Muscular endurance is defined as the ability to perform repeated contractions over an extended period of time. It is required for long-distance running, hiking, backpacking, cycling and cross-country skiing. Endurance activities use the body's slow twitch fibers, which are designed to sustain long duration, sub-maximal workloads. This means that endurance workouts usually use lighter weights and higher repetitions. A well-designed muscular endurance exercise program has obvious and subtle benefits. Most of these benefits are interrelated.
Many aerobic athletes have sufficient cardiovascular endurance to run a marathon or hike for 10 miles but lack the muscular endurance to sustain these activities. Even if your heart is willing to continue, if your muscles are fatigued, your activity will be cut short. A trainer skilled in sport-specific conditioning can help you analyze the muscular endurance requirements of your sport and devise an appropriate training program.
Injury prevention is one of the more subtle benefits of muscular endurance. Many outdoor athletes have some sort of muscular imbalance, such as the hamstrings and quadriceps, with the quadriceps being the stronger muscle group. The weaker muscle groups may also have limited endurance. Their early fatigue often causes the stronger muscles to overcompensate, thereby compromising form and causing injuries.
The hamstring-quadriceps imbalance is an example. The hamstrings flex the knee, and the quadriceps extend it. Knee injuries often occur when the quadriceps, due to hamstring fatigue, extend the knee, when flexion would have been the more appropriate muscle action.
Maintaining Postural Alignment
Optimal postural alignment enhances movement efficiency and sport performance. The core and upper back muscles are responsible for maintaining alignment. Core muscle endurance helps you keep your spine in an upright position, thereby preventing fatigue. Upper back muscle endurance facilitates a stress-free postural alignment, which allows you to carry a heavy backpack or play tennis without strain in the neck or shoulders.
Building Bone Mass
Weight-bearing muscle endurance exercises such as squats, lunges and push-ups build bone density. This will prevent osteoporosis and enable you to practice your outdoor activities in the later years of life.
Article Written By Lisa Mercer
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.