Muscular endurance is crucial for success in endurance sports and in many work activities. Unlike muscular strength -- a muscle’s ability to exert force against resistance in a short amount of time --muscular endurance describes a muscle’s ability to persist with repetitive contractions against resistance over a long period. For a distance runner, endurance could be the difference between finishing a race or not. And, for the non-athlete, muscle endurance helps assure a high quality of life versus limiting your activities due to poor health or premature aging.
Your body has two types of muscles fibers -- slow and fast twitch -- and genetics determines the amount you have of each type. It's the slow-twitch muscles that have the characteristics you need that are responsible for endurance, notes Jason Karp, exercise physiologist. Increased muscle endurance helps enhance the function of the slow-twitch muscles -- to allow you to perform athletic and everyday activities without getting tired. To build endurance, engage in strength training that works different muscle groups, lift lighter weights and perform high reps until fatigued.
Training is key to the success of endurance athletes. These athletes require their muscles to repeatedly contract over long periods of time with minimal fatigue. Marathon runners, triathletes, distance swimmers, cross-country skiers and rock climbers most likely have more slow-twitch muscle fibers. To improve their performance, these athletes engage in endurance exercises consisting of high reps and lighter weights.
Whether you're an athlete or simply wanting to improve your overall health, building muscle endurance helps you slow down the aging process, notes Amy Ashmore, University of Texas kinesiology professor. Ashmore states that research has shown that with regular, intense exercise, you can force your body to make physical and physiological adaptions, which can slow biological aging. Endurance training, and exercise generally, tones your muscles, aids in weight management, improves cardiovascular and lung functions, reduces your risk of osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease and diabetes, and helps to lower your blood pressure. Training the muscles of endurance around your core helps you maintain good posture.
Muscle endurance can help you sustain the energy level needed to perform the many activities of daily living. Being able to go about your day, to perform and complete your tasks, is crucial to your independence and quality of life, especially as you age. For example, having good muscle endurance could be the difference between you mowing the lawn versus hiring a lawn maintenance worker, or walking up several flights of stairs versus taking the elevator.