Improving muscle endurance takes a back seat to increasing muscle mass when discussing methods of resistance training.However, muscle endurance is just as important, because it allows muscles to exercise for an extended period of time before becoming fatigued. Endurance training is beneficial for walking, jogging, biking, swimming and other physical activities that require continuous movement. Furthermore, endurance can contribute to weight loss because cardiovascular exercise can be maintained for a longer duration.
The American College of Sport Medicine makes recommendations to effectively improve muscular endurance (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2009; 41:3 687-708). Incorporating these methods into an exercise program will improve muscular endurance.
Decide your reason for improving muscular endurance and focus on improving the endurance of these muscles. For example, if you are plan on running a marathon, then you want to focus on increasing the endurance of your leg muscles. If you are a swimmer, you want to focus on both upper and lower body endurance.
Decide what type of equipment you are going to use. Beginners may begin with resistance bands, but should advance to free weights or machine resistance. Beginners should consult a personal trainer or workout with someone that has previous experience with endurance resistance training.
Write down in a notebook or a workout log the exercises you will perform before each workout. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has a library of exercises to choose from. Include eight to 12 exercises starting with multi-limb exercises (e.g. dumbbell front squat), then perform single-limb exercises (e.g. standing calf raises) and bilateral-limb exercises (e.g. dumbbell bench press). Three to six sets of each exercise should be performed. Alternate between upper body and lower body exercises.
Endurance exercises should be performed three days per week if you are training for an endurance event, such as a run, biathlon, marathon, etc. Otherwise, endurance exercises should be performed at least once per week, and muscle building exercises twice per week.
During the Workout
Choose the number of repetitions, or movements that you will perform. Beginners should choose a weight that will allow the performance of 10 to 15 repetitions per set. Advanced individuals should perform between 10 to 25 repetitions per set. For 10 to 15 repetitions, the ACSM recommends slower movements. Your concentric movement, the movement against the weight, should take one to two seconds to perform. The eccentric movement, the movement back to the starting position, should take four seconds to perform. For 15 to 25 or more repetitions, fast one to two second concentric and eccentric movements are preferred.
The ACSM recommends short rest periods between sets. For 10 to 15 repetitions, you should take less than one minute of rest between sets. For higher 15 to 25 or more repetition sets, you should rest for one to two minutes between sets.
Write down the amount of resistance and the number of repetitions you performed for each exercise. Once you can perform 25 repetitions of a specific exercise, increase the weight by 10 percent.