• Introduction
  • Basics of muscular endurance exercises
  • Best methods to train muscular endurance
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Swimming
  • Physiological effects of muscular endurance exercises
  • Samples of muscular endurance exercises
  • Suitability for developing athletes and physical education
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources

Introduction

Muscular endurance refers to your muscles’ ability to perform optimally and fight against fatigue during an intense exercise. It is especially important in activities where your muscles must contract repeatedly for a long period of time. If you’re interested in reading the full theoretical guide of muscular endurance, we strongly suggest you check it out here.

But, if you’re already familiar with what it means and want to focus on improving it, you’ve found the right page! This post will explain you everything you need to know to kick your training into high gear! There are even a few samples to get you started.

Basics of muscular endurance exercises

Muscular endurance concentrates on your muscles’ ability to perform without fatigue in high-intensity scenarios. To achieve that, muscular endurance exercises must be done at a relatively high heart rate, or above your aerobic threshold (the highest intensity where energy can still be produced with oxygen) for an extended amount of time. That is why muscular endurance can also be effectively trained with traditional endurance activities such as running, cycling, swimming, rowing and cross-country skiing.

In a gym setting, muscular endurance exercises use smaller weights of 20-50% of your maximum with around 10-20 repetitions in each set. Often these sets are done three to four times with very short 20-45s breaks in between. One great example of this style of training is circuit training. Usually, muscular endurance exercises are performed relatively fast and utilize bigger muscle groups at once to maintain a higher heart rate. This will also challenge your lungs and heart to keep your muscles fuelled with oxygen and free from carbon dioxide. Therefore, it is important to remember that while you can still focus on the endurance of a certain muscle group, it also always challenges your cardiovascular endurance at the same time.

Muscle endurance can also be trained in super-sets that consist of a few sets of different exercises without a rest period between them. After you have performed a set of each exercise, you can rest for two to three minutes in between to replenish your energy storages. As you progress with your muscle endurance training, you’ll be able to do more exercises with shorter rest periods. On the other hand, another great training method for muscular endurance is to perform exercises very slowly to build an effective combination of strength and endurance. Isometric exercises are very common and highly effective in certain endurance sports.

Oftentimes a high-quality muscular endurance routine combines calisthenic training (bodyweight training) with long-distance sessions in a single program two to three times a week depending on your fitness level. These training sessions will alternate daily to give your body a chance to recover between exercises. A key factor in building muscular endurance is to also utilize the whole body. The more muscles you use – the more your body will have to work.

Here’s a quick chart on how to create your training program for muscular endurance exercises

Muscular Endurance Training


Circuit training, gym training etc.Weight at 20 - 50% of your maximum10 - 20 moderately fast & continuous repetitions3 - 5 setsRest for 20 - 45s between sets3 times a week, often combined with maximum strength training2 - 3 times a week depending on the season, often combined with pre-season training

Share this post

Best methods to train muscular endurance

Muscular endurance exercises consist of low-to-medium resistance training that is performed for a prolonged amount of time. Basically, it tests how well your muscles can perform and fight against fatigue even when experiencing high levels of lactate. Along with calisthenic training and lighter gym training, such as circuit training, muscular endurance can still be effectively trained through other aerobic exercises such as running, cyclingrowing, crosscountry skiing and swimming.

Running

Running is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to improve your muscular endurance. What’s even better is the fact that you can always benefit from it regardless of your physical fitness. If you are a beginner, you can simply start slow and with shorter distances whereas more seasoned athletes can pick up the pace or run for longer distances. It’s that simple!

Not only does running help build a solid foundation for both muscular and cardiovascular endurance, but it also builds up your strength for more intense training methods.

As a result of continuous running exercises, your muscles will learn to contract efficiently, buffer lactate, and fight against fatigue even during intense exercise. This results in a better performance with significantly less effort. In addition to better endurance performance, running also improves your performance during more intense exercises, such as speed training. After all, you must continuously and efficiently contract your muscles even during shorter exercises closer to your maximal effort.

Cycling

Cycling has seen a surge of new participants in the last few years. And why not? It is a great way to maintain and improve your muscular endurance. It is especially effective in training the muscles in your lower body for better performance. Therefore, it can be useful in many different sports. Additionally, cycling is also very gentle for your joints, ligaments and muscles due to having less impact than jogging, for example. That is why cycling is just as suitable for young and older athletes alike.

