Chances are, you’ve heard of endurance running or endurance cycling, but what does endurance training actually mean? Simply put, endurance is the ability to exert a high level of physical effort for an extended period of time. A good example would be a marathon – it’s a test of endurance as opposed to a short sprint.
Researchers classify sports like running and cycling as cardiovascular endurance, but there’s also an additional classification: muscular endurance. This form of endurance takes into account the number of repetitions you complete of one exercise without needing to rest and would include strength training exercises like pushups or weight lifting.
Want to learn more? Let’s dig right into the two types of endurance and see if we can make more sense of it.
The two types of endurance training
When we talk about cardiovascular endurance, we’re talking about the ability of our heart, lungs and blood vessels to provide our muscles with oxygen for a sustained period. How long, you might ask? The time varies, but endurance running, for example, is considered any continuous run that’s 30 minutes long minimum.
Your cardiovascular system is endurant when your heart beats at a slower rate, even while performing strenuous physical activities. In situations where a person who is physically inactive or even moderately active might get out of breath, a person who regularly practices endurance training would find it less difficult breathing and recovering afterward.
Cardiovascular endurance includes long periods of:
- Team sports
- Brisk walking
If you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance, try slowing down on your next run or bike ride and adding a few more minutes to your total workout time. As you get used to running the new time, you can start to run that time faster, or continue to add more minutes to your endurance training session.
When a person has excellent muscular endurance, it means that they can perform strength exercises with proper form for an extended length of time without tiring out. To better grasp the concept of muscular endurance, it’s helpful to understand a bit about muscle fibers, too.
Understanding the different types of muscle fibers
You may ask yourself, what muscle fiber is exactly? Also known as muscle cells, muscle fibers formn through the process of myogenesis. Muscle fibers are cylindrical, contain more than one nucleus and multiple mitochondria for energy production. Muscles like the biceps, for example, would include many different types of muscle fibers.
That’s right, not all muscle fibers are the same. In fact, there are three different types of fiber: Type I, IIA, and IIB. Each type of fiber has a specific purpose, namely in the way that they perform and how quickly they fatigue.
Type I fibers
Type I fibers are useful for long-duration activities. Also known as slow twitch fibers, these muscle fibers have the slowest rate of fatigue as they are supplied with the most blood and oxygen.
Endurance athletes such as Iron Man competitors have a higher percentage of Type I fibers that they built up through endurance training. Type I fibers are also in our spine muscles — you can thank them for enabling you to stand up all day! Our legs contain them too, facilitating activities that last at least 30-45 minutes at a time, like walking or cycling.
Type II fibers
Type II fibers (fast twitch fibers) are useful for short-duration activities. They can be further divided into two categories, type IIA and type IIB (also known as IIX).
- Type IIA: Known as fast oxidative fibers, these are useful for activities that take a lot of power but are shorter in duration than Type I fibers. An example would be a 400-meter sprint.
- Type IIB/IIX: Also called fast glycolytic fibers, these are recruited in bursts of power even shorter than Type IIA fibers can handle. Some examples are short sprints and weightlifting at maximum intensity. Type IIB muscle fibers fatigue the fastest.
If you’re interested in improving your endurance, it’s definitely possible. With specific types of training, you can develop muscle endurance significantly and turn some type II fibers into type I fibers. Let’s explore the different ways to increase your muscle endurance are.
How to train muscular endurance
If you want to increase your muscles’ abilities to work for an extended period, you may wish to train at a low-to-moderate intensity, so that you can keep up with the exercise for 30 minutes or more. Doing bodyweight exercises is a great way to start. As you continue to improve, you can keep increasing the number of reps in your workout, and eventually add weights for even more of a challenge.
It’s also possible to increase your muscle endurance by doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training). Even though HIIT workouts are usually short yet powerful, they still may enhance your muscles’ capacity to utilize oxygen and in turn improve muscular endurance.
Try this 15-minute endurance workout
If you want to increase your endurance, we recommend working out without resting between exercises. Circuit training incorporating bodyweight exercises are an excellent approach, as they keep you active for longer, continually moving from one exercise to the next.
Ready to test your endurance?
Without resting between exercises (if you can), try to perform five sets of the circuit below. You may take a 1-minute break at the end of each set — use it to catch your breath or take a sip of water!
- Inchworms: 5 reps
- Push-ups: 10 reps
- Plank jacks: 15 reps
- Sumo squat: 20 reps
- Butterfly sit-ups: 25 reps
- Swimmer: 20 reps
- Dips: 15 reps
- Walking lunges: 10 reps
- Burpees: 5 reps
- 1-minute break
Practice makes perfect
An incremental, steady approach to building up your endurance training is the most effective way to reach your goals. Training both your cardiovascular and muscular endurance takes plenty of practice, and of course, a bit of time. We recommend staying on track by sticking to an achievable schedule that will challenge you gradually when it comes to difficulty.
To keep you on your toes, try throwing some 8fit exercises into the mix. Not only will it help you build strength, but as you progress through the 8fit program, you’ll encounter exercises that meet you at your fitness level. The 8fit Pro app offers numerous HIIT exercises that can help in your quest to increase endurance, and will give a whole new meaning to being young at heart!