Imagine you're dangling off the edge of a cliff, holding on for dear life, and your fingers are slowly slipping. Your forearms are burning, but you grip tighter, counting down the seconds before your muscles give out. That's where training for muscular endurance benefits is important.
To be fair, that's an extreme example. It's more likely that you'll feel that forearm-burning and grip-slipping sensation when you're carrying a heavy bag of groceries up the stairs. By changing the way you lift weights and increasing repetitions, you can resist muscle fatigue and increase your muscular endurance.
How Muscular Endurance Training Works
When you train for muscular endurance, you're building up the muscle differently from when you train for strength, says Dr. Len Kravitz writing for the University of New Mexico. With muscular endurance, you're building up capillaries in the muscle, which help get more blood in and out as you exercise.
That's mostly why muscular endurance exercises give you better endurance. The increased blood flow helps bring nutrients into the muscle to keep it going. It also helps bring waste out of the muscle to promote recovery.L
Training for muscle strength and muscle endurance have different effects on your body. Getting better at muscular endurance exercises like push-ups and bodyweight squats can make you better at aerobic exercise. Training with higher repetitions can improve your fitness and your physique.
Muscular Endurance Spectrum
There are different levels of muscular endurance. In the realm of weightlifting, muscular endurance means performing 10 to 25 reps of an exercise. In the world of endurance sports, a marathon is an extreme example of muscular endurance.
The difference between performing 20 squats and running a marathon is vast, which is why muscular endurance is a spectrum. In this article, the focus will be one the weightlifting side of the spectrum, because that's more convenient to train and doesn't take nearly as long as running, rowing or swimming for long distances.
Training for Muscular Endurance
That's where muscle endurance training methods come in. With this type of training, you'll be lifting weights or doing bodyweight movements that are challenging but easy enough that you can do a lot of reps.
When you do a muscle endurance workout, aim for 20 to 30 repetitions per set per exercise, according to ACE Fitness. The higher you go, the more you're training for muscle endurance and the less you're training for strength. Do not work until fatigue to avoid adding muscle mass.
Read more: List of Muscular Endurance Exercises
Muscular Endurance Exercises List
You can use almost any weightlifting or challenging bodyweight exercise for muscular endurance training. As long as you can stay within the 20 to 30 repetition range the exercise will work. That means push-ups and pull-ups can work if you can do 10 or more. If you can't, then they're more of a strength exercise.
Cable machine, dumbbell, barbell and kettlebell exercises can also be used for muscular endurance. The bench press — which is on the Canada College list of exercises for muscular endurance — if you use an appropriate amount of weight, would be useful for building upper-body endurance. The squat or kettlebell swing would be useful for lower-body endurance.
Just make sure that you're using an appropriate exercise for the muscle that you want to work. For example, if you want to increase your leg muscle endurance, the bench press wouldn't help because it's primarily an upper-body exercise.
- Canada College: "Muscular Endurance: Beginner Example Program"
- Onnit: "Bodyweight Workout for Strength & Endurance"
- ACE Fitness: "How Many Reps Should You Be Doing"
- University of New Mexico: "Optimize Endurance Training"
- Physically Trained: Muscular Endurance and Strength
- American Sports Medicine Institute: Muscular Endurance and Balance