A little while ago, in a post about the phenomenon of “Skinny Fat”, I started writing about the Five Components of Fitness which are (in no particular order):
- Muscle Endurance (how long a muscle can work without fatigue)
- Muscle Strength (i.e.: how much force a muscle can exert a single time)
- Cardio Vascular Endurance (the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide the body with oxygen)
- Body Composition (percent of body fat vs. lean muscle tissue)
- Flexibility (ability for the joints to achieve full range of motion)
For our bodies to be physically fit, we must be fit in all of these areas which is why it is so important to cross train. I know that when I concentrate too much on running, while my cardiovascular system improves, my muscle strength and my flexibility suffer. Therefore I try to add in some weight training and yoga to the mix.
But I want to go a little deeper into exactly how we can train to improve these different areas of fitness. In this post I am going to talk about training for Muscle Endurance.
While training for strength and training for endurance can both be accomplished at the gym with the same equipment, they are actually quite different. When just starting out, it is advisable to start with a program for Muscle Endurance, and to work each of the 8 major muscle groups.
Before starting any exercise program check with your doctor to ensure that are healthy and that you don’t have any health issues or concerns that should make you avoid certain types of exercise.
Training for muscle endurance involves low intensity and high volume workouts. In other words, you should lift weights at about 50%-75% of your max, doing 15-20 repetitions per set, for 3-6 sets. So for an average person starting out try these weights for your major muscle groups. Adjust as needed. All machines are not equal. There are other factors besides the weights such as the weight of the machine itself and the ease of its movement that effect the weight you are lifting. If you can easily do 20 reps, increase the weight 5 pounds, if you can’t make 15, decrease the weight:
|Chest (Pecs)||Chest Press Machine||30-60 lbs||10-30|
|Upper Back (Lats)||Lat Pulldown||60-80||40-50|
|Shoulders (Delts)||Overhead Press Machine||40-50||10-30|
|Biceps||Bicep Curl (w/dumbbells)||10-15||8-10|
|Triceps||V Grip Pushdown||25-40||15-25|
|Quads and Hamstrings||Leg Press Machine||50-90||20-50|
|Lower Back||Back Extension Machine||45-95||25-45|
It is a good idea to keep a notebook and record your weights, reps and sets. The goal is to slowly increase the weight and the number of sets — start with 3 and work up to a maximum of 6. If you can do 5 or 6, it is time to increase the weight!
Prior to starting a Muscle Endurance training program, it is a good idea to do a test to see where you are starting, and then do a test at the end of 6 weeks to see your progress.
The generally accepted test for muscle endurance is the push up test To to this test, do as many good form push-ups as you can.
The above post is intended to give an explanation of muscle endurance and a sample of a muscle endurance program. It is not a personal recommendation. It is advisable to consult a physician prior to starting any exercise program and to work with a trainer for a program designed specifically for your needs. If you have any general questions, feel free to ask in the comments section and I will try to give you some general information.