Muscular Endurance: Five Days Five Ways to Exercise Right

muscular endurance

Exercise Right Week is an awareness campaign that is brought to you by Exercise & Sport Science Australia (ESSA) annually. This year it will run from 25th – 31st May with the theme of “Movement is Medicine”. The aim is to highlight how powerful exercise, physical activity and movement are for your health, irrespective of age, weight, background or health status.

Over five days our resident Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) Scott Howard will take you through five ways to Exercise Right!


Let’s learn about – Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the submaximal force a muscle can produce over an extended period of time. As for muscular strength, the term muscular endurance is also relative, with an active 20-year-old pushing a wheelbarrow at work all day and a 60-year-old with emphysema carrying the groceries in from the car – both here are performing muscular endurance tasks to their full ability.

To best understand people’s limits and how to put together a specific muscular endurance program, various testing methods are utilised by exercise physiologists. A common test for the 60-year-old is 30sec bicep curl test, with the average female and male completing 16 and 19 repetitions in this time respectively. A common test for the 20-year-old is a maximum push up test, with females and males performing 30 and 36 repetitions respectively to have “excellent” muscular endurance. Knowing where each individual sits within these tests, gives us great information on how many reps to start with when designing your exercise program.

There is typically a huge focus on muscular strength in the young and healthy, however there are several benefits of muscular endurance training too. Where strength training targets fast twitch muscles such as the quadriceps when jumping to catch a ball, muscular endurance training targets slow twitch muscles such as the deeper abdominals to stabilise the trunk when packing a footy scrum, or maintaining your balance whilst surfing or racing motorcross. Stabilisation muscles work at low amplitude over a longer period of time. It is important to train these muscles correctly by loading lighter and with greater amount of repetitions (or time).

Muscular endurance is an essential component of lung (or pulmonary) rehabilitation as it can help to decrease shortness of breath when performing our usual activities in life. One way this is achieved is by improving the efficiency of your muscle’s need for oxygen. In other words, they don’t need as much oxygen to perform their job well. For those living with chronic obstructive lung disease, rehabilitation programs must at a minimum include aerobic exercise and lower limb muscular endurance exercises such as step ups. Optimally, these programs should also include upper limb endurance exercises such as bicep curls and shoulder presses. You should aim to perform the exercises at a “moderate” level of breathlessness or a 3-4/10 on the Modified Borg scale. If your level of breathlessness exceeds this, you should stop and rest until it returns to a manageable level.

Dr Ash Bowden from Doctor Do-More also explains that muscular endurance is an important element that defines our ‘exercise tolerance’, an area of health that a physician will often ask about. An improved exercise tolerance will make people better candidates for surgery, more likely to recover from illness and less likely to suffer illness in the first place. With this in mind, improving our muscular endurance can have a benefit on our overall health.

If you are interested in assessing your muscular endurance or would like to know more on how to improve it please contact our office on (02) 4314 5183 or online via to book an appointment with our Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

Keep an eye out tomorrow for the fourth installment in our Five Days Five Ways to Exercise Right blog series. If you missed yesterday’s blog on muscular strength click here.