The 7 Most Popular Sports That Require Muscular Endurance

Many sports — like running — require muscular endurance in your upper and/or lower body to be able to do them.
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Many activities in daily life require muscular endurance, which is the ability of your muscles to repeatedly contract against resistance for an extended period of time.

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Most sports require it, too, along with muscular strength. Endurance events, such as long-distance running and cycling, are notable, but other sports also require muscular endurance. Improving your muscular endurance will help you fatigue less quickly so you can go the distance.

Read on to find out what the top sports with muscular endurance and fitness are (and how to build it) and which sports below require the least cardiovascular fitness.

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1. Running

Where Muscular Endurance Is Needed Most

  • Lower body

Whether you go out for a 30-minute jog or you run a marathon, running is a muscle endurance sport. With each step, your large lower body muscles, including your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes, must contract against the forces of gravity and your own body-weight.

If you run up hills, your muscles must withstand even more force, according to the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). The farther you run and the more hilly the terrain, the more muscular endurance is required.

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You can build muscular endurance for running by gradually running longer distances and adding hills into your workouts, per the ISSA. This will strengthen your heart and lungs which provide the oxygen your muscles need to repeatedly contract, as well as strengthen your muscles.

However, it's important to note that you shouldn't increase your mileage more than 10 percent each week, according the Mayo Clinic Health System. That means if you typically run 10 miles per week, increase by no more than 1 mile the next week.

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2. Cycling

Where Muscular Endurance Is Needed Most

  • Lower body

Cycling, especially over long distances, requires long-term energy and strength of your quads, hamstrings and glutes, according to USA Cycling, as well as your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Building up your mileage and varying your workouts to include hills gradually increases your muscular endurance, according to TrainingPeaks, a training platform for cyclists. This, in turn, increases the capability of your heart and lungs to provide vital oxygen to your muscles with minimum fatigue.

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Switch up your cycling distances and pacing to build endurance. Alternate between long cycling adventures and short ones to allow your body to recover between rides, according to USA Cycling. This helps you not only build endurance, but prevents injury.

3. Field Hockey

Where Muscular Endurance Is Needed Most

  • Upper body
  • Lower body

Another one of the most popular muscular endurance sports is field hockey, which requires strength and endurance in multiple muscle groups in your upper and lower body. If you play field hockey, you're expected to run, hit, swing and change directions quickly.

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This is not the type of muscular endurance necessary for running, in which your muscles must perform the same movement over and over again; rather, you need to be able to run, hit and swing for the length of a scrimmage or a 15-minute quarter.

In training, you can build endurance by doing practice drills that require longer and longer periods of intense activity. You can also perform lower weight, higher rep strength training, and do interval training to improve both muscular endurance and power, according to Sport Fitness Advisor, which offers evidence-based training plans for a variety of sports.

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4. Football

Where Muscular Endurance Is Needed Most

  • Upper body

Many people wonder: Is football aerobic or anaerobic? The answer: Football is an anaerobic sport, so it requires short and powerful bursts of power and periods of short recovery. This means athletes must have both muscular strength and endurance to resist fatigue, avoid injury and last longer in the game.

The constant pushing, blocking and jockeying for position in football requires you to have strong chest muscles. Football players use their chest muscles when blocking or pushing their opponent, and defensive players do the same when they try to get away or get off a block, according to fitness publication Barbend.com.

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In addition, defensive players also use their chest muscles heavily when they make tackles; not only do they push and grab, but defenders also wrap up the offensive player to tackle. The chest is also involved in the throwing motion of the quarterback and with ball carriers.

How to train for football and increase throwing strength: One type of training that football players can do to improve their muscular endurance is super-setting. Supersets are when you do two exercises back-to-back with little or no rest in between, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

When you're done with the exercises (counts as one set), rest for 1 to 2 minutes before starting another set. As your muscular strength and endurance improves, the amount of work increases and the recovery decreases.

Examples of muscular endurance exercises in a chest-focused superset can include bench presses and stability ball push-ups, according to the NASM. These moves will help build football muscle.

5. Rowing

Where Muscular Endurance Is Needed Most

  • Upper body
  • Lower body

The standard world championship race distance in rowing is 2,000 meters. Even though rowing is a sport that doesn't require running, most races — including the standard world championship race distance — are long enough that rowers require considerable muscular endurance in their chest, arms and legs.

Drives — the action involved when pulling the oar towards you — require repeated bouts of muscular power and cardiovascular and respiratory endurance to supply the oxygen necessary for generating that power.

To build your endurance and power, do a mix of long, slow endurance training, pace and tempo training and interval training, according to Sport Fitness Advisor.

6. Baseball

Where Muscular Endurance Is Needed Most

  • Upper body

What muscles are important for playing baseball? Baseball players need strength and endurance in their chest to complete the tasks of hitting and throwing the ball. The chest muscle is a supporting muscle, but it is involved in the overhand throwing motion in baseball, according to Physiopedia, an education platform for physiotherapists. The motion, especially for pitchers, is more endurance-related, but strength certainly helps a player throw the ball harder.

Your chest muscles are also involved in hitting a baseball, according to LYMBR stretch therapy, which has locations in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Chest strength is vital for hitters in baseball, because hitters must forcefully extend their arms to hit the ball hard and far. The chest is the largest muscle involved in the swing and, to an extent, chest muscle endurance is important during the swing — especially toward the end of a game or extended practice.

7. Swimming

Where Muscular Endurance Is Needed Most

  • Upper body

All swimming strokes involve your chest muscles, which help to extend your arms. Strokes like the freestyle and breaststroke are all fueled by your chest muscles, according to USA Triathlon. Strength in your chest is important to help an athlete swim faster, but chest muscle endurance is even more important.

Swim races can last 30 minutes or more at a time, so the strongest athlete might start out in front, but endurance becomes the key in order to win the race.

The Bottom Line

The list of sports that require muscular endurance is exhaustive. You can distinguish sports that require endurance from those that don't simply by the amount of time muscular contraction is taking place.

A golf swing, a single Olympic lift and a 40-meter sprint require strength and power, but little muscular endurance. Other sports that do require muscular endurance include wrestling, rock climbing, boxing, martial arts, figure skating, surfing, skiing and basketball.

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