Calisthenics Training for Muscular Endurance
Raw strength doesn’t always win the day. Sometimes what’s needed is the ability to go longer, whether carrying groceries or finish that last lap in the pool. Muscular endurance is what makes it possible. Fortunately, there isn't any need for fancy equipment to develop the long-term strength that gets the job done.
What is Muscular Endurance?
Muscular endurance is the muscle’s ability to produce repeated contractions against some form of resistance for an extended period. It’s one component of muscular fitness, which also includes strength and power.
To test your endurance, try doing push-ups. Get into a plank position and place your hands shoulder-width apart and feet together. Drop to the ground and then come back up, aiming to do it for two minutes. The longer you can do push-ups, the more muscular endurance you have.
It seems straightforward enough, but what if someone can’t even do one push-up?
A 2009 study in the Journal of Strength Conditioning Research concludes that calisthenics can train endurance for a stronger person and strength for someone who can’t complete many reps. So, some strength must be present for muscle endurance.
Calisthenics to Build Muscular Endurance
Calisthenics exercises are one of the best ways to develop practical muscular endurance. People always need to lift their own weight. Calisthenics exercises can be done almost anywhere, by almost anybody at any age and don’t require any equipment
Calisthenics will build a basic level of strength that will make strenuous activities like running, swimming and biking easier, encouraging more healthy activity for even better fitness.
Calisthenic Workouts for Endurance
While it’s true that calisthenics will help develop muscular endurance; going at it willy-nilly isn’t the best approach. There has to be a plan. Try cycling through three common calisthenic moves— the push-up, the pull-up and single-leg lunges — to begin building muscular endurance.
The push-up (also called a press-up) is one of the most familiar calisthenic movements. It stimulates every pushing muscle in the upper body, building endurance in triceps, pectoral, and shoulder muscles. As a bonus, push-ups will even work the abdominals (which are used to keep the body in position).
HOW TO DO IT: Keep the back and legs straight with hands shoulder width apart and come down until your chest touches the ground then back up until your elbows are straight. Perform three to five sets of 15 to 20 repetitions several days a week to build better endurance.
When doing pull-ups, gradually build up to 10 or 15 reps for strength and endurance. If that’s too much in the beginning, consider rest-pause training — do one rep, rest a few seconds and then do another one.
Gradually reduce the rest period and increase the number of reps until able to complete at least three without rest. If even one rep is impossible, try hanging from the bar for time to begin developing the strength and endurance required.
Work almost every lower body muscle with this exercise. Lunges can be performed for distance or repetitions and stationary or moving forward.
HOW TO DO IT: Step into the kneeling position then push up until standing again and repeat with the other leg. It’s harder than it sounds; build up to around 30 reps per leg for quadriceps and glutes that can make the distance with ease.
- Army Study Guide: Calisthenics (Muscular Strength and Endurance Training - MSE)
- Sports Fitness Advisor: Muscular Endurance Training
- American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(3):687-708. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3181915670
- Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(7):1334-59. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb
George W. Citroner is a freelance journalist covering science, medicine, and health.