Muscular Endurance

Last Updated: January 26, 2024

Muscular endurance refers to the ability of a muscle to resist fatigue or to perform repeated exertions against a submaximal resistance. Muscular endurance is often tested during activities like lower-weight, higher-repetition weightlifting.

What does muscular endurance entail?

Muscular endurance refers to the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to contract or exert force for many successive exertions or repetitions.[1][2] It can also be thought of as a muscle’s ability to resist fatigue. While there are different theories on what exactly produces fatigue in a muscle,[3][4] muscular endurance at least partially relies on the muscle’s ability to remove waste products[5] and prevent a buildup of acidity in the muscle.[6] Other models of fatigue that involve biomechanics, muscle recruitment, cellular mechanisms, and the brain have also been proposed.[3][4]

How is muscular endurance measured?

Muscular endurance is commonly measured by assessing the number of repetitions that can be performed with a given weight or the length of time that a force can be sustained against a given load.Common tests of muscular endurance include how many repetitions a person could do of a squat or bench press at 50% of their one-repetition maximum weight, or how long a person could hold a plank or wall sit.[6][7]

What types of training can improve muscular endurance?

The type of training that best develops muscular endurance depends on the type of exercise. Generally, exercises can be classed as dynamic or static. Dynamic exercises can be divided into isotonic movements and isokinetic movements. Isotonic movements are where the joints and muscles move through their range of motion under a constant resistance, while isokinetic exercise requires a machine to keep the body moving at a constant speed regardless of the resistance applied. Static exercise is frequently described as isometric, meaning that the body holds the same position against a fixed resistance to perform exercises such as planks or wall sits.[8][6] For dynamic exercises, muscular endurance is best developed by high repetitions at submaximal resistance: for example, high reps of a squat at 50% of a 1-repetition maximum (1RM) load. For static exercises, time-based training is the best way to develop endurance: for example, long-duration wall sits.

Dynamic exercise is commonly recommended due to its similarity to everyday activities, and isotonic dynamic exercise, such as weightlifting, is the most practical option for the average person. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends isotonic resistance training at a low-to-moderate intensity, or at less than 50% of a 1RM weight, for two sets of 15–25 repetitions performed 2–3 times per week to improve muscular endurance.[9]

Have any supplements been studied for muscular endurance?

Caffeine can increase muscular endurance through its effects on the central nervous system as a stimulant.[7][10]. Effects may be more consistent when consumed 60 minutes prior to exercise.[11] Though individual variation is high for caffeine side effects and tolerance, doses of 3–6 mg/kg of body mass are typically recommended for improving muscular endurance.[7]

Creatine monohydrate increases muscular endurance by increasing stores of creatine phosphate, which rapidly produces energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) when it is burned. Faster ATP replenishment means an athlete is able to accomplish more repetitions or exert more effort.[12][13] As a normal diet contains 1–2 g per day of creatine, it typically takes 5 g per day for 5–7 days to saturate muscle creatine stores. A maintenance dose is typically 3–5 g per day.[12]

Additionally, beta-alanine can benefit muscular endurance during bouts of exercise lasting 1–10 minutes. Four weeks of 4–6 grams per day of beta-alanine can increase muscle carnosine concentrations, thereby helping to balance acidity in the cell, and may also attenuate neuromuscular fatigue. It should be known before consuming that beta-alanine may produce a strong tingling sensation on the skin that is harmless.[14][15]

Other supplements with some promise but less overall consistency for improving muscle endurance include nitrates, sodium bicarbonate, and citrulline.[16][17][18]

How can diet affect muscular endurance?

A higher carbohydrate diet (with ~60% of energy intake from carbohydrates, or around 5–8 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass per day) can help to increase overall endurance and attenuate fatigue from higher-volume training.[19][16] When volume is high, carbohydrate mouth rinses may benefit muscular endurance as well.[20]

Protein-wise, an intake of 1.4–2.0 g/kg of bodyweight per day is useful for building and maintaining muscle mass. Higher protein intakes (2.3–3.1 g/kg of fat-free mass per day) may help to retain muscle mass in those pursuing fat loss. In addition, recovery will likely be improved by spreading protein intake throughout the day (every 3–4 hours or so).[16]

Which other factors can affect muscular endurance?