Just like other similar muscular endurance exercises, cycling also sports an impressive array of benefits, such as improved muscle, bone and joint strength, better posture and enhanced coordination. Cycling even helps reduce stress and anxiety which also helps prevent depression.

Rowing

Rowing is a great alternative to other muscular endurance exercises because it utilizes the whole body at the same time. It is especially useful for sports where your arms must continuously produce force and maintain movement – something that running and cycling cannot offer.

Since using more muscles is also physically more challenging, this leads to a higher oxygen and energy consumption. Not only does this also improve your cardiovascular endurance, but it also promotes a healthy body composition.

Rowing is also a very social hobby, which means that it offers an opportunity for communication and teamwork. It’s also an awesome pastime to relieve stress and prevent depression. After all, what’s better than spending a day in the great outdoors and enjoying some fresh air?

Cross-country skiing

While winter sports may not be easily accessible for most people, they still offer a wide variety of great exercise opportunities. And, out of any other endurance activities out there, cross-country skiing may be the most physically challenging one. It is often even called the ultimate endurance sport because some of the highest maximum oxygen consumptions (VO₂max) are recorded during cross-country skiing.

The reason behind this is that cross-country skiing challenges the whole body like no other endurance sport. You have to simultaneously use every major muscle group in your body yet still maintain balance and the right technique. It is also one of the few endurance activities that challenge your arms to contract continuously and efficiently for a prolonged amount of time. As a result, this unique sport is a combination of skill, endurance and great mental persistence.

Some elite cross-country skiers even use altitude training to their advantage during seasonal training. This is often done around 2400m (8,000 ft) above sea level where there is less oxygen to use during exercise. This means that your body adapts to the oxygen need by increasing the size of red blood cells and the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. This can significantly improve your oxygen delivery, and therefore your endurance capability as well. However, these effects may only last for 10-14 days. 

Swimming

Swimming is another great muscular endurance exercise for people looking to improve their overall fitness. It is easy, effective and gentle for your muscles, joints and ligaments. Swimming can also be a good alternative training method for athletes because it offers a whole new element to train in. Not only does it offer a different challenge for the body, but it is also a great way to rehabilitate after an injury. Additionally, being skillful in a variety of sports is one of the biggest factors that set elite athletes apart from the rest.

Water also offers a unique element to exercise in because provides a feeling of weightlessness and the underwater pressure also has a hugging effect on the body. This also leads to a couple of interesting physiological effects. First, being in a horizontal position reduces blood being concentrated in the legs. Second, this underwater pressure causes blood to return to the heart more efficiently, resulting in a 15-40% lower overall heart rate. This is also known as bradycardia and it is a result of your body’s attempt to fight against lack of oxygen (hypoxia).

Not only does being submerged have some interesting effects on your body, but it also provides a calming sensation that also promotes mental health and stress relief.

Muscular endurance exercises also have a direct effect on your cardiovascular endurance.

Physiological effects of muscular endurance exercises

Muscular endurance exercises enhance your body’s ability to contract efficiently over and over during continuous physical performance. This is a result of better neuromuscular efficiency, improved aerobic and anaerobic capacity, better lactate buffering as well as enhanced blood flow in the body. Naturally, since muscular endurance has a direct effect on your cardiovascular endurance, your ability to provide muscles with oxygen while getting rid of carbon dioxide also has a huge effect on your endurance performance. 

Better neuromuscular efficiency describes your nervous system’s ability to recruit muscles with as little effort as possible. Consistent muscular endurance training improves this significantly which results in an increased endurance capability. 

Aerobic capacity, more commonly known as maximum oxygen uptake (VO₂max), refers to the maximum rate of oxygen you consume during an exercise. It is often referred to as the main component of endurance ability. Naturally, consistent endurance exercises enhance this ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles, which leads to better performance. For longer endurance activities, athletes often train at 75-85% of their maximum whereas athletes from fast-paced sports are better off training closer to 100% of their maximum effort. 

Anaerobic capacity refers to the total amount of energy that you can produce anaerobically, or without oxygen. This only occurs during high-intensity exercise when aerobic (with oxygen) energy production is simply not enough. Of course, since you are working above the lactate threshold, your body starts producing lactate in the process, which is one of the main causes of fatigue during exercise. Consistent muscular endurance exercises increase your lactate threshold as well as your ability to buffer lactate during exercise more effectively than any other training method. 

