4 Steps to Muscular Endurance
Most workout programs are geared towards gaining size and strength, but often times the importance of muscular endurance workouts are overlooked. Muscular endurance is important, as it will allow you to maintain strength for longer periods of time. And with a properly designed program, not only can you gain loads of muscular endurance, but you will also attain strength endurance, which NASM describes as ‘repeatedly produce high levels of force (strength), over prolonged periods of time.’
So how exactly can you attain muscular and strength endurance? Let me explain…
Step One: Build a strong base
Before you start focusing fully on muscular endurance, you first must focus on getting stronger. The reason for this is you want to be able to lift a good amount of weight when working on muscular and strength endurance.
When I first started working out, if I were asked to do 15-20 reps of Dumbbell Presses, I could maybe lift 15-20 pounds (yes, I was that weak!). However, after focusing on building up some strength first, I was soon able to perform 15-20 reps with 50-60 pounds on the Dumbbell Press. See the difference?
If I hadn’t focused on building strength first, I don’t know if I would have ever worked up to where I got. So step one is to gain some strength by working with big compound movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, bent over rows, dumbbell presses, pull-downs, etc.) and completing 4-8 repetitions for 3-5 sets.
Step Two: Add in bodyweight exercises to start building up endurance
At the end of all the workouts I do, I finish with some bodyweight exercises that are higher in repetitions. For example, my friends and I will finish with 3 rounds of push-up variations doing 40-50 reps each round. Over time the numbers continued to increase, as we got stronger and had more endurance. (first starting out these numbers were lower, around 20-25 reps)
Adding in bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, squat variations (bodyweight squats,squat jumps, leap ups, squat holds, etc.), and dips will help build more endurance and strength.
Step Three: Drop Sets
When done properly, drop sets are a great way to build both muscular endurance and strength. Some friends and I created what we feel is the best strength and endurance combo out there, known as 10-7-3-1. This is usually performed on the bench press, but I have used it for squats, deadlifts, bent over rows, and overhead press with great success.
For the 10-7-3-1 workout, this is what you will do:
Choose a weight that you can usually perform 12-14 reps with. Once you have your weight, complete as follow:
10 second rest
7 second rest
3 second rest
Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat 3 times!
As you can see, you will perform a total of 21 repetitions with a weight that you can normally only do 12-14 times. This workout is one that I live by when it comes to building muscular endurance and strength.
Here is a video example of the workout:
Step Four: Continue to challenge yourself and switch things up
You have built your base and have attained some muscular endurance, but are craving more. What should you do next? There are a few ways that you can continue to push yourself so you keep gaining more and more muscular endurance and strength. Here are three ways that will help:
1. Focus on timed rounds:
Instead of focusing on sets and reps, work in rounds of 1-2 minutes. For example, instead of performing 15 reps on squats, you would perform 1 full minute of squats (safely of course!). The reason, according to strength coach Steve Cotter, is that when we set a repetition number we are shooting for, our minds will start thinking we are tired the closer we get to that number.
So if you were going for 15 reps, the closer you get to that number the more tired you would think you are. Training in timed rounds, however, the number of repetitions is open-ended.
For timed rounds, you can do any number of exercises including squats, dumbbell presses, pulls, kettlebell swings, etc. After each round, rest 30-60 seconds.
Dumbbell Flat Chest Press: 1minute
Rest 1 Minute
Dumbbell Row: 1 minute
Rest 1 Minute
Push-Ups: 1 minute
Rest 1 Minute
Pull-Ups: 1 minute
Repeat 3 times!
2. Moderate Weight, High Sets:
Using a moderate weight, you will perform 10 repetitions for 8-10 sets on your big compound movements (such as squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls, etc.). This means you will do 80-100 repetitions for each exercise in your workout. For isolated movements (curls, tricep pull-downs, back flies, etc.) perform 15-20 reps for 3 sets.
Your goal for this workout is to complete all 8-10 sets with the same weight. So choosing the right weight for each exercise is important. Most recommend choosing a weight that you could do 20 repetitions with on your first set. This would translate into about 60% of you 1 rep maximum. (1RM= 200 pounds, means choosing 120 pounds for your workout)
Not only is this method proven to build strength, but you will also gain tons of muscular endurance as well.
1A. Dumbbell Press: 10 setsX 10 reps
2A. Lat Pull-Downs: 10 setsX 10 reps
1B. Cable Flies: 3 sets X 15 reps
2B. Seated Back Fly: 3 setsX 15 reps
3. Circuit Training:
Good ol’ circuit training is another way to build up your muscular endurance. Circuit training simply consists of moving from one exercise to the next with little rest. All you will do when creating a circuit workout is choose 3-8 exercises and move from one to the next with little or no rest in between. The only time you rest is after full rounds.
Circuits can be performed with repetitions or timed rounds and can be upper, lower, or full body workouts.
Squat: 10 reps
Bench Press: 10 reps
Bulgarian Split Squat: 10 each leg
Incline DB Press: 10 reps
Squat Jumps: 20 reps
Push-Ups: 20 reps
Rest 60 seconds and repeat 3 times!
Muscular endurance is very important in anyone’s workout routine. With the steps above, you will be able to attain tons of muscular and strength endurance in a very short period of time.
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I hope you found this helpful.