Sleep is an important factor for muscular endurance, especially considering the prevalence of sleep deprivation due to athletes’ traveling schedules, time zone changes, and insomnia before competition. A recent meta-analysis concluded that acute sleep loss (less than 6 hours of sleep) reduces strength endurance (i.e., ≥2 resistance reps or >5s sustained contraction) by 10%.[21]

There is a general decline of muscular endurance with age, though this can be mediated by appropriate training regimens.[22] There are also generally differences in muscular endurance by sex.[23]

Examine Database: Muscular Endurance
What works and what doesn't?

Unlock the full potential of Examine

Get started

Don't miss out on the latest research

  1. ^Caspersen CJ, Powell KE, Christenson GMPhysical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research.Public Health Rep.(1985)
  2. ^Kell RT, Bell G, Quinney AMusculoskeletal fitness, health outcomes and quality of life.Sports Med.(2001)
  3. ^Noakes TD, St Clair Gibson ALogical limitations to the "catastrophe" models of fatigue during exercise in humans.Br J Sports Med.(2004-Oct)
  4. ^Noakes TDPhysiological models to understand exercise fatigue and the adaptations that predict or enhance athletic performance.Scand J Med Sci Sports.(2000-Jun)
  5. ^Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-Muñoz JL, García-Fernández P, Serra-Paya N, Estevan MC, Herreros PV, Garnacho-Castaño MVEffects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review.Nutrients.(2017-Jan-06)
  6. ^Grgic J, Rodriguez RF, Garofolini A, Saunders B, Bishop DJ, Schoenfeld BJ, Pedisic ZEffects of Sodium Bicarbonate Supplementation on Muscular Strength and Endurance: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.Sports Med.(2020-Jul)
  7. ^Nanci S Guest, Trisha A VanDusseldorp, Michael T Nelson, Jozo Grgic, Brad J Schoenfeld, Nathaniel D M Jenkins, Shawn M Arent, Jose Antonio, Jeffrey R Stout, Eric T Trexler, Abbie E Smith-Ryan, Erica R Goldstein, Douglas S Kalman, Bill I CampbellInternational society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performanceJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2021 Jan 2)
  8. ^American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults.Med Sci Sports Exerc.(1998 Jun)
  9. ^Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, Franklin BA, Lamonte MJ, Lee IM, Nieman DC, Swain DP, American College of Sports MedicineAmerican 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 exerciseMed Sci Sports Exerc.(2011 Jul)
  10. ^Warren GL, Park ND, Maresca RD, McKibans KI, Millard-Stafford MLEffect of caffeine ingestion on muscular strength and endurance: a meta-analysis.Med Sci Sports Exerc.(2010-Jul)
  11. ^Polito et alAcute Effect of Caffeine Consumption on Isotonic Muscle Strength and Endurance: A Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisScience and Sports.(June 2016)
  12. ^Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, Ziegenfuss TN, Wildman R, Collins R, Candow DG, Kleiner SM, Almada AL, Lopez HLInternational Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicineJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2017 Jun 13)
  13. ^Mills S, Candow DG, Forbes SC, Neary JP, Ormsbee MJ, Antonio JEffects of Creatine Supplementation during Resistance Training Sessions in Physically Active Young Adults.Nutrients.(2020-Jun-24)
  14. ^Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Hoffman JR, Wilborn CD, Sale C, Kreider RB, Jäger R, Earnest CP, Bannock L, Campbell B, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss TN, Antonio JInternational society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-AlanineJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2015 Jul 15)
  15. ^Saunders B, Elliott-Sale K, Artioli GG, Swinton PA, Dolan E, Roschel H, Sale C, Gualano Bβ-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: a systematic review and meta-analysisBr J Sports Med.(2017 Apr)
