Muscular endurance refers to the ability of a given muscle to exert force, consistently and repetitively, over a chosen period of time. This plays a big role in almost every athletic endeavor. To better understand muscular endurance, think stamina.
This differs from what many consider to be the universal measurement of athletic ability: the one repetition max. The one repetition max is a common test for fitness professionals and athletes to use in order to assess one’s strength. According to the American Council on Exercise, the one repetition max test is not advisable for beginners because of safety issues, and the fact that they may not know where to start.
Muscular endurance comes into play regardless of age, profession, or experience. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to benefit from improving your body’s ability to be active. It affects how much energy you have throughout your day, how soundly you sleep, your overall health, and it can even affect your mood.
Muscular Endurance in Sports
An excellent example of muscular endurance in sports can be found in long distance running. An ultra marathon runner depends on their legs for miles and miles to get themself from the start of the race to the finish.
During the race, their body is undergoing the same movement and stride, over and over, requiring the body to have an advanced level of muscular endurance to avoid injury or extreme fatigue. Managing such a hard task is a great example of having impressive muscular endurance.
But a marathon is an extreme example of muscular endurance. For the average person, attaining a higher capacity of muscular endurance can be as simple as doing pushups until failure. In other words, doing one movement repetitively until you can’t perform it anymore with good form is a great way to improve your own muscular endurance.
Below are just a few examples of body weight exercises that require no equipment. There are a plethora of other exercises that will aid you in completely exhausting your desired muscle group.
How to Improve Your Own Muscular Endurance
You’ll find you make the greatest strides and get the most noticeable results from a daily, exercise-until-failure approach to working out, without working out the same muscle group two days in a row. Rest is as important as exercise for muscle development. Set aside 20 to 30 minutes a day in which you can take care of your workout. Remember a long workout (60 minutes or longer) is not necessary to get better results. It’s all about the intensity at which you are training.
It’s also important to realize and note that your muscular endurance and overall fitness level is something you can improve by developing simple habits that you do everyday to challenge yourself:
- Skip the elevator. Take the stairs. If you have two healthy and capable legs, use them!
- Walk to work if possible. If not, challenge yourself to walk to lunch instead of driving. Getting those extra steps in will add up over time. This habit is especially important if your line of work requires you to be behind a desk.
- Invest in a standing desk. Standing burns more calories than fat, improves your posture, and generally encourages a more conscious, active work environment.
- In your starting resting position, lay flat on your stomach (hips touching the ground) with your legs flat and upper body propped up by your forearms.
- Tighten and clench your lower back and shoulders to elevate your hips off the ground.
- Hold for as long as you can (aim for 30 to 45 second intervals) and then relax.
- That completes one repetition.
- Perform 5 sets of your longest hold possible.
- At the end of the 5th set, your arms should be quivering. This is a good indication that you’re pushing your limits.
2. Body Weight Squats
- Start by standing upright with your feet placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointed straight forward.
- Bend your legs and drop your bottom down to the height of your knees. Your legs should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.
- Drive your body weight through your heels and push yourself back upright, squeezing through your glutes on the way up.
- Maintain good form by keeping your chest out and shoulders back. Don’t let your torso become parallel with the ground.
- Perform 5 sets of 25 repetitions. Adjust this rep number if you feel you can do more at the end of each set.
- You can practice a variation on the traditional squat by widening your stance and pointing your toes outward. This move will target the inside of your thighs.
3. Walking Lunges
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- With your right leg, take a large step forward then drop your bottom down so that your back leg kisses the ground.
- Push your weight down through your front heel in order to stand back upright.
- Repeat the same motion with your left leg.
- Resist the urge to drop your torso. Keep your abdomen upright.
- Perform 5 sets of 30 lunges (15 on each leg, per set).
- Start in a resting position (just like performing a plank), laying flat on your stomach.
- Push yourself off of the ground into a plank position, holding your body up with your hands and toes.
- Lower yourself back downwards, letting your chest touch the ground.
- Promptly push your weight down through your palms and elevate your body back to a plank position.
- If this movement is too advanced for you, start with your weight on your knees.
- Perform 5 sets of 15 repetitions (adjust as needed).
- To keep your tailbone from rubbing uncomfortably on the ground, use a yoga mat when performing situps.
- Start by laying flat on your back, with your legs bent and your feet flat on the ground.
- Clench your stomach muscles to bring your torso up so that it’s flush with your thighs.
- Resist the urge to use momentum to bring your body up.
- Guide your body down in a controlled motion to maximize your muscle use.
- Perform 5 sets of 25 repetitions.