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Calisthenics Training for Muscular Endurance

author image Claire Lunardoni
Claire Lunardoni has written for LIVESTRONG.COM and eHow since 2009. She is an American College of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer and a fitness instructor who trains endurance athletes for IntEnd: Integrated Endurance in San Francisco. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in language studies from University of California in Santa Cruz.
Calisthenics Training for Muscular Endurance
A young woman is doing a push up. Photo Credit: SanyaSM/iStock/Getty Images

Muscular endurance training, unlike maximal strength training, involves lifting lighter weights for a longer period of time. Because calisthenics are exercises that use only your body weight as resistance, they are perfect exercises for muscular endurance training. If you are training for muscular endurance, end each set before you are completely exhausted. Leave several minutes between sets for your muscles to recover fully.

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Definition of Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is your muscles’ ability to contract repeatedly against resistance over time. Training muscular endurance usually involves lifting a light weight until you reach a time goal (a minute or more) or a target number of repetitions (more than 20). An athlete’s muscular endurance determines how quickly his body tires during high-intensity efforts such as a track and field sprint, a boxing round or a volleyball rally. If an exercise (such as pull-ups) is too challenging and you cannot do more than 15 repetitions, then that exercise builds strength instead of muscular endurance. Once you have developed the strength to do many repetitions in a row, the exercise becomes a muscular endurance activity. An athlete has to build strength before muscular endurance.

Calisthenics Exercises

If you took physical education classes in school, then you are probably already familiar with many strengthening calisthenics exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, squats, lunges and crunches. These are all exercises that develop your muscles using only the weight of your body as resistance. Body weight exercises associated with cardiovascular exercise such as jumping jacks, jumping rope and jogging in place build muscular endurance, too.

Performance Advantage

Muscular endurance training through calisthenics can improve performance in nearly every sport. In fast-paced power-based sports such as martial arts or tennis, improved muscular endurance means your last kick or swing is just as powerful as your first. In sports such as skiing or speed skating where an athlete’s muscles begin to burn before the end of the race, long sets of squats or lunges increase lactic acid tolerance so that the racer’s muscles don’t jelly from the lactic acid buildup before the end of the race.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Even sports such as marathons that never require maximum bursts of power or significant lactic acid buildup can benefit from calisthenics training. Muscular endurance training increases the density of the capillaries that deliver blood to the muscles, improving the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients. Lower-body exercises such as squats and calf raises improve blood flow to a marathoner’s running muscles, allowing him to run faster at the same perceived effort. Explosive body weight exercises also improve the power of a runners stride, launching him farther with each step.

Neuromuscular Benefits

Calisthenics also improve a muscle’s economy (the amount of work a muscle can do at a given effort) by improving the brain’s communication with the muscle. Strengthening exercises (lower repetitions of advanced movements, like burpees) teach the nerves that control muscles to fire more quickly, to recruit more muscle fibers for the job and to synchronize the movement of different muscles. All these factors improve economy, making movements more powerful and precise.

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