• Introduction
  • The basics of local muscle endurance training
  • Exercise selection and exercise order 
  • Loading and volume 
  • Rest periods 
  • Repetition velocity 
  • Training frequency 
  • Summary
  • Physiological effects of muscular endurance exercises
  • Suitability for developing athletes and physical education
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources
  • Assistance exercises: movements that support the function of the prime movers, and mainly focus on one muscle group at a time (e.g. leg extension).
  • Bilateral exercises: movement executed evenly and simultaneously by both limbs.
  • Compound exercise: a movement utilizing more than one muscle group at a time.
  • Concentric muscle action: muscle shortens and generates movement.
  • Eccentric muscle action: when external force on a muscle is greater than the force it can produce, resulting in muscle lengthening.
  • Isokinetic muscle action: the muscle contraction remains constant while muscle length changes.
  • Isometric muscle action: when a muscle is activated with no change in muscle length.
  • Electromyography activity: greater motor unit recruitment.
  • Isolated exercise: a movement utilizing one limb at a time.
  • Length-tension relationship: relationship between muscle length and force production.
  • Post-activation potentiation: a short-term performance improvement due to improved neural activation following a high-intensity stimulus.
  • Prime mover: the major muscle groups responsible for movement.
  • Unilateral exercise: an exercise where movement is performed on one side of the body.

Introduction

Local muscle endurance (LME) refers to the ability to resist fatigue when submaximal resistance is used. Local muscle endurance training consists of resistance training exercises aimed at producing high levels of fatigue, and therefore improving the muscle’s or muscle group’s ability to resist fatigue. This type of training often consists of light-to-moderate loads and high training volume. Overall, resistance training offers benefits for performance, as well as general health (reduced risk of coronary artery disease, increased bone density, lower risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes, better dynamic balance, better mental health, healthy body composition, reduced risk of certain types of cancers.)

Progression in strength training refers to advancing towards a specific time-bound goal, whereas maintenance resistance training describes exercises designed to keep the individual at a certain level of fitness. Beginners tend to experience fast progression when a resistance training program is started. However, this rate of progression is not sustainable in the long term. Luckily, the correct use of training variables can ensure long-term progression in performance and reduce potential training plateaus.

This post explains the basics of local muscle endurance training as well as the general recommendations for optimal sequencing. These guidelines are based on the extensive research by The American College of Sports Medicine.

The basics of local muscle endurance training 

Local muscle endurance (LME) training consists of exercises aimed at increasing the metabolic demands (i.e. substrate depletion and accumulation of metabolic waste products) of a muscle or muscle group. Fatigue is a crucial training stimulus to for local muscle endurance. Therefore, several training variables must be manipulated to ensure that exercises elicit the wanted physical adaptations for local muscle endurance. 

Several studies have shown improvements in absolute local muscle endurance (i.e. maximal repetitions at a specific resistance) as a result of consistent resistance training. However, little difference has been observed in relative local muscle endurance (repetitions at a relative intensity of 1RM) as a result of resistance training. The most effective training programs for absolute local muscle endurance tend to consist of moderate-to-low intensity with a high training volume. However, high-intensity training with low volume may be beneficial for LME among highly trained individuals. Interestingly, it appears that strength and local muscle endurance share a relationship where strength training may improve LME to a certain degree. However, training specificity produces the greatest training adaptations. 

Overall, local muscle endurance training should put emphasis on two variables; 1) high training volume and/or long-duration sets to maximize time-under-tension, and 2) short recovery between sets to maximize fatigue.

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Local Muscle Endurance Training


Unilateral and bilateral single- and multiple-joint exercisesSequence exercises according to complexity(large muscle groups/complex exercises/intense exercises first)>10-25 repetitions for light loads10-15 repetitions for light-to-moderate loadsMultiple setsVery short rest periods (<1min) for moderate-repetition (10–15 repetitions) sets.Slow-to-moderate movement velocity depending on the load2-6 workouts per week depending on fitness level and goals

Exercise selection and exercise order 

Movements that utilize large muscles or several muscle groups elicit the greatest metabolic responses during resistance training. Metabolic demand is a necessary stimulus for local muscle endurance adaptations (increased mitochondrial content, increased capillary density, muscle fiber transition, lactate buffering capacity, etc.) in skeletal muscles. 

The order of exercises appears to be less important to local muscle endurance development in comparison to exercise fatigue (i.e., substrate depletion, accumulation of metabolic waste products, etc). 

As a general recommendation, local muscle endurance training should consist of unilateral and bilateral single- and multi-joint exercises, and utilize a variety of sequencing combinations for different fitness levels.

Loading and volume 

Several loading strategies can be used to train local muscle endurance. High volume (15-25 or more repetitions) training with light loads (appropriate load for target repetition range) seems to be the most effective in improving local muscle endurance. However, studies have also found moderate-to-heavy loads with short recovery periods to be effective for increasing both absolute and high-intensity local muscle endurance. High-volume programs (incorporating several sets) seem to produce the most significant improvements in local muscle endurance.

