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5 Ways to Increase Muscular Endurance

author image Lauren Bedosky
Lauren Bedosky is a Minnesota-based health and fitness writer.
5 Ways to Increase Muscular Endurance
5 Ways to Increase Muscular Endurance Photo Credit: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages

If you move, exercise or play sports, you’re utilizing muscular endurance to some degree. Muscular endurance, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), refers to the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to repeatedly exert resistance. But while you already develop muscular endurance just by living, if you want to do more and/or go longer, you need to work for it. Whether you’re training for a sport or you just want to make it up a flight of stairs without getting winded, here are a few strategies to get you there.

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Read more: Define Strength, Power & Muscular Endurance

Strength Train with Higher Reps

If you want to build muscular endurance through strength training, the typical eight to 12 reps won’t do. Instead, stick with two to four sets of 10 to 25 reps as recommended by the ACSM. Use a weight that’s 40 to 60 percent of your one-repetition maximum. For example, if the most you can deadlift for a single rep is 150 pounds, choose a weight that’s 60 to 90 pounds.

Reduce Your Rest

While it’s tempting to check Twitter or answer a new text message after a set of squats, you need to keep an eye on the clock if your goal is to build muscular endurance. After performing your set of 10 to 25 reps, you should be ready to go 30 to 60 seconds later. By keeping reps high and rest low, you’ll increase your muscles’ ability to contract over long periods of time.

Head for the Hills

Find a hill to take your endurance training up a notch.
Find a hill to take your endurance training up a notch. Photo Credit: Kileman/iStock/GettyImages

Because you have to fight gravity the whole way, running or cycling up an incline will add an element of challenge to your endurance training workout, making your muscles better able to handle longer, faster distances on flat ground. To boost muscular endurance, aim for medium or long hills that take anywhere between 30 seconds and three minutes to get to the top. Jog or walk your bike back down to the bottom as a recovery. If you’re running on a treadmill, set your incline to a level that’s difficult but manageable. Run at a moderate-to-vigorous pace for 60 seconds (if using the talk test to gauge intensity, you should only be able to say one or two words at a time), followed by 90 seconds at an easy pace.

Read more: Benefits of Cycling on Hills

Do Frequent Aerobic Workouts

To increase muscular endurance, perform some form of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes three days per week at a minimum, though ideally you’ll be active five days per week. If you’d like to exercise more than five days per week, the University of Colorado Denver recommends choosing two or three different activities that use different muscles and movements to prevent chronic muscle and joint stress. Pick activities that you enjoy, and mix high-impact exercise like running with weight-supported options like cycling. Finally, keep in mind that the more muscles that are involved, the greater the challenge will be.

Be Sport-Specific

The best way to build up your muscular endurance if you’re runner is to run. If you’re a cyclist, cycle; if you’re a swimmer, swim. And if you’re training for team sports like soccer and rugby, running may be your option, though the University of Colorado Denver recommends adding in some swimming or cycling to ease the pounding on your joints. Keeping your activity specific to your sport of choice will ensure you build endurance in the muscles and movement patterns you need the most.

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