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Do you know that your body’s ability to perform the most mundane of tasks like climbing upstairs, lifting heavy objects or even something as simple as walking is a result of your muscles working tirelessly? The stronger your muscles are, the more you’re able to push your body to lift more or push beyond your limits. And then there’s your muscle endurance, which is what most athletes focus on.
But now you must be wondering – is there really a difference between muscle strength and endurance? Or are they basically the one and the same?
Before we tell you how to build muscle endurance,you need to understand the difference between these two concepts.
They both are two different things.
Strength is when you work hard so that your muscles are able to push beyond their existing limits, being able to take on greater weights. For example, if you’re lifting a 10 pound dumbbell at the gym, pushing a 15 or 20 pound dumbbell regularly will force your muscles to adapt accordingly and be able to lift more weights. Here, you’ve worked on your muscle strength, which means exerting your maximum force in a short period of time.
Now, when you’re at the gym and you’re doing 10 reps of a bicep curl with a 10 pound dumbbell. However, after a few days you realize you’re able to do 15 reps, and after a few days, 20 reps. This is nothing but your muscle’s building endurance – the ability of your muscles to repeatedly be able to perform a task for an extended period of time without tiring out. Here, the focus is less on the weight and more on the repetitions.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is – progressive overload.
What this means is that irrespective of whether you’re increasing your workout’s duration, resistance or volume, you have to do so slowly and steadily. Why? Because putting too much load on your muscles in too little a time is not even your goal to begin with. In addition, it will not only tire them out quickly, but might even result in muscle injury.
Your main goal here is not perfection – it is to witness steady progress. And that can only be done over an extended period of time. So be patient.
The thing is that when it comes to how to build muscle endurance, the worst thing you can do is to let your body get used to your exercise. In order to always keep your body guessing and to prevent it from becoming complacent, you have to constantly vary the level of resistance you’re working out at. Workout with heavy resistance on even days and on extended periods of time on odd days. This way, your body will constantly be on its toes, you will keep working on your endurance and you will not hit plateau.
Constantly switching things up shouldn’t stop when it comes to your reps, duration or resistance of exercises. That applies to the very exercises you’re doing as well. You should alternate on the muscle groups you’re working out on. If you’re always doing cardio, focus more on strength training once in a while, and vice versa. Variety is also important because:
Contrary to popular belief, cardio is actually good when it comes to how to build muscle endurance. Now you can do this one of two ways:
The best way, of course, is to do both. First let your body get used to cardio and run, spin, cycle or do aerobics for long periods of time (20-30 minutes). Gradually, tone down on your time and increase your resistance. Incorporate weights like kettles, dumbbells and barbells in your workout to increase your endurance. Cardio is also good for your heart, because it exerts the heart muscles, which in turn pump more blood to your body.
It goes without saying that you cannot really work on muscle endurance (especially upper body) without doing weight lifting. As mentioned above, focus more on increasing your repetitions than increasing your weights. If you feel increasing your reps is something you can’t do from the beginning, no issues. Increase your number of sets instead.
A lot of people make the mistake of giving their body unnecessary amounts of break between reps and sets. IF you’re working on muscle strength, then giving your muscle long breaks (60-90 seconds) is understandable because they need to relax after lifting heavy weights. However, if your aim is how to build muscle endurance then you have to sacrifice break time. 15 second breaks are more than enough and the only time you should go on a longer break is if you’re having difficulty breathing, working out or are experiencing pain in your body.
Also known as isometric exercises, these exercises focus more on duration and your body posture. They work on your core muscles, and the best examples of these would be floor exercises, pilates and yoga. You’d be surprised to know that popular exercises like plank and squats come under isometric exercises. Here are some wonderful exercises if you’re a beginner:
A lot of people ignore the importance of stretching your muscles, both pre and post workout. The thing is it’s not wise to immediately start pumping 50lb weights, without letting your muscles get warmed up – this only increases chances of muscle injury. On the other hand, stretching after workout ensures that all the tension and ache in your muscles goes away, so that you experience minimal pain when you’re resting at home. Stretching not only improves your flexibility, but ensures the well-being of your muscles, and aids in the improvement of your muscle endurance.