People are always talking about muscle strength and muscle flexibility but forget to talk about another important aspect related to muscles, which is muscle endurance. Muscle endurance is just as important as muscle strength and muscle flexibility. Some people also continuously mistake muscle strength for muscle endurance and vice versa. Just like there are exercises to build strength and improve muscle flexibility, there are also muscle endurance exercises that help build the endurance of a person’s muscles. In this article, we shall look at what muscle endurance is, how to test your muscle endurance, ways to improve your muscles, and the different muscular endurance exercises you can do to improve your body.
What is Muscle Endurance?
The term endurance means different things to different people. If you are a runner, endurance is the ability to run for a very long time without getting tired or resting. In case you are a weight lifter, it is the ability to lift weights for many repetitions. If you are an athlete, it is the ability to get through an entire practice session or a match without needing to rest or getting tired. That helps create a picture of what muscle endurance is. The common factor in all those variations is the longevity of either running, lifting weights, or going through an entire practice or game (3).
Muscle endurance is the ability of a given muscle to exert force consistently and repetitively over some time (8). It can also be defined as the number of times you can move a certain weight without getting exhausted. It is the capability to exert and maintain muscular force or tension for an extended period (1). This means that the more reps of an exercise you can do without getting fatigued, or the longer you can run, the higher your muscle endurance.
Developing muscle endurance pretty much means improving the stamina of your muscles (4). This comes with numerous benefits not only in your fitness life but also in your day to day life. For you to develop your muscle endurance, you need to take part in activities that work all your muscles at least two times a week. A good way for one to develop muscle endurance is through resistance training. Resistance training exercises are mostly used to build muscles and strength. It develops muscular endurance by targeting the ability of a muscle or a group of muscles to contract over a long time repeatedly.
Although muscle endurance is not something you commonly hear around, some people can attest to the wonders associated with it. People who want to avoid that big bulky look that comes with strength training but still want to keep their muscles lean, flexible, and with the ability to move through their full range of motion focus more on building endurance than strength.
Types of Muscle Endurance
There are two different types of muscle endurance, and they all depend on the type of exercises you are doing. The first type is associated with strength training exercises, which are the most common (9). When it comes to muscle endurance concerning strength training, it refers to the number of repetitions you can do of an exercise. Since muscle endurance is all about how long you can do the exercise and not how much weight you can lift, as it would have been the case with muscle strength. Besides, muscle endurance is usually performed in low intensities (9). This type of endurance is associated with exercises like planks, squats, lunges, and pull-ups.
The second type of muscle endurance, which is associated with cardiovascular exercises, is called cardiovascular endurance (2). We can all guess where it got its name from. It is also known as cardiorespiratory endurance. This type of endurance refers to the ability of your cardiovascular system, which includes your heart, blood vessels, lungs, and airways, to keep your body active for a long period. To make it a bit clearer, when you are doing different aerobic exercises, your body uses oxygen to supply all the muscles that are being used with the needed energy. Depending on how conditioned you are, you can do the exercise for hours. This is what cardiovascular endurance is.
Now, since we know the two different types of endurance, people are always trying to figure out which is more important between the two. The answer to this question is that neither is better than the other since having both types of endurance will help promote good health (2). To make this clearer, let’s use jogging as an example. For you to jog for a long time, you’ll need to have cardiovascular endurance. This makes sure that your body works to make sure the muscles that are being used contain all the necessary energy.
In addition to needing cardiovascular endurance, you will also need muscular endurance. Muscular endurance helps by ensuring that the muscles in the legs and all the others don’t give out, then you are unable to continue running. Hence if you only have cardiovascular endurance, you will have all the required energy, but your muscles won’t be able to hold on for long. If you only have muscular endurance, your muscles will be able to hold on for long, but your body won’t be able to supply them with the required energy. We use both these types of endurance in our day to day activities.
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Testing Your Muscle Endurance
It is important to test your muscle endurance before you start any strength training exercise. This helps you know the right intensity of exercises you should be doing (3). You don’t want to do too little or too much.
Muscle endurance can be measured in different ways, depending on the activity involved. Here are the different ways you can test your muscle endurance:
Fixed Percentage of a Person’s Body Weight Method (7)
This is one of the ways where you can measure your endurance. What it does is that it takes your body weight and makes you perform a certain workout for the maximum number of repetitions at a weight that represents a certain percentage of your total body weight. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you can perform a leg press at, let’s say, 30% of your total weight, which is around 54 pounds for as many repetitions as you can possibly do. This method of testing one’s muscular endurance is used to measure improvement over some time.
Fixed Percentage of One Rep Max (7)
When it comes to this method, what it does is takes the maximum amount of weight that you can move for a single full rep and then calculates the resistance level for endurance testing. Mostly it is usually 70% of your one-rep max.
Absolute Muscle Endurance Test (7)
This method of measuring muscle endurance is mostly used in the army or police academy. Absolute muscle endurance test involves having a person move a fixed load for a certain amount of repetitions during a fixed time. The only fault with this method is that it does not take into account one’s body weight.
