Whether you’re a CrossFit athlete, a recreational gym-goer, a cyclist, or a boxer, muscular endurance plays a huge role in determining how you perform and progress as an athlete.
Focusing on improving muscular endurance is the foundation of any strength or fitness program but is also not something to be overlooked in day-to-day life.
Muscular strength and endurance are two crucial parts of your body’s ability to move, lift, and perform a range of daily physical activities.
Muscular endurance is important for many reasons, such as:
- Increasing your ability to do activities like lifting items, chopping wood, opening doors, and commuting to work without becoming fatigued
- Reducing the risk of injuries
- Helping to maintain a healthy body weight
- Stronger muscles and bones
Though, there are additional benefits to working to improve your muscular endurance. This article explores this, as well as the difference between strength, endurance, and hypertrophy, and examples of exercises to help improve muscular endurance!
Muscular Endurance 101
Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of your muscle or muscle groups to withstand repeated contractions for an extended period.
In more simple terms, if your muscles need to contract in a similar pattern more than once, you are using muscular endurance. For example, multiple repetitions of exercise, such as weight training, cycling, swimming, or running, which are all forms of muscular endurance.
Improving muscular endurance can help enhance overall health and fitness, more specifically:
- Helping to maintain good posture and stability
- Improving the aerobic capacity of muscles
- Improving the ability to carry out functional activities
- Increasing athletic performance, particularly in endurance-based sports
Having good muscular endurance is especially important in sports such as running, wrestling, ice skating, rowing, and cross-country skiing. The most significant benefit of muscular endurance is the ability to maintain performance even during the most intense exercises and activities.
Muscular Strength Vs Muscular Endurance Vs Hypertrophy
You’re probably wondering how these benefits are different from muscular strength and hypertrophy.
While muscular endurance is essentially how LONG your muscles can perform, muscular strength is how HARD your muscles can perform.
It goes without saying that improving your muscular strength would complement your endurance, as the stronger your muscles, the easier and less work they must put in to go the distance.
These two fitness goals often go hand in hand, alongside hypertrophy training.
Hypertrophy is defined as an increase and growth of muscle cells, thus referring to an increase in muscular size through exercise.
These three are often intertwined, as when an athlete focuses on, for example, increasing muscular strength, muscle size, and muscular endurance would also increase and improve as a result.
So, let’s take a closer look at how we can improve muscular endurance!
How to Improve Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance can be improved by following a varied training program that incorporates multiple training styles, such as:
- Cardiovascular training
One of the most popular training methods in the fitness world and often considered the most effective for improving overall health and fitness.
Cardiovascular training may involve activities such as running, cycling, and rowing, which all help enhance your overall endurance.
- Resistance training
It’s often recommended to incorporate resistance training into your fitness regimen to help improve muscular endurance.
This means weight training with moderate to low weights and high repetitions.
- Circuit or HIIT training
A very popular choice these days, especially with the rise of CrossFit-style training. Circuit training usually involves low weights, high reps, and minimal rest to help improve muscular endurance.
Rep ranges are often a focus when looking to embark on a training program, as this appears to be an important factor in training for a specific goal.
Strength training should ideally focus on low reps with a heavy weight, while muscular endurance and hypertrophy training often focus on high repetitions with low-to-moderate weights.
Let’s look at some example exercises and workouts!
Muscular Endurance: Example Exercises
An effective exercise program that focuses on improving muscular endurance includes a varied selection of exercises that put to use one or two limbs or joints.
While this isn’t an easy feat, it is achievable for anyone who sets their mind to it and tailors a program to suit their training level.
Here are some example exercises that you could include in your exercise program:
- Back squats
- Shoulder press
- Bench press
You can also use any kind of equipment in the gym to add resistance to your movements, such as dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, exercise machines, resistance bands, and kettlebells.
Performing high repetitions with bodyweight or low-to-moderate weights would be a great start to improving muscular endurance.
Here is an example full-body workout:
- 5 sets of 15 reps of squats
- 5 sets of 15 reps on each leg of walking lunches
- 5 set of 15 reps of push-ups
- 5 sets of 20 reps of sit-ups
- 5 reps of plank, holding as long as possible for each rep
You can either use bodyweight or add light weights depending on your fitness levels and abilities. Rest for short periods (1-2 minutes) in between sets for maximal results.
Nutrition for Muscular Endurance
While there are no concrete nutrition guidelines for improving muscular endurance, there are general athlete guidelines for endurance, strength, and hypertrophy training.
These general guidelines advise:
- Adequate daily protein intake (at least 1.4g per kg of bodyweight)
- Consuming protein regularly throughout the day to help muscle growth and repair
- Adequate energy intake to support training demands
- Pre- and post-workout meals containing protein and carbohydrates to assist performance and recovery
- Drinking plenty of water to maintain hydration
- Consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods to support overall health and fitness
Whatever your fitness goal, ensuring your nutrition strategy is dialed in will make all the difference in the effectiveness and results of your training program.
Muscular Endurance: Final Take-Home
Endurance training refers to exercising to increase strength, endurance, speed, and stamina—the foundation of any fitness program.
Improving your muscular endurance has many advantages, such as building cardiorespiratory endurance, enhancing sporting performance, and improving the ability to complete everyday physical tasks and activities.
While muscular endurance is not strictly the same as strength and hypertrophy, the three are often intertwined in many training programs that focus on weight training.
Resistance training has many benefits, such as increased muscular endurance, increased strength, and increased muscle size, which overall results in better health and performance.
If you want to incorporate resistance training into your fitness routine, ensure you consult your doctor or a qualified personal trainer before doing so!