When looking to sculpt your body into the perfectly jacked frame of your dreams, you probably rarely think about training for muscular endurance.
You’ve likely heard muscular endurance training results in a slimmer physique and smaller muscle mass. While it’s true training for muscle endurance over a long period of time may not result in huge gains, improving muscular endurance can still be beneficial for marathon runners and weightlifters alike.
The main difference between your usual strength or physique-based training and a muscular endurance training program lies entirely in the structure of the program and the efficiency of the exercises.
So next time you’re wondering how many reps of deadlifts you should be doing in the gym, first figure out what you wish to achieve. If it’s insane muscular endurance that can last you hours in the gym with little to no fatigue, you’ve come to the right place.
Muscular endurance is just what it sounds like: the ability of a muscle to be used over and over for a long period of time. If you’re no stranger to the gym, you have likely heard the term before.
Achieving muscle endurance typically requires a program that differs greatly from the standard bodybuilding or powerlifting program. However, it’s not just weightlifters that can utilize muscular endurance to boost gym sessions. Many competitive sports also demand a high level of muscular endurance, such as running, swimming, cycling, and rowing.
While those who wish to get massive gains may stray far away from training for muscular endurance, occasionally training for endurance can have many benefits for both your gym sessions and your overall health.
Engaging in muscular endurance activities has a plethora of benefits in addition to the ability to use your muscles over long periods of time. Here are just a few of the amazing benefits of muscular endurance training:
If you’re on the fence about training for muscle endurance, think about your gym sessions. Do you struggle to reach your rep and set goals? Do you find your muscles giving out before your gym session is over? If you’re struggling in the gym, muscular endurance training may just be the solution.
Most exercises can be used to train for muscular endurance simply by doing several high repetition sets at lighter weights.
However, bodyweight exercises can be among the best movements for those who are new to muscular endurance training. This is because, over time, even the smallest amount of weight can feel incredibly heavy.
Most of us have been doing push-ups since gym class in first grade. You might think you have the form down, but when you’re looking to train for endurance, form is vital since you’ll have to repeat the movement more than just a few times. To do a push-up:
To achieve muscular endurance, most endurance athletes aim for a number of repetitions in the 12-20 range. You’ll also want smaller rest periods between sets to mimic instances in which you’d use the muscles over an extended period of time. Some endurance trainers even aim for failure with each set.
Lunges are great for building lower body endurance. They are also highly variable, so you can change them to fit your personal goals. For conventional lunges:
Stick to the 12-20 or more rep range over several sets for achieving muscular endurance with lunges.
Sit-ups have long been an abdominal-building favorite. If you find your core endurance lacking, incorporating high-rep sit-ups will probably do the trick. The form to do a set-up is quite simple:
Set-ups can easily be done until failure, but aim for at least 20 reps for abdominal endurance.
If you’re looking to build upper-body endurance, pull-ups can be an amazing tool. If a bodyweight pull-up is too difficult for you, many gyms have pull-up machines with an assist feature that can help you get started. Here is how to properly do a pull-up:
Unassisted pull-ups can be very challenging to do and it is likely you’ll reach failure before hitting the 12-20 rep range. Even if you can successfully do a pull-up, using the assist feature may be best for getting in the right amount of repetitions for muscular endurance.
Planks are an exercise that requires balance and control. Hold them over a long period of time and you can build some amazing muscular endurance. Doing a plank is hard, but the form is simple:
You may be more familiar with a forearm plank, in which case you simply substitute balancing your weight on your hands for your forearms. Both forms of planking will yield benefits. A weight plate can be added to your back for incorporating some resistance training, though remember for muscular endurance you’ll be doing this exercise for long periods of time.
Squats are a favorite among bodybuilders and powerlifters, so you may think they have no place in a muscular endurance-building program. However, at bodyweight or lower weights, squats are great for lower body and core endurance. Here is how to perform a bodyweight squat:
You can, of course, add weight if bodyweight squats prove to be too easy by holding a kettlebell or squatting with a barbell. Of course, aim for the high repetition range of 12-20 reps per set.
Rucking is a form of exercise that involves both strength training and cardiovascular endurance training. There isn’t really a step-by-step method for rucking, but in order to properly ruck, you must:
Rucking can be a great option for people who cannot run as it yields many of the same benefits while being less strenuous for your body. Because rucking is a relatively uncommon method of fitness, there are no guidelines for how long you should ruck. However, runners typically aim for sessions that last at least 30 minutes several times a week, so this can potentially be applied to rucking, as well.
If you lift and steer clear of cardio, now may be the time to look into cardio as an endurance builder. Not only does running build great cardiovascular endurance, but it also builds strength endurance as you are working several muscle groups in your body. For running:
Running for endurance takes practice but can yield some serious cardiorespiratory endurance, which can seamlessly translate to your weight training sessions. Don’t set pace goals that are too fast to endure over long-distance runs. Long-distance runs are categorized as anything over a 3k
If you aren’t into running, swimming may be a good alternative. Swimming is among the best workouts for your entire body and can result in some serious muscular endurance as well as an amazing physique. Swimming properly can be difficult to achieve without professional help, but here are some things to keep in mind when swimming that may help:
There are a plethora of additional tips for swimming efficiently for muscular endurance, but these should get you started. If you’re new to swimming, start out slow and aim for reasonable times in the pool. Overtime, shoot for swimming for at least 30 minutes to an hour for muscular endurance.
We’d be straight up lying if we didn’t include deadlifts in this list. You might be wondering how lifting weights can build muscular endurance, but as previously stated, it’s really the structure of the training rather than the exercise itself that promotes muscular endurance. For conventional deadlifts with a barbell:
For muscular endurance, the weight for this movement should be quite low. It might seem very easy at first, especially if you are typically training for muscular strength or hypertrophy. However, when aiming for a number of reps in the 12-20 or more range, you’ll need a manageable weight. You can easily substitute the barbell for dumbbells for variation.
Training for endurance can not only help you last for longer periods in the gym but can also help cut down on excess fat, which is the first step in creating separated and defined muscles. Incorporate some of the above bodyweight exercises into your current exercise program to target muscle groups. Typically, a mixture of these exercises, a type of training called circuit training, can yield the most results.
Whether you’re an endurance athlete or just find yourself struggling through sets at the gym, endurance training can be one of the most beneficial training methods depending on your goals. You can also utilize high-quality pre-workout supplements if you find yourself especially unfocused and weak mid-workout.