What Is Muscular Endurance?

Definition of Muscular Endurance - How to Measure It - How to Improve It

Muscular endurance
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What Is Muscular Endurance? Definition

Endurance means many different things to athletes. For some it is the ability to continue working at top speed for as long as possible, for others it is simply a matter of how long or how much distance can be covered in a given time. When it comes to strength training, however, muscular endurance refers to a specific kind of endurance that describes to the ability of a muscle, or group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period of time.

 Muscular endurance is one of the components of muscular fitness, along with muscular strength and power.

An example of muscular endurance is how many times you can do a full squat, a sit up, or how many times you can do a bicep curl with a light-to-moderate weight before breaking form. It is used as a term related to how many repetitions of a single exercise you can do without needed to stop and rest.

The specific type of muscular endurance used during cardiovascular fitness activities such as running, swimming or cycling is usually called cardiovascular endurance or cardiorespiratory endurance and should be discussed separately from the strength training definition. Endurance training for these specific types of physical activities builds the energy systems of the body, the muscle fibers, and capillaries that can sustain long periods of exercise, such as running a marathon or cycling a 100-miler.

Measuring Muscular Endurance

The push-up test is often performed as a measure of upper body muscular endurance. You do as many pushups as you can before you break form. This may also be a timed test to see how many you can perform in a minute. You can compare how your performance matches up with others in your age and sex category.

By tracking this number over time you can see increases or decreases in upper body muscular endurance.

  • The Push Up Test Helps Measure Muscle Endurance: find out how to use the push up test, including how to do a modified push up test for women. It includes how to score it comparing to others of the same age range and gender, from excellent through very poor and age ranges for each ten years from age 20 to over age 60.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends muscular endurance testing as well as muscular strength testing when you start a program of strength training. The results will help a trainer set the right intensity and loads for your exercises.

Improving Muscular Endurance

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends using a program of lower intensity strength training to improve muscular endurance. The weight load should be less than 50% of the repetition maximum (the maximum weight you could use for one repetition of the exercise). This is a light to moderate intensity load. Then you perform a relatively high number of repetitions, 15-25 per set, for one or two sets.

  • Training for Muscle Endurance: Use these principles of exercise selection, loading and volume, rest periods, frequency, and repetition velocity to do a novice, intermediate or advanced training for muscle endurance. It is based on the ACSM position stand on weight training and resistance training.

    To improve endurance for cardiorespiratory fitness activities such as running and cycling, you progressively increase the time you spend in the activity at a moderate pace. While this will result in muscles that are geared for endurance, it is usually discussed as cardiovascular endurance.


    Getting a Professional Fitness Assessment, Matthew Percia, et. al. American College of Sports Medicine, Jan. 10, 2012.

    Garber, Carol Ewing Ph.D., FACSM, (Chair) et. al. "Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 7 - pp 1334-1359 doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb SPECIAL COMMUNICATIONS: Position Stand 

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