Tag Archives: resistance exercise

Guidelines for Improving Muscular ENDURANCE

When creating a resistance training program, you can use the FIRST acronym as a guide:  frequency, intensity, repetitions, sets, and type of exercise.  Using these five essential factors can help you easily develop a workout plan to help reach your goals.

The purpose of this post is to discuss how to use the FIRST guidelines for improving muscular endurance.  Muscular endurance is defined as “the ability of a muscle or a group of muscles to repeatedly exert force against resistance“.  Muscular endurance is usually determined by an increase number of repetitions completed with slightly less than your maximum resistance.  In my next post, I’ll focus on guidelines for improving muscular strength.

Common training plans for muscular endurance focus on a total-body workout consisting of exercises for the larger muscle groups of the legs, then the trunk, and ending with the upper body and arms.

FIRST Guidelines for Improving Muscular Endurance

Frequency:  During the first few months of a typical strength-training program, two or three workouts a week seem to be equally effective for developing muscular fitness.  But, as you advance and get at higher training levels, you’ll need more time to recover between sessions.  Proper recovery time is crucial.  Three training sessions a week is sufficient for improving muscular endurance, but if you cannot complete the same or more reps at your next session the frequency of your training should be reduced to twice per week.

Intensity:  One of the goals of training for muscular endurance is to work the muscles that you are focusing on to fatigue.  For most people, this is about 12-16 controlled reps.  Typically, 12 repetitions can be done with about 70% of max resistance and 16 reps with about 60% max resistance.  For that reason, the recommended training intensity for muscular endurance is between 60-70% of your max resistance.

Repetitions:  The range recommended for enhancing muscular endurance is between 12-16 controlled reps that work the muscle to fatigue.  You should increase the resistance by about 5% when you can complete 16 controlled reps.  When you increase the weight, this usually shortens the set by 2-4 repetitions then you work your way back up to 16 reps.

Sets:  Multiple sets of each exercise are advised in a program for muscular endurance.  It’s also important to take short rest periods between sets.  So, you could do two or three sets of each exercise with <60 seconds of rest in between.

Type:  There are many options of resistance exercises that will help improve muscular endurance.  Medicine balls, bands, free-weights, and machines are all efficient for training.  Use whatever you feel most comfortable with.  It’s also helpful to switch it up to prevent boredom.  Keep in mind that you should work all major muscle groups, but you don’t have to do each one individually.  For example, if you do the bench press, shoulder press, and bar dips, you won’t have to do a specific triceps exercise.

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If you are specifically training for muscular endurance, following these FIRST guidelines can be very helpful in planning your strength training program.

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