Typically, a standard workout will be structured one of two ways: 1. Do X number of reps for X number of sets or 2. Do as many of X exercise for X amount of time. If you’ve done a lot of the latter, then you’ll know that it’s meant to test your muscle endurance. Muscle endurance is how long your muscles can handle doing an exercise before failure. If you’ve ever done one of our boxing classes, for example, you’ll encounter a lot of bodyweight exercises (squats, pushups, burpees, lunges, frog jumps, duck walks, planks, wall sits, stairs, you name it) that push your muscles until they burn and you have to take a break. There’s a reason for that, but we’ll get to it in a second.
The Difference Between Endurance and Strength
It’s good to know that muscle endurance does not = muscle strength, and it’s also different from cardio endurance as well. Muscle strength is the amount of force you can put out or lift while muscle endurance is about how many reps of an exercise you can do before getting fatigued. Both are important but they also serve different purposes.
Endurance in Boxing
For example, in a sport like boxing, having a really strong punch will obviously be an advantage. But being able to last in the ring long enough to land a powerful punch is another story. Because typically you’ll be exerting a lot of energy moving around, ducking, rolling, slipping, pivoting, throwing your own punches/feints, and thinking about how you can land some solid punches.
Which is why we do a lot of endurance-based workouts during our boxing classes. You’ll find in boxing that stamina plays a huge part in performance. Obviously, if you’re too winded, you’ll have trouble moving around properly and most likely struggle with throwing a very strong punch. But even with a solid cardio base, your muscles will eventually fatigue if you don’t have much muscular endurance. Boxing is one of the most efficient full-body exercises for a reason.
Improving Your Endurance
How can you build muscular endurance?The concept of building muscular endurance is simple enough. Do as many reps of X exercise until you can’t maintain proper form, and do that consistently and track your progress over time. Eventually you’ll see an increase in how many reps you can do (or in the case of things like planks or wall-sits, increase in how long you can maintain it). If you’re using weights, start with lower resistance. So if you want to improve a specific muscle or group of muscles, choose exercises that target them and design a routine that works around your goals.
Having good muscle endurance means that you can exercise for longer. It’s also great for cardiovascular fitness like running, swimming, rowing, cycling, etc. And of course, it has everyday benefits too, like being able to carry the groceries up three flights of stairs without dying or cleaning the bathroom without having to switch hands all of the time because your arms are tired. If you ever feel discouraged about how “weak” you feel, know that muscle endurance can always be improved. You just have to work at it consistently and you’ll get there!