Everything you need to know about Muscular Endurance

Everything you need to know about Muscular Endurance

Muscular strength and muscular endurance are often confused with each other, and it’s surprising as the terminology can be quite confusing.

In this post, we’ll clarify once and for all what muscular endurance is, how to improve it and what health benefits good muscular endurance can bring you.

What is muscular endurance?

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to generate force over a given period of time.

It’s that simple.

What is muscular endurance?

In other words, it is the ability to maintain muscle tension over time, which usually translates into a greater number of repetitions or longer isometric time performing a given exercise.

This physical quality, needless to say, is of crucial importance in most sports. Some of the most obvious are rowing, crossfit, calisthenics and cycling.

The difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance

  • Strength is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to generate tension against a resistance or load, whether or not there is movement.
  • On the other hand, and as we pointed out before, muscular endurance is the capacity to generate tension during a determined period of time (here the important factor is time).

While strength can be measured, for example, by the total load lifted in a back squat, muscular endurance would reflect the number of repetitions that this person can do with a given weight.

Strength vs resistance - Muscular Endurance

Of course, the greater the resistance to be overcome (and the greater the force to be exerted), the lower the muscular endurance (the less time we can generate that resistance).

Be careful with terminology because strength training is often referred to as “resistance training”, a “false friend” that can be misleading.

Benefits for your health

Strength and muscular endurance, although not equivalent, are closely related physical abilities.

The benefits attributable to muscle strength are also achieved by working on muscle endurance.

Heart

Improvement of the cardiovascular system is the first and most important benefit to mention.

Muscular endurance work (we explain how to train this capacity below):

  • Increases blood flow to your muscles;
  • Increases beta-oxidation of fatty acids throughout the body;
  • Improves vascular endothelium health; and
  • Has long-term anti-inflammatory effects.

A healthy and strong muscle

A healthy and strong muscle usually leads to a healthy and strong heart.

Want to find out more about the Benefits of Exercise for the Heart? Click here.

Metabolism

In the same way, muscular endurance work leads to very evident metabolic improvements.

Strength work is already included in the different clinical practice guidelines for mainly metabolic pathologies, such as type 2 diabetes.

One element that will improve almost immediately when you start working on muscular strength and endurance is insulin sensitivity, or the ease with which your cells respond to the action of the insulin hormone.

In diabetic patients, this type of training will improve their glycaemic control, glycated haemoglobin and blood glucose when fasting. It’s even possible that less medication may be needed over time.

Bones

Another silent pandemic that is little talked about is osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Although there are dietary and lifestyle habits that have a powerful influence on bone health (tobacco, alcohol, calcium, vitamin D), the greatest potential benefit for our bone is achieved by working on muscular strength and endurance in a sustainable way

This has been shown to increase bone mineral density and reduce the risk of fractures, as well as improve the functional capacity and quality of life of the elderly.

How do you do endurance training?

While muscular strength is worked on and improved with progressive overload, with repetitions ideally not exceeding 6-8, long rest times, and relatively high loads (60-90% of the RM), improving muscular endurance requires quite different requirements, which we could summarise as follows:

  • A higher repetition range, exceeding 8-10 repetitions.
  • Less rest time between sets. We want to train the muscle to work under fatigue, to quickly “wash out” waste metabolites and to perform with short rest periods.
The rest between sets should be no longer than 30 seconds.
  • Less loading, ideally under 60% over our RM for each exercise.

Push ups - Muscular Endurance

Otherwise, we’ll be focussing more on strength work than muscular endurance.

In terms of the choice of exercises for the training programme, the basis is formed by multi-joint exercises, as with maximal strength training.

Exercises to improve muscular endurance

With and without loads

Among the most recommended exercises we can find:

  • Squats: a basic exercise for working the quadriceps, hamstrings, core and glutes.
  • Deadlifts: ideal for working on overall strength, strengthening the entire posterior muscular chain.
  • Bench press: the quintessential upper body strength exercise, and one of the most loved by fitness enthusiasts.
  • Bench press: ideal to work on overall strength, strengthening the entire posterior muscle chain.
  • Floor push-ups: one of the best bodyweight exercises we can do for the upper body.
  • Pull-ups: an excellent calisthenic exercise to work our upper body muscles with an emphasis on the dorsal muscles.
Don’t skip on any in your routines!

Isometric work

This is a great workout to increase the so-called time under tension (TUT) muscle, a parameter directly related to muscular endurance.

Thus, holding 30-second windows of isometric work (squats, pull-ups, abdominal crunches) alternated with 30 seconds of rest is a great way to improve muscular endurance.

Routine

An accessible and effective routine to improve muscular endurance would be as follows:

We’ll do 4 laps of the circuit by stations, and we’ll work for 30 seconds at each station and rest for another 30 seconds between stations.

In total, the work out will hast 20 minutes (1 minute per station).

  • Station number 1: Air Squats, optionally holding a weight of between 10-20 kg.

  • Station number 2: Push-ups.

  • Station number 3: Pull-ups with alternating grip at each turn (supine/prone).

  • Station number 4: Push Press with dumbbells (choose the load according to your condition; recommended for men: 15+15kg and girls: 6+6kg).

  • Station number 5: Abdominal plank (you can alternate supports to generate a more complete workout).

Related Entries

  • Calisthenics: Introductory Guide available at this link.
  • We tell you everything about Diet in Endurance Sports. Read now.
  • Is it possible to reverse Type 2 Diabetes? We give you our answer.
Review of Muscular Endurance

Difference to Strength - 100%

Benefits - 100%

Recommendations - 100%

Suggested routine - 100%

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HSN Evaluation: 5 /5
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About Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera is a young doctor who focuses on nutrition, exercise and metabolism, he combines his professional activity with his vocational dissemination and research.
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