actions.

Power

Increasing power can be done in a similar way as increasing strength [6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19620916.

Again, you need to overload specific muscle group, and again with heavy weights and low repetitions.

But the difference here is that you perform repetitions at a fast speed in order to improve explosive power.

Flexibility

If your goal is to improve flexibility, the muscles and the connective tissue must be held in or moved through a fully extended position.

Do this position for 10 to 15 seconds, and repeat each stretch several times.

Train every day at a time when your body’s temperature is raised.

Different types of training

  • Weightlifting improves your muscular endurance throughout your body when done consistently
  • Squats and lunges develop muscular endurance in the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes
  • Circuit training improves your cardiovascular endurance by alternating intense cardio activities with strength-training activities

Top Exercises

  • Best exercises for overall muscular endurance include climbing wall, plank, push ups, curl ups, bridge, leg raises, wall push-ups, arm hang, and wall sit
  • Best exercises for improving cardio muscular endurance include crisscrossing jumps, frog jumps, boxer bounces, run in place, high knee march, jumping rope, scissor steps, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers
  • Best exercises for improving power and muscular endurance are sit-ups, dips, push-ups, power kicks, shoulder presses, power lunges, vertical jumps, squat jumps, standing squats, and pull-ups

Tips how to improve muscular endurance

Now that we understand what muscular endurance is, and what workouts you need to improve it, let’s put some finishing touches there.

Here are some tips how to improve your endurance.

  • Get stronger, the stronger you are, the more you can lift
  • Move better. Many of the sports injuries happen because you are not moving properly while doing the exercise. Moving better will also help you expend less energy while working out
  • Systematically increase your workload, whether that includes length, distance, volume, or resistance. Doing the same thing over and over will yield no additional benefit, but progressive overload will help you do more
  • Vary resistance and effort, as it is good to go heavier on some days, and lighter on other days. This applies only if you train more frequently
  • Increase your training density and volume. Density refers to the amount of work you do in a given period of time, while volume is the amount of time you spend training
  • Last, but not least, make sure to take deload weeks. Do not overtrain, allow your body to recover between sessions
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