Calisthenics Type Exercises (7)
An example of workouts in the calisthenics group include pull-ups, push-ups, and more. This test is functional and measures a person’s muscular endurance concerning their very own body weight. It involves doing as many of these exercises in a given period.
Those are some of the ways you can measure your muscular endurance. With that said, let’s find out which exercises can help you improve your muscle endurance.
Muscular Endurance Exercises
When it comes to muscular endurance exercises, you will find upper body muscular endurance exercises, lower body muscular endurance exercises, muscular endurance exercises for your legs and other parts of your body, and so on.
In this read, we shall highlight muscular endurance exercises you can do right at the common of your house since most of them are bodyweight exercises and require no equipment neither do they require you to enroll in the gym. Here is the muscular endurance exercises list (6):
How they are done:
- First, kneel on a mat.
- Then, place your elbows on the mat.
- Extend your right leg back, then your left leg.
- Keep your neck, back, and hips in the same line. Keep your core engaged.
- Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds.
- You should do 3 sets of 30-60 seconds hold.
How they are done:
- Start by lying down on your back. Make sure you are on a flat surface. Then bend your legs at your knees and make sure your feet are firmly flat on the ground. You should bring your heels close to your bottom so that you can create a 90-degree angle at the knee area.
- Now, take your hands and place them behind your head. You can choose to put them there or cross them on your chest. This is the initial starting position.
- Raise your body until it is no longer on the floor, and your chest is close to your thighs. Exhale as you raise your body upwards.
- Gently lower yourself back to the original starting position as you inhale.
- If you are new to the sit-up, you should try to do 10 reps at a time.
How they are done:
- First, start by kneeling on your yoga mat. Then bring your feet together right behind you.
- Bend forward and bring yourself to a high plank position. Make sure your palms are flat on the yoga mat. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and you can try to turn your fingers forward, or you can slightly turn your hand towards the inside. Your shoulders should be on top of your hands, and make sure your feet are together behind you. Your back should be as flat as possible.
- The next step is to lower your body towards the ground. Make sure to have your head aligned to your spine while you are doing this and your back doesn’t sag down. Another thing you should pay close attention to is the position of your hips; make sure they are not higher than they should be.
- Lower your body until your chest almost touches the ground. Hold that position for about a second or more.
- Then raise your body using your hands to the initial position by fully extending your hands.
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How they are done:
- First, stand with your feet wide apart. Make sure your legs are as straight and parallel to each other as they can be. To make it easier, you can turn your feet slightly outwards, not more than fifteen degrees.
- Then with your arms straight out, lower yourself. While lowering yourself, you should make sure your knees are well bent, your bottom is pointing outwards, and you are leaning forward at your waist. A position is almost similar to the one you make while seated.
- You should lower yourself until your hips are parallel to the floor, then return to the original starting position.
- You should do 20 reps of 3 sets. While doing squats, it is important to always look ahead and try as much as possible to align your knees to your ankles.
How they are done:
- First, lie down on the ground with your back. Bend your knees and make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
- Hold your hands behind your head. Make sure you hold them loosely to not pull on your neck when you move. Too tight, and it might cause an injury.
- Gently raise your shoulders upwards from the floor to about a 30-degree angle.
- Hold that position for about one second. You should feel your abdominal muscles being engaged.
- Lower yourself to the original position.
- If you are new to crunches, you can try 3 sets of 15 reps.
How they are done:
- Begin by standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees and place your hands on the floor. Let’s call this the “frog” position for clarity.
- Jump and push both your legs back and get into a plank or push-up position.
- Hop and get back to the “frog” position.
- Jump vertically and extend your hands above your head.
- Land softly on the floor.
- Get into the frog position again, then go back to the plank position.
- You should do 3 sets of 8 reps while taking a 10-second break between the sets.
The Bottom Line
The different muscular endurance exercises highlighted above are important as they enable one to achieve muscle endurance. We’ve chosen those exercises since they are easy to do, cheap, can be done anywhere, and don’t require any equipment. If any of those were the reasons you weren’t working on your muscle endurance, then your problem is sorted. Muscle endurance helps increase one’s ability to do everyday activities, helps you stay healthy, and enables you to enjoy the different advantages associated with exercising as you will be getting the most out of most exercises (5). Before you attempt any of the exercises highlighted, it is important to consult an expert as they will give you the best advice to help you in your journey of building muscle endurance.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- How to Improve Flexibility and Muscular Endurance (n.d., fitday.com)
- How to improve your exercise endurance (2020, cnet.com)
- How to Measure and Improve Muscular Endurance (2020, verywellfit.com)
- List of Muscular Endurance Exercises (2019, livestrong.com)
- Muscular Strength and Endurance (2016, healthlinkbc.ca)
- The Top 5 Muscular Endurance Exercises (2017, healthline.com)
- What Is Muscular Endurance? (n.d., pecentral.org)
- What Is Muscular Endurance And How Do You Improve It? (2020, coachmag.co.uk)
- What Is Muscular Endurance? We Asked A Trainer (2020, womenshealthmag.com)