Whether you are a competitive athlete or a recreational fitness enthusiast who enjoys challenging yourself, you may want to find new ways to increase both muscular strength and endurance. While there are many ways to do each, this article will focus on four tips (in no particular order) that can be used by anyone of any fitness level to increase muscle strength, muscle endurance, or sometimes both.
#1. Heavy Compound Exercises for Strength
While you don’t need to eliminate accessory and isolation exercises from your workout to focus on compound (or multi-joint) exercises, it is a good idea to make your multi-joint lifts a priority. Compound exercises like the bench press, squat, and deadlift require many muscle groups to work together. Therefore, it’s best to do them at the start of your workout while you’re still fresh.
It makes sense that lifting heavy things will gradually increase your muscular strength, but compound exercises have some other benefits, too. Namely, recruiting multiple muscle groups triggers a release of growth hormone and testosterone, both of which can contribute to increased strength.
And while heavy compounds are often thought of as a strength exercise, they will likely help with both muscular strength and endurance, since it takes endurance to repeatedly execute complex lifts.
#2. Choose the Right Rep Ranges for Strength
As any avid weightlifter knows, how many sets and reps you should do will vary greatly depending on what your goal is. Those training for muscle size generally want to use a lower (but still challenging weight) for longer rep ranges. On the other hand, those who primarily want to train for strength will want to lift heavier weights for fewer reps.
If you know your one-rep max on a given exercise, this can help you decide your training percentage for maximal strength training. If you want to develop muscular strength, aim for 85% to 100% of your one-rep max. Most lifters training for strength keep their reps between one and five.
Fitness specialists recommend doing three sets of three reps for each exercise when training for maximal strength. This lets you lift close to your one-rep max, thus increasing muscular strength faster.
#3. Increase Training Volume for Endurance
Some people tend to see muscular strength and endurance as opposite training goals, but with an intelligent program design, you can train for both. One way to increase your endurance is to increase your training volume. This applies to how frequently you work out, as well as to how much you do in a given workout.
The principle of increasing volume can apply to both strength and cardio. If you are looking to increase volume in strength training, cardio, or both, you can start by adding more training sessions per week. You also can increase the amount of training per session.
For cardio, this may mean extending your bike ride for a few miles or gradually running ten more minutes each week. If you do strength training, you can add more exercises or more working sets per session. For a real challenge to your muscle endurance, German volume training may be worth trying.
This involves doing ten sets of ten reps for one exercise per muscle group and resting 30 seconds between sets. Some lifters like to train for both muscular strength and endurance. On the other hand, many find long rep ranges to be mentally taxing, so it may take some extra effort to focus.
#4. Utilize Interval Training for Endurance
Looking to increase muscular strength and endurance sometimes involves extremely challenging workouts. While rigorous, high-intensity intervals can be exhausting, they can help you train three systems that contribute to your endurance: the ATP-phosphate-creatine system, the lactic acid system (technically called the glycolytic system), and the aerobic system.
When you exercise explosively, you can generally use ATP, a major muscular energy source, for about three seconds. Then, phosphate-creatine is used to replace ATP. To train this system, try to do repeats of max-effort sprints for just under 10 seconds each.
The glycolytic system involves breaking down carbohydrates for energy, which results in lactic acid buildup. To train this system, you need to increase your body’s ability to tolerate lactic acid. You can do exercises like jogging around a track and sprinting the straight portions or biking at max effort for 25-30 seconds and then spending several minutes at an easy pace.
The aerobic system helps slow lactic acid production through the use of oxygen. Therefore, training this system involves steady, longer bouts of aerobic exercise.
Muscular strength and endurance are two cornerstones of physical fitness. Still, many people don’t know how to optimally train for them. With the right knowledge and training focus, you can overcome weaknesses in either of these areas. Try out one or more of the training methods above. You will almost certainly see your muscular strength and endurance begin to improve.
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