Muscular endurance exercises also have some long-term effects on your blood. First, it increases the amount of hemoglobin in the bloodstream, which is responsible for delivering oxygen to the muscles. Second, muscular endurance exercises also increase the number of capillaries inside the muscles resulting in improved blood flow to the muscles and venous return back to the heart. Lastly, your heart’s stroke volume increases, which means that it can pump more blood with every heartbeat. This lowers overall heart rate while resting or during exercise.

Muscular endurance describes your muscles' ability to contract efficiently even during high-intensity exercises.

Samples of muscular endurance exercises

Looking for some muscular endurance exercises? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here you can find some samples that’ll quench that workout thirst in no time. Just click on through and find the perfect fit for your needs.

Muscular endurance gym circuit routine 1

1. Clean

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

2. Bench press

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

3. Squat

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

4. Bicep curl

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

5. Ab exercise of choice

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

6. Snatch

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

7. Push up

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

8. Bent-over row

  • Weight at 20% of maximum
  • 10 repetitions per set
  • Rest 15s between exercises, 2mins between rounds
  • 8 rounds

Advanced running program 1

Week 1

  • Monday: 10x10s sprint, 2mins rest between sets
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 40mins low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30mins high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 2

  • Monday: 10x10s high intensity circuit training
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 40mins low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30mins high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 3

  • Monday: 10x10s sprint, 2mins rest between sets
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 40mins low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30mins high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 4

  • Monday: 10x10s high intensity circuit training
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 40mins low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30mins high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

Week 5

  • Monday: 10x10s sprint, 2mins rest between sets
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 40mins low intensity jog
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 30mins high intensity jog
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 1h Brisk walk

You can also add strength training on rest days. As you progress, you can also add 10 more minutes to your regular jogs every three weeks or so and beat your earlier record on high-intensity days!

Note that we are not responsible for any injuries that may occur during these drills or practices. Always remember to train within your own limits and at the guidance of a professional instructor. 

Muscular endurance exercises focus on energy-efficient muscle contractions for increased performance.

Suitability for developing athletes and physical education

Having a versatile athletic background may be the most important thing for a developing athlete looking to improving their performance. Not only does this improve sports-related skills and coordination, but it also builds a foundation for more experienced training methods like strength and power training. Having a good basis is especially important for growing athletes because their bodies grow taller and heavier. Thus, it is important to maintain a certain level of strength, especially in the core, to be able to support your weight during exercise.

For example, different circuit training methods are especially effective and easy to organize even when space is limited. These sorts of exercises can also be very motivating for young athletes looking to develop their athletic performance. But, just like any other training method, circuit training requires that the instructor knows what kind of exercises to utilize during training.

Due to their versatility and beginner-friendly nature, muscular endurance exercises are a great fit for physical education as well as developing younger athletes. Furthermore, educating students on how the body works and how to train it properly can also be a great motivating factor towards an active lifestyle.

Final thoughts

Muscular endurance exercises offer benefits for anyone regardless of your physical age or fitness. In fact, it might be one of the most versatile training methods due to its ability to challenge both active individuals and long-term athletes alike. For the older population, it offers great health benefits for everyday life whereas younger people can easily build their endurance and strength with muscular endurance exercises.

Consistent muscular endurance exercises not only provide improved performance for pretty much every sport imaginable, but they are also incredibly versatile for a wide range of people. In fact, due to their low-intensity and low-impact nature, muscular endurance exercises fit into the lives of beginner fitness enthusiasts as well as seasoned athletes.

So, regardless of what sport you are specializing in, we suggest you incorporate low-weight and high volume exercises to build up your foundation. These sorts of light exercises can also be used for rehabilitation purposes after an illness or an injury.

Keep in mind that athletic progress also requires a balance between training, the right nutrition and sufficient rest. This way you’ll not only reduce the risk of possible injuries but also maintain improving your performance.

Did you learn anything new about muscular endurance exercises? Let us know in the comments below!

