Fitness and Muscular Endurance Concept. Confident black man holding skipping rope on neck isolated over yellow studio wall,

What is Muscular Endurance?

Is muscular endurance the same thing as muscular strength?

Not at all.

These two concepts may be related, but they aren’t the same. Muscular strength refers to how strong your muscles are, specifically how much force your muscles can exert. Muscular endurance essentially refers not to how powerful your muscles are, but how long they are able to perform certain activities over a period of time.

What Activities Requires Muscular Endurance?

Any time you perform an activity with repeated motions for a long period of time, that could be considered an activity that requires muscular endurance. Such activities include cycling, swimming, and long-distance running.

Do Genetics Play a Part in Endurance?

Your genes may play a part in determining your athletic ability, including your muscle endurance. It’s important to note, though, that experts have only associated a few specific genes with athletic performance, so genes alone cannot predict someone’s athletic performance.

How to Improve Endurance

There are actually two primary types of skeletal muscle fibers: type 1 muscle fibers and type 2 muscle fibers. Type 1 fibers are commonly known as “slow-twitch fibers,” and experts often associate them with endurance activities. Type 2 muscles are commonly known as “fast-twitch fibers.” These type 1 fibers fatigue more quickly than type 2 fibers do, which is why people most often associate fast-twitch fibers with high-intensity, quick-burst activities.

Muscles require energy to function, which we know as ATP. Oxygen significantly boosts ATP function through aerobic cellular respiration. In human beings, aerobic (with oxygen) metabolism (part of the respiration process) produces significantly more ATP than anaerobic (without oxygen) processes.

Importantly, slow-twitch fibers rely on aerobic respiration and fast-twitch fibers on anaerobic respiration. Therefore, training to promote greater oxygen capacity and processing in your slow-twitch muscles may lead to improved athletic performance, particularly endurance.

Exercises to Improve Muscular Endurance

There is no single “best” exercise to improve your muscular endurance, just the best workout routine that works for you.

Take it Slow

When it comes to endurance exercises, the key is to take everything slow. In other words, when you’re weight training, you can try building endurance by more slowly going through the motions. When doing bicep curls, for example, you slowly lift the weights up and then slowly lower them.

Decrease Weight and Increase Reps

If you’re weight training and want to build endurance, don’t reach for the heaviest weights on the rack. Instead, grab a lighter weight and add in more repetitions.

Get Moving

You can also start training for distance and endurance-related activities, like swimming, cycling, or running. Start at a level you are comfortable with before slowly increasing your distance goals.

Some people run with weighted vests to improve their endurance. However, it’s important to note that there is conflicting research about the usefulness of running with weighted vests. Before using such a device in your workouts, consult with a physician first and then ensure you use proper technique.

Plank Challenge

Planks are notoriously tough; the name of the game is endurance. After all, with planks, you must sustain muscle contractions for extended periods of time. When it comes to boosting endurance without fancy workout equipment, the plank is a good way to go.

Other Bodyweight Exercises

Of course, planks aren’t the only no-equipment-needed exercises that can boost endurance. Plenty of other bodyweight exercises can help here, too. Other types of bodyweight exercises include:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Glute bridges
  • Leg lifts
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Superman
  • Birddogs

Final Thoughts

When it comes to building muscular endurance, there are plenty of methods available. Which one works best for you depends on several factors, including pre-existing medical conditions and current activity level. When you start exercising, it’s always best to take it easy at first and not overextend yourself, as doing so could result in injury.

As always, it’s best to speak with your physician before tackling any new exercise regimen. Those who are completely new to exercising and want help with learning proper form and technique should consider hiring a licensed personal trainer.