Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Day 6 - Muscular Endurance and Athletic Performance

Below is a question I was asked recently regarding muscular endurance:

Question (paraphrasing):
"I was wondering what you thought of muscle endurance in which the value of very high rep (20-30) sets. Probably too much of an over-simplification on my part, but it seems like very high rep sets are more conducive to performance?"

Muscle endurance can be a great asset for certain athletes such as those that compete in endurance events where your primary energy source is aerobic in nature (eg. marathon runners). Do not confuse this with
other sports that may seem to be "aerobic" such as hockey, basketball, or even soccer. These sports and others similar to these actually consist of many different bouts of fast, powerful actions (anaerobic power). For that reason, to increase performance in MOST sports, power andspeed training should be the cornerstone of training.

Having said all of that, every athlete should include some sort of endurance training at some point in their
training periodization. Now when this falls into your actual training regimen, depends on what type of sport or event you will be competing in. Let me give you a few examples.

Every muscle in your body has a specific ratio of type 1 (aerobic), to type 2 (anaerobic) muscle fibers that is determined by genetics. This ratio will not change, however, you can train type 2 fibers to become MORE
aerobic in nature. The trade off for that is that they lose a bit of strength/power.

If you are an athlete that wants to train your muscles to be more powerful/strong, you can first train your muscle fibers to be more aerobic which makes them more efficient. When I say more efficient, I mean they are better at oxygen transport, utilization, waste removal, etc. this can benefit you when you then start to hit the heavy weights because your muscles will recover quicker so you can train more efficiently.

On the flip side of that coin, MMA fighters for example would want to first train their muscles to be strong and powerful but then have endurance properties because of the number of punches/kicks they could potentially throw in a fight.

I have actually experienced an example of this with myself recently. I am coming off of my mass phase, where I increased my muscular size and strength, so I have no problems picking up my son. However, my muscles aren't very 'endurance' trained, so my arms start burning after holding him for a pretty short amount of time.

By focusing on power and strength training, an individual's performance increase would be noticeable in the speed/quickness department. If an athlete would want to increase their performance so that they could race after a puck in hockey, for example, their training should focus on speed and power which would allow them to blow by the opposing player.

On the flip side of the coin, if their endurance lacks, then after a couple of 'sprints', their legs would be toast and they wouldn't be able to skate as fast towards the end of the game. That is where training structure and proper periodization come into play. Ideally, you want to have an even balance between performance (powerful, strong, explosive actions), combined with endurance (ability to perform for longer periods of time) to have the best of both worlds, and then vary each asset depending on your sport.

A defensive line in football, for example, would want to be VERY strong/powerful, but they dont need as much endurance because the plays are so short and they have long rest periods at times between plays.

Quote of the day:
"He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty."
~Lao Tzu