  16. ^Kerksick CM, Wilborn CD, Roberts MD, Smith-Ryan A, Kleiner SM, Jäger R, Collins R, Cooke M, Davis JN, Galvan E, Greenwood M, Lowery LM, Wildman R, Antonio J, Kreider RBISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendationsJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2018 Aug 1)
  17. ^Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Parise G, Candow DG, Mahoney D, Tarnopolsky MEffect of creatine and weight training on muscle creatine and performance in vegetariansMed Sci Sports Exerc.(2003 Nov)
  18. ^Thiago Silveira Alvares, Gustavo Vieira de Oliveira, Mônica Volino-Souza, Carlos Adam Conte-Junior, Juan Manuel MuriasEffect of dietary nitrate ingestion on muscular performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsCrit Rev Food Sci Nutr.(2021 Feb 8)
  19. ^Escobar KA, Morales J, Vandusseldorp TAThe Effect of a Moderately Low and High Carbohydrate Intake on Crossfit Performance.Int J Exerc Sci.(2016)
  20. ^Rodrigues Oliveira-Silva IG, Dos Santos MPP, Learsi da Silva Santos Alves SK, Lima-Silva AE, Araujo GG, Ataide-Silva TEffect of carbohydrate mouth rinse on muscle strength and muscular endurance: A systematic review with meta-analysis.Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.(2022-Apr-04)
  21. ^Craven J, McCartney D, Desbrow B, Sabapathy S, Bellinger P, Roberts L, Irwin CEffects of Acute Sleep Loss on Physical Performance: A Systematic and Meta-Analytical Review.Sports Med.(2022-Nov)
  22. ^Bemben MGAge-related alterations in muscular endurance.Sports Med.(1998-Apr)
  23. ^Kraemer WJ, Mazzetti SA, Nindl BC, Gotshalk LA, Volek JS, Bush JA, Marx JO, Dohi K, Gómez AL, Miles M, Fleck SJ, Newton RU, Häkkinen KEffect of resistance training on women's strength/power and occupational performances.Med Sci Sports Exerc.(2001-Jun)
  24. ^Nemanja LakićevićThe Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Recovery Following Resistance Exercise: A Systematic ReviewJ Funct Morphol Kinesiol.(2019 Jun 26)
  25. ^Savoie FA, Kenefick RW, Ely BR, Cheuvront SN, Goulet EDEffect of Hypohydration on Muscle Endurance, Strength, Anaerobic Power and Capacity and Vertical Jumping Ability: A Meta-Analysis.Sports Med.(2015-Aug)
  26. ^Kraft JA, Green JM, Bishop PA, Richardson MT, Neggers YH, Leeper JDThe influence of hydration on anaerobic performance: a review.Res Q Exerc Sport.(2012-Jun)
  27. ^Giboin LS et alThe effect of ego depletion or mental fatigue on subsequent physical endurance performance: A meta-analysisPerformance Enhancement and Health.(2019)
  28. ^Grgic J, Mikulic PEffects of Attentional Focus on Muscular Endurance: A Meta-Analysis.Int J Environ Res Public Health.(2021-Dec-22)
Examine Database References
  1. Beta-Alanine - Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O'kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke MEffects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustionAmino Acids.(2007 Sep)
  2. 16:8 Intermittent Fasting - Grant M Tinsley, M Lane Moore, Austin J Graybeal, Antonio Paoli, Youngdeok Kim, Joaquin U Gonzales, John R Harry, Trisha A VanDusseldorp, Devin N Kennedy, Megan R CruzTime-restricted feeding plus resistance training in active females: a randomized trialAm J Clin Nutr.(2019 Sep 1)
  3. Creatine - Armentano MJ, Brenner AK, Hedman TL, Solomon ZT, Chavez J, Kemper GB, Salzberg D, Battafarano DF, Christie DSThe effect and safety of short-term creatine supplementation on performance of push-upsMil Med.(2007 Mar)
  4. Citrulline - Takashi Suzuki, Masahiko Morita, Yoshinori Kobayashi, Ayako KamimuraOral L-citrulline supplementation enhances cycling time trial performance in healthy trained men: Double-blind randomized placebo-controlled 2-way crossover studyJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2016 Feb 19)
  5. Creatine - McConell GK, Shinewell J, Stephens TJ, Stathis CG, Canny BJ, Snow RJCreatine supplementation reduces muscle inosine monophosphate during endurance exercise in humansMed Sci Sports Exerc.(2005 Dec)
