Have You Tested Your Muscular Endurance Lately?

Have You Tested Your Muscular Endurance Lately?
Photo: oatawa, Shutterstock

As 2020 draws to a close, I’d like to encourage us all to look back at whatever fitness successes we’ve had. If you kept up with any training at all, that’s a victory. If you took time off because that’s what best supported your mental health, that’s a victory too.

Last December, we aimed for a bunch of fitness benchmarks, which I framed as a “gift to your future self.” We had tests for flexibility, pull-ups, pushups and cardio fitness. If you’ve kept up your training, by all means revisit them and see how you’ve improved.

But it’s also good to look forward. This month we’ll look at a different set of benchmarks, and once again, you can use them as a baseline to measure your improvement in 2020.

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This week, let’s tackle muscular endurance. As you get stronger, you tend to be able to do an exercise for more times in a row, but strength and repetition aren’t exactly the same thing. For example, somebody who has a huge bench press might not be able to do 100 pushups. And somebody who frequently does fancy hairstyles may be able to keep their arms up for 15 minutes, even if they can’t overhead press much at all.

Give these tests a try:

  • Do a plank (or the plank variation of your choice). How long can you hold the position?
  • Choose a pushup variation that isn’t too hard for you (wall pushups, floor pushups, etc). How many can you do without a break?

Muscular endurance is something that responds to specific training. If you can do 10 or 20 pushups and dream of doing 100, you may not have to get too much stronger; you just have to get better at doing it for longer.

On the bright side, high-rep training doesn’t take much weight, so it’s a perfect project if your gym has just shut down again. You can branch out to other exercises as well, like bicep curls with soup cans or timed wall sits. How many reps will you be able to do — or how long will you be able to hold the position — by the end of the month?

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