Sources

  • Alboni, P., Alboni, M. & Gianfranchi, L. (2011). Diving bradycardia: a mechanism of defence against hypoxic damage. Journal of Cardiovascular Medicine. Volume 12, Issue (6), pp. 422-427.
  • Berglund, B. (1992). High-Altitude Training. Sports Medicine. Volume 14, Issue (5), pp. 289-303.
  • Bergman, B.C., Wolfel, E.E., Butterfield, G.E., Lopaschuk, G.D., Casazza, G.A., Horning, M.A. & Brooks, G.A. (1999). Active muscle and whole body lactate kinetics after endurance training in men. Journal of applied physiology. Volume 87, Issue (5), pp. 1684-1696.
  • Bonacci, J., Chapman, A., Blanch, P. & Vicenzino, B. (2009). Neuromuscular adaptations to training, injury and passive interventions: implications for running economy. Sports Medicine, Volume 39, Issue (11), pp. 903-921.
  • Billat, L.V. (2001). Interval training for performance: A scientific and empirical practice. Special recommendations for middle- and long-distance running. Part I: aerobic interval training. Sports Medicine. Volume 31, Issue (1), pp. 13-31.
  • Billat, L.V. (1996). Use of blood lactate measurements for prediction of exercise performance and for control of training. Sports Medicine. Volume 22, Issue (3), pp. 157-175.
  • Conley, D. & Krahenbuhl, G. (1980). Running economy and distance running performance of highly trained athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Volume 12, Issue (5), pp. 357–360.
  • Esteve-Lanao, J., Foster, C., Seiler, & Lucia, A. (2007). Impact of training intensity distribution on performance in endurance athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Volume 21, Issue (3), pp. 943-949.
  • Farrell, J. W. 3rd, Lantis, D.J., Ade, C.J., Cantrell, G.S., & Larson, R.D. (2018). Aerobic exercise supplemented with muscular endurance training improves onset of blood lactate accumulation. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Volume 32, Issue (5), pp.1376-1382.
  • Green, H.J., Jones, L.L. & Painter, D.C. (1990). Effects of short-term training on cardiac function during prolonged exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Volume 22, pp. 488–493.
  • Ingham, S. (2008). Physiological and performance effects of low- versus mixed-intensity rowing training. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. Volume 40, Issue (3), pp. 579-584.
  • Jones, A.M. & Carter, H. (2000). The Effect of Endurance Training on Parameters of Aerobic Fitness. Sports Medicine, Volume 29, Issue (6), pp. 373-386.
  • Joyner, M.J., & Coyle, E.F. (2008). Endurance exercise performance: The physiology of champions. Journal of Physiology, Volume 586, Issue (1), pp. 35-44.
  • Katayama, K. Matsuo, H., Ishida, K., Mori, S. & Miyamura, M. (2004) Intermittent Hypoxia Improves Endurance Performance and Submaximal Exercise Efficiency. High Altitude Medicine & Biology. Volume 4, Issue (3), pp. 291-304.
  • Keith, S.P., Jacobs, I. & McLellen T.M. (1992). Adaptations to training at the individual anaerobic threshold. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. Volume 65, Issue (4), pp. 316-323.
  • Kubukeli, Z.N., Noakes, T.D., & Dennis, S.C. (2002). Training techniques to improve endurance exercise performances. Sports Medicine, Volume 32, Issue (8), pp. 489-509.
  • Mujika I, Chatard JC, Busso T, Geyssant A, Barale F, Lacoste L (1995). Effects of training on performance in competitive swimming. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 20, 395-406.
  • Oja, P., Laukkanen, R.M.T., Kukkonen-Harjula, K., Vuori, I.M., Pasanen, M.E., Niittymäki, S.P.T. & Solakivi T. (1991). Training effects of cross-country skiing and running on maximal aerobic cycle performance and on blood lipids. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. Volume 62, Issue (6), pp. 400-404.
  • Sahlin, K. (1992). Metabolic factors in fatigue. Sports Medicine. Volume 13, Issue (2). pp. 99–107.
  • Saunders, P.U., Telford, R.D., Pyne, D.B., Peltola, E.M., Cunningham, R.B., Gore, C.J. & Hawley, J.A. (2006). Short-Term Plyometric Training Improves Running Economy in Highly Trained Middle and Long Distance Runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Volume 20, Issue (4), pp. 947-954.
  • Seiler, S. (2010). What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, Volume 5, Issue (3), pp.276-291.
  • Wasserman, K., Whipp, B.J., Koyl, S.N. & Beaver W.L. (1973). Anaerobic threshold and respiratory gas exchange during exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology. Volume 35, No. (2), pp. 236-243.
  • Weston, A., Myburgh, K., Lindsay, F., Dennis, S.C. Noakes, T.D. & Hawley, J.A. (1997). Skeletal muscle buffering capacity and endurance performance after high intensity interval training by well-trained cyclists. European Journal of Applied Physiology. Volume 75, Issue (1). pp. 7–13.
  • Whitmore, J. (2007). Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Human Kinetics Publishers. Fourth Edition.

Join our growing list of subscribers!

Stay informed about the latest in sports science and physical performance. Subscribe to our mailing list for the latest updates, posts, products and much more.