What is muscular endurance? Muscular endurance is the ability to continue contracting a muscle, or group of muscles, against resistance, such as weights or body weight, over a period of time.
Increasing the performance of these muscles means they can continue to contract and work against these forces.
Greater muscular endurance allows a person to complete more repetitions of an exercise, for example, pushups or squats.
Benefits of muscular endurance training
According to the American Council of Exercise (ACE), the benefits of muscle endurance include:
- helping maintain good posture and stability for longer periods
- improving the aerobic capacity of muscles
- improving the ability to carry out daily functional activities, such as lifting heavy items
- increasing athletic performance in endurance-based sports
How to measure muscular endurance
Muscular endurance tests measure how many repetitions of a movement people can do before the muscles reach a state of fatigue and cannot continue the exercise.
Many tests focus on measuring upper and lower body muscle endurance by measuring how many pushups, squats, or situps people can achieve.
A person can work with fitness instructors to measure muscular endurance or record how many repetitions of a particular exercise they can perform before reaching the fatigue state.
How to improve endurance
To increase muscular endurance, ACE recommend a combination of lower and upper body exercises, with strengthening exercises to target the whole body.
Moderate resistance training, with short intervals in between for rest, creates short bursts of tension to build strength.
Circuit or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be a suitable way to combine cardio and strength training into one workout.
Unless a person’s fitness goals involve training for a particular endurance-based sport, training for muscular endurance alone may not be the most appropriate strategy.
The best exercise programs mix strength and muscular endurance training.
Some evidence also suggests that exercise programs that people find enjoyable may be more likely to generate long-term benefits, as they may be more likely to stick with them.
Training for muscular endurance
When training to improve muscular endurance, what matters most is not the type of exercise, but how people design their workout.
People should take into consideration the following when tailoring a workout to boost muscular endurance:
- the number of reps
- the weight or resistant force on the muscles
- the number of sets
- length or rest periods
According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, individuals training for muscular endurance should aim to complete three or more sets of 15 or more exercise reps with a load that is 50% or less of their one rep max (RM).
A person’s one rep max is the maximum load with which a person can complete one repetition of an exercise.
For example, a person may wish to use the leg press machine at the gym to build endurance in the legs.
If they have an RM of 300 pounds (lbs), they should aim to perform 2–4 sets of 15 or more reps with a load of 150lbs or less, with brief rest periods between sets.
As their muscular endurance for this exercise increases, they may wish to make the exercise more challenging by reducing rest times between sets, or increasing the reps per set, rather than increasing the load weight.
A person can apply the same principle of high rep and set volume, low–moderate load, and short rest periods to any exercise, such as bench presses, dumbbell curls, pushups, or squats.
People can choose exercises that suit their preferences and are challenging yet enjoyable enough to sustain training.