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How Can An Athlete Increase Their Muscular Endurance?

How can an athlete increase their muscular endurance? Our winner this time around has put together a great explanation of what endurance is and sample workouts that will help improve your endurance. Learn more here!

TOPIC: How Can An Athlete Increase Their Muscular Endurance?

The Question:

Muscular endurance plays a huge role in just about any sport. Football, boxing, baseball, soccer, etc. All demand muscular endurance.

How can an athlete increase their muscular endurance?

Which types of exercises would work best for increasing muscular endurance?

What would be a good workout routine to increase muscular endurance? Be specific.

Bonus Question: Which sport do you think requires the most muscular endurance? Why?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

      1st place - 75 in store credit.

To use your credit, e-mail Will @ for more info.

1st Place - OLP

Today's athletes are armed with an array of training techniques, and as a result, they often become lost. It is not uncommon for an athlete to become misguided and train as a strength-athlete and not the sport-athlete which they are.

One of the most underdeveloped aspects of an athlete is muscular endurance, or the ability to create maximum force for a maximum amount of time. This article will discuss the various energy systems involved with muscular endurance and ways to increase one's capacity.

So, what is "muscular endurance?"

As stated before, muscular endurance is one's ability to produce maximum force for a maximum amount of time. The force one will put out will naturally become smaller as the time increases. The two main types of muscular endurance are Anaerobic and Aerobic ... the former being a short period of time (i.e.- Sprinting) and the latter being a longer period (i.e.- Cross Country running).

Improving Endurance:
How can an athlete improve his/her muscular endurance?

Strength can be broken down into three primary energy systems:

1. ATP-PC Energy System (Anaerobic, 10 Seconds):

    ATP is the primary source of energy used in the muscles. However, studies have shown that a muscle's stored ATP can be depleted within 3 seconds. To compensate, Phosphate-Creatine (PC) is used to restore ATP levels until PC is depleted. Overall, you get about 10 seconds total of ATP usage.

ATP: Energy's Currency!
If one has ever wondered just how we are able to summon the energy to perform a number of activities under a variety of conditions, the answer, in large part, is ATP. Without ATP, one's body would simply fail to function. Learn why ...
[ Click here to learn more. ]

2. "Lactic Acid" [Glycolytic] System (Anaerobic, 60 seconds):

    Once the body has spent all stored ATP and PC, it uses of a process called glycosis, which allows carbohydrates to be broken down without the aid of oxygen. Though a good way to restore ATP, its downfall is that a byproduct is Hydrogen ions, and when these ions accumulate, there is a painful(at least to the weak) "burning" sensation in the muscle, and maximum contraction decreases.

    Despite popular belief, the burning is not caused by the lactic acid, but instead lactic acid has been found to turn into glucose(energy) and even protein! Thank you liver!

3. Aerobic System (Aerobic, 60 Sec+ And Anything Slow Paced):

    The aerobic system uses a constant supply of oxygen to prevent glycosis from creating lactic acid (This occurrence is commonly referred to as "slow glycosis"). Because of its use of oxygen, activity can continue practically forever, although at a slower pace.

    Because this system prevents the creation of lactic acid, a higher aerobic threshold can help prevent the use of the Glycolytic system, and therefore save an athlete a lot of energy and soreness! The downside to this system is that many of the methods used to train it have been known to result in strength/speed losses.

Breaking It All Down:

    Do you really think they use the same amount of each energy system?

    Once you break down the energy systems, it is fairly simple to increase your endurance:

    Train the needed systems! Since I doubt everyone reading this participates in the same sport, it is up to you to choose which systems to focus on. However, I will say that EVERYONE should have a sound aerobic capacity. In most sports (despite what many believe, even football), you constantly use this system.

Which types of exercises would work best for increasing muscular endurance?

Once again, the appropriate exercise would depend on which system you are looking to train. It is the parameters that mainly change. All muscles use the same systems, so similar exercises can be used to better the thresholds of each system:

1. ATP-PC Exercises:

  • 30-70-yard Sprints - Should be 100%, and run under 10 seconds. I recommend starting at 30 yards and gradually increasing distance over workouts. 3-??? minute rests between sets [You NEED FULL RECOVERY!]

  • Note:
    For most athletes, this energy system will be covered by most weightlifting routines. If you are doing sets that take more than 10 seconds each, find a new program. Stick to mostly compound exercises, most important being: SQUATS, BENCH, ROWS, and POWERCLEANS (if you have good enough technique to perform multiple reps).

    If you don't have a great program, I suggest looking into a 5x5 workout (Mainly Starr/Madcow/Pendlay/Rippetoe). Tempo Runs used in Lactic Acid training will also work this system.

2. Lactic Acid Exercises:

  • "Sprint The Straightaways" Laps - on a standard 400-meter track, sprint the straight-aways and walk/jog the curves. Anywhere from 2 laps - 5 laps, depending on athlete's level.