The recommended loading for novice and intermediate training is 10-15 repetitions using relatively light loads. For advanced individuals, a multidimensional loading approach is recommended. Thus, loading should consist of multiple sets of 10-25 (or more) exercises and performed in a periodized manner, leading to increased volume using lighter loads.

Rest periods 

The rest periods between sets seem to have an impact on local muscle endurance. This is due to the fact that local muscle endurance training emphasizes on exercising under high metabolic demand (high lactate, etc.) and thus, increased levels of fatigue. This is also supported by studies where bodybuilders (high training volume, short recovery) perform better in local muscle endurance exercises in comparison to powerlifters (low-to-moderate training volume, long recovery). Similarly, circuit training has shown improvements in local muscle endurance due to its continuity and minimal recovery. 

As a general recommendation, local muscle endurance training should consist of high-volume training (15-20 repetitions) with short -to-moderate rest periods (1-2mins) or moderate-volume training (10-15 repetitions) with short (1min) recovery periods between sets for most fitness levels. For circuit training, the recovery duration should correspond to the time it takes to get from one station to the next.

Repetition velocity 

Both fast and slow movement velocities seem effective for improving local muscle endurance when traditional resistance training exercises are used. Two of the most effective ways to prolong set duration are; 1) moderate training volume with intentionally slow movement velocity, and 2) high training volume with moderate-to-fast movement velocities. Intentionally slow movement velocities (5:5 – 5s eccentric, 5s concentric and slower) with light loads have shown greater metabolic demand than fast or moderate movement velocities. On the other hand, explosive concentric repetitions have shown greater energy expenditure in comparison to slower movement velocities (2:2). When volume and intensity are matched, it seems that slow movement velocities result in greater concentration of blood lactate. Increased time-under-tension with appropriate loading has been shown to increase muscular fatigue, which is an essential stimulus in local muscle endurance training.

Resistance training with traditional velocity may therefore elicit a lower metabolic response than slow velocities, provided that loading is sufficient. However, it may be difficult to maintain a high training volume with sets consisting of intentionally slow movement velocities. Interestingly, it seems that fast contraction velocities are more effective than slow velocities in improving local muscle endurance when isokinetic exercises (exercises where movement velocity remains constant) are used.

Training frequency 

The optimal training frequency for local muscle endurance follows the same guidelines as hypertrophy-focused training. 

The recommended training frequency for novices is two to three workouts per week utilizing the entire body. For intermediate individuals, the recommended training frequency is four times per week utilizing the entire body, and organized using an upper/lower training split. For advances individuals, a frequency of four to six times per week may be used. This also requires careful planning and utilization of suitable training splits. 

Summary

Variable

Recommendation


Exercise selection and order

Unilateral and bilateral single- and multiple-joint exercises should be incorporated into a local muscle endurance program. The exercises should use various sequencing combinations for novice, intermediate, and advanced local muscle endurance training.


Load and volume

Novice and intermediate:
Relatively light loads for 10–15 repetitions.

Advanced:
Variety of different loading strategies; multiple sets of 10-25 or more repetitions performed in a periodized manner.


Recovery

High-repetition sets:
Short rest periods (1–2 mins) for high-repetition sets (15–20 repetitions or more).

Moderate-repetition sets:
Very short rest periods (<1min) for moderate-repetition (10–15 repetitions) sets. For circuit weight training, rest periods should correspond to the time needed to get from one exercise station to another.


Repetition velocity

Moderate volume sets:
Intentionally slow velocities are recommended when a moderate number of repetitions (10–15) are used.

High-volume sets:
Moderate-to-fast velocities are recommended when a large number of repetitions (15-25) are used. These have proven more effective for increasing repetition number than slow-velocity training.


Frequency

Novice:
Low frequency (2-3 days per week) training utilizing the entire body.

Intermediate:
Moderate frequency; 3 times per week for total body workouts, 4 timers per week for upper/lower split workouts.

Advanced:
High frequency of 4-6 times per week depending on the training split used.


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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 maximal 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 not enough to satisfy the energy needs of your muscles. Exercising above the lactate threshold, your body produces lactate at a faster rate than it can be removed. This is one of the main causes of fatigue and nausea during intense activities. 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.

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.

Local muscle endurance describes your muscles' ability to contract efficiently even under fatigue.

Final thoughts 

Resistance training is a key component in both athletic development and overall health. Consistent local muscle endurance training helps maintain good posture, improves the aerobic capacity of muscles, and offers better performance in specific endurance activities. Together, these allows individuals to carry out daily activities and live long healthy lives. 

Local muscle endurance training can be varied in several ways. This includes manipulating the load, volume, rest, exercise choice and order, muscle action, movement velocity, and training frequency. Altering these variables determine the training stimulus of the exercise, as well as the subsequent training adaptations over the long term. For local muscle endurance, the main training stimulus is fatigue. Therefore, all exercises should be designed and sequenced with this in mind. 

In order to progress both safely and effectively, training must follow the basic principles of strength training; progressive overload, training specificity, and variability. Following these guidelines ensures that the training stimulus grows as the individual progresses in their training. 

Did you learn anything new about local muscle endurance training? Let us know in the comments.

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