Muscular endurance training is very common among fitness fanatics and athletes.
As the name implies, it is programmed to train muscles to endure more stress – to go for longer.
The aim is to improve the muscles so that they’re able to withstand an amount of constant tension over a period of time.
But…it isn’t that simple.
Different disciplines require different approaches, and this is where endurance exercises vary.
Every exercise program is designed to cater to an individual’s needs or to a certain goal…
A sprinter isn’t going to need the same muscle endurance as a boxer, or as a bodybuilder.
Regardless of your aim, it’s vital in sports training to improve your physical fitness, so just exactly how do you improve your muscle endurance?
We have rounded up the best muscle endurance exercises in this post below.
The Difference Between Aerobic & Anaerobic Exercise
The aerobic energy system uses oxygen and fats to supply energy to the body. Aerobic exercises are typically prolonged low-to-moderate intensity – that’s cardio, mostly.
In contrast, anaerobic exercises are used to build strength, speed and power, along with building muscle mass. They are typically high intensity activities that last from anywhere between a few seconds to two minutes.
Anaerobic exercise uses fast-twitch muscle fibres and lactic acid builds up in the muscles during physical exertion.
It’s for this reason, along with muscle tissues using up their main source of energy (adenosine triphosphate, or ATP), that weightlifting quickly becomes tiring and your muscles struggle to lift heavy weights repeatedly.
It’s much easier to train your body to run for longer than it is to lift increasingly heavier weights.
In this post, we’re exploring how to improve your muscle endurance.
How to Increase Your Anaerobic Endurance
Most sport-specific training programs are based on both energy systems: aerobic and anaerobic.
These energy systems work hand-in-hand, and a balanced aerobic/anaerobic endurance is optimal for generic fitness goals.
Exercises to improve both aerobic and anaerobic endurance proved to be beneficial. Special emphasis may be given to one, but both are trained to gain maximum results.
So where and how do we start?
Which exercises would be best to increase muscular endurance?
The simple answer to improve your anaerobic endurance is this:
Lift more weight, more often.
But that’s easier said than done, and short-term you may find it more beneficial to train multiple muscles for endurance at the same time.
Any of the muscular endurance workouts below will take a bit of practice to hit the recommended rep counts.
The Best Exercises to Improve Muscle Endurance
We’re going to share some of our favourite exercises for improving muscular endurance.
Why are they our favourites? Because they work. Not only do they work, they work well and anybody can do them.
Like we said above, any muscular exercise will improve your endurance as long as you’re doing enough reps of it.
However, the best exercises for muscular endurance are listed below.
They target multiple muscle groups at the same time for maximum workout efficiency.
The squat is a compound exercise that primarily develops endurance and strength in the legs and glutes.
Beginners can start with pure bodyweight.
Weights and resistance bands can be used as you progress in the program.
If you don’t know how to squat properly, it’s really easy to pick up.
Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, toes pointing slightly outwards.
Always look straight ahead – this helps to maintain a neutral spine during the movements.
Keep your core tight all the time.
Move your butt back. Bend on the knees over the toes until your knees are at least at 90 degrees, although you can go lower with ‘ass to grass’ squats.
If you don’t hit 90 degrees, you aren’t pushing your muscles enough and you also massively increase the risk of injury.
Keep your back straight with chest and shoulders up.
Drive yourself back up to standing position through your heels, ensuring all points of your foot remain on the floor at the same time.
Squeeze your glutes at the top.
Repeat. Do 2-3 sets of 15-25 repetitions at a lower weight than you’d normally rep.
Press-ups, or push-ups (whichever you prefer) target your chest and arms. They are fantastic upper body muscular endurance exercises.
Lie face down on the ground with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep the body straight and the core tight.
Lower yourself down to the ground by bending arms at the elbows.
Push yourself off the ground by extending your arms. Keep in mind that power should come from the chest and arms; do not use your butt or lower body to raise yourself up.
Do 2-3 sets of 20-25 repetitions.
Variations and weights can be added to increase intensity.
If regular press-ups are too hard to perform with good form, start with your knees on the floor.
Squat throws with a medicine ball (available here) works both the upper and lower body muscles.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart while holding the medicine ball in front of your chest with both hands.
With a controlled movement, lower yourself down into a squat.
Engage your core and explosively jump out of squat and throw the ball as high as you can.
You can either let the ball fall to the ground or catch it on its way down.
Go back to starting position and repeat the procedure 20-25 times for 2-3 sets.
The weight of the medicine ball used can be gradually increased over time, and you can begin to become more explosive and throw the ball higher each time too.
Jackknives, also known as V sit-ups, are abdominal muscle endurance exercises that target the abs, obliques, and the hip flexors.
Lie flat on your back.
Stretch your arms out behind your head and straighten your legs.
Keep the core engaged at all times.
Simultaneously lift your arms and legs toward the center of your body to form a “V” shape.
Touch your feet with your hands while you balance on your butt.
Slowly return to starting position. Repeat 20-25 times for 2-3 sets.
If jackknives are too hard for you, opt for regular sit-ups to start with until you build a more solid core.
Ah, the deadlift.
Adored and feared by weightlifters all around the world.
Going big on deadlifts is something many lifters aspire to achieve, however…
By lightening the load, you can seriously improve your muscle endurance.
So much so, that deadlifts are recommended to distance runners in order to add more power to their bodies.
Deadlifts work almost every muscle in your body, and can even fatigue your central nervous system when you go overboard.
You should opt for 15-20 reps of around 50% of your max weight.
Repeat 3 times.
Calves – neglected by too many.
Calf raises can help to increase the endurance in your legs and thicken up your lower legs at the same time.
The exercise is simple enough, simply stand and raise yourself onto your toes.
Contract the calf muscles, hold for a second or two, and lower back down again.
Repeat this 20-25 times per set, and opt for single-leg calf raises if they’re too easy.
To push yourself further, consider getting weighted clothing.
This helps in training for lactic acid tolerance.
Lactic acid builds up during any anaerobic workout.
Gradually increase time and/or tension. Make sure to feel the burn every time.
Go hard and fast for 25-30 seconds, then do a minute or two of slow peddling before another fast burst. This is known as HIIT (Hyper Intensity Interval Training) and is also great for fat burning, along with having numerous other health-related benefits.
You can pick up some great cheap exercise bikes on Amazon for the home.
Another extremely underrated form of muscle work is swimming.
When you’re in the water, you’ll be using almost every muscle in your body to cut through it at speed.
You will want to look to incorporate a HIIT-style workout for your swimming to ensure it’s not totally cardio-focused.
Do one or two lengths extremely quickly where you focus on explosive muscle power rather than a prolonged swim. Rest and repeat five times.
Strength – Working on muscle strength positively affects muscle endurance, as long as you’re doing at least 8 reps per set.
Progress – It may take time, but continue making improvements. Every additional rep, extra sets, greater resistance—they all add up to your progress.
Challenge – Mix up your workouts if both strength and endurance are your goals. Go heavy on some days and lighter with more reps on others.
Rest – Do not over train. Our bodies needs to recover in order to reap the benefits of the workout.
Overtraining has been proven to negatively affect performance.
Remember that changes happen as the body heals.
Give each muscle group time to heal before hitting it harder than ever a few days later.
A balance between training hard and good rest will take you steps closer to your muscle endurance goals.