  • Bike Work - Stationary bike. Hard and fast for 25 seconds, and then a nice easy pace for at least 5-10 minutes. Only do at most 2 reps.

  • Reptition Method - Choose either Squats or Bench and a set weight (That you can do 10-plus reps of), and do as many reps as possible for that weight. Some ideas for weights are:

    Bench: 135, 150, 185, 225
    Squat: 135, 185, 225, 275 315

  • 20-Rep Squats - This separates the men from the boys. Basically, the general consensus is to do 20 reps with a weight you can do for ten. If you aren't dying by rep 15, you aren't using enough weight.

  • Note:
    Recovery is needed when doing Lactic Acid Tolerance Training. ALWAYS do a cool down (low paced, generally aerobic, activity, such as slow bicycling, jogging/walking, low paced rowing, etc.). Contrast showers (alternating hot and cold water) are also useful.

3. Aerobic Exercises:

    Any Exercises For Other Systems - as long as you are breathing, your aerobic system will be activated to at least some degree.

    Long Actvities - things such as jogging a couple miles, bicycling miles, light rowing, etc. NOT a dead on sprint! You should struggle, but if you need to stop and rest, then you were working too hard.

    Be careful training this system. Though important, it is detrimental to strength and therein speed to do an extended amount of work. I would keep direct training of this to a minimal. From personal experience though, this really helps aid recovery.

What would be a good workout routine to increase muscular endurance?

The following workouts are for "team" sports, such as football, rugby and soccer, as well as short-distance track. If you are an endurance athlete(cross country running, skiing, etc.), then you are best off just doing your sport and doing it often!

1. "Beginner"

2. "Advanced"



      • Max Effort Lower.

    Tuesday - Rest.



      • Max Effort Upper.

      Lactic Acid Tolerance Training
      [After a carb-rich meal and digestion]

        "Sprint The Straightaways" x Less than 5 laps. Do as many as you can without stopping movement. If you can do 5 laps, up the intensity of the jog/sprint

    Thursday - Rest.



      • Repetition Effort Lower

      Lactic Acid Tolerance Training
      [After a carb-rich meal and digestion]

        Bike Work 1-2 times. You should really "feel the burn"


      Aerobic Training:

        Jog 1-2 miles. Should be difficult, but a very little soreness.



      • Repetition Upper

Max Effort Lifts:

Repetition Day:

    On repetition day you do bench on upper, squat on lower. Choose a weight and do it as many times as you can (i.e.- 135/150/185/225lbs). On squats I would stick to doing 20 reps. Try to do more weight for 20 reps each week. On top of these, do 3-4 assistance exercises for each major muscle group.

    If you are a fighter (MMA, Wrestling, etc.), then I would recommend replacing each repetition day with a full body circuit. Choose about 7-10 lifts that can be performed quickly, and do 8-15 reps of each lift with no rest in-between the different lifts.

    Make sure you hit all of your body. Rest 1-3 minutes between sets (if you want to get sport specific, rest the time you get to rest in between rounds of your sport). Some good lifts to do are:

    Now, some of you may disagree with me on all the weight training, but remember, EVERYTHING in sports is founded on maximum strength (as well as flexibility). With proper training, who is going to bench 225 pounds more times, someone benching 400 for a max, or someone benching 500 for a max?

    Same for leg strength and the triple jump. No matter how much one trains for repetition, if one person has a drastic strength advantage, odds are they will either last longer at the same pace, or last the same time at a higher pace. Either way, they will be the one winning the race.

The Three Keys For Muscular Endurance:

    Here are what I call the "3 Keys":

    1. Maximal Strength
    2. Lactic Acid Tolerance
    3. Strong Aerobic System

    If you attain all these, then you are going to outlast your opponent!

a.k.a. The "Cliffnotes" Version.

All in all, no matter how you go about it, you should seek to obtain the three keys listed above.

This means lifting weights, tempo runs and easy-paced jogging for most people. I listed my suggested ways, but it is up to you to figure out how YOU want to train. Every athlete and sport has different requirements, and adapting your training to suit you and your sport is part of the game.

Bonus Question:
Which sport do you think requires the most muscular endurance? Why?

In my opinion, it would have to be any form of "fighting" sport. MMA, boxing, and wrestling spring to my mind. In all these sports, you are going all out every round. It is like constant sprinting. In a wrestling match between two equally skilled opponents, the match is usually decided in the third round by whoever is the best conditioned and can stay strong.

Football/Soccer/Rugby/Hockey are a close second because you use all your energy systems as well ... you are always moving (Aerobic), often sprinting (Lactic) and kicking/hitting etc. (ATP-PC).

Written by OLP -

Research Sources:

  1. Sports Coach, "Energy Pathways",
  2. Various Articles, "Various Titles",
  3. Elizabeth Quin, " Sports Medicine",