  6. Citrulline - Adam M Gonzalez, Robert W Spitz, Jamie J Ghigiarelli, Katie M Sell, Gerald T MangineAcute Effect of Citrulline Malate Supplementation on Upper-Body Resistance Exercise Performance in Recreationally Resistance-Trained MenJ Strength Cond Res.(2018 Nov)
  7. 16:8 Intermittent Fasting - Matthew T Stratton, Grant M Tinsley, Michaela G Alesi, Garrett M Hester, Alex A Olmos, Paul R Serafini, Andrew S Modjeski, Gerald T Mangine, Kelsey King, Shelby N Savage, Austin T Webb, Trisha A VanDusseldorpFour Weeks of Time-Restricted Feeding Combined with Resistance Training Does Not Differentially Influence Measures of Body Composition, Muscle Performance, Resting Energy Expenditure, and Blood BiomarkersNutrients.(2020 Apr 17)
  8. Beta-Alanine - Hoffman J, Ratamess NA, Ross R, Kang J, Magrelli J, Neese K, Faigenbaum AD, Wise JABeta-alanine and the hormonal response to exerciseInt J Sports Med.(2008 Dec)
  9. L-Tyrosine - Erin E Sutton, M Regina Coill, Patricia A DeusterIngestion of tyrosine: effects on endurance, muscle strength, and anaerobic performanceInt J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.(2005 Apr)
  10. Beta-Alanine - Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale CEffects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysisAmino Acids.(2012 Jul)
  11. Beta-Alanine - Kern BD, Robinson TLEffects of β-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football playersJ Strength Cond Res.(2011 Jul)
  12. Beta-Alanine - Jordan T, Lukaszuk J, Misic M, Umoren JEffect of beta-alanine supplementation on the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) during treadmill running: Pre/post 2 treatment experimental designJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2010 May 19)
  13. Beta-Alanine - Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Ross R, Kang J, Stout JR, Wise JAShort-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football playersNutr Res.(2008 Jan)
  14. Creatine - Ayoama R, Hiruma E, Sasaki HEffects of creatine loading on muscular strength and endurance of female softball playersJ Sports Med Phys Fitness.(2003 Dec)
  15. Betaine - Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Rashti SL, Faigenbaum ADEffect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigueJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2009 Feb 27)
  16. Citrulline - Eric T Trexler, Dale S Keith, Todd A Schwartz, Eric D Ryan, Lee Stoner, Adam M Persky, Abbie E Smith-RyanEffects of Citrulline Malate and Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Blood Flow, Energy Metabolism, and Performance During Maximum Effort Leg Extension ExerciseJ Strength Cond Res.(2019 Sep)
  17. Spirulina - Hsueh-Kuan Lu, Chin-Cheng Hsieh, Jen-Jung Hsu, Yuh-Kuan Yang, Hong-Nong ChouPreventive effects of Spirulina platensis on skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stressEur J Appl Physiol.(2006 Sep)
  18. Citrulline - da Silva DK, Jacinto JL, de Andrade WB, Roveratti MC, Estoche JM, Balvedi MCW, de Oliveira DB, da Silva RA, Aguiar AFCitrulline Malate Does Not Improve Muscle Recovery after Resistance Exercise in Untrained Young Adult MenNutrients.(2017 Oct 18)
  19. Vitamin D - Michelle S Rockwell, Madlyn I Frisard, Janet W Rankin, Jennifer S Zabinsky, Ryan P Mcmillan, Wen You, Kevin P Davy, Matthew W HulverEffects of Seasonal Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Strength, Power, and Body Composition in College SwimmersInt J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.(2020 Feb 4)
  20. Colostrum - Antonio J, Sanders MS, Van Gammeren DThe effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in active men and womenNutrition.(2001 Mar)
  21. Beta-Alanine - Stout JR, Cramer JT, Zoeller RF, Torok D, Costa P, Hoffman JR, Harris RC, O'Kroy JEffects of beta-alanine supplementation on the onset of neuromuscular fatigue and ventilatory threshold in womenAmino Acids.(2007)
  22. Spirulina - Kalafati M, Jamurtas AZ, Nikolaidis MG, Paschalis V, Theodorou AA, Sakellariou GK, Koutedakis Y, Kouretas DErgogenic and antioxidant effects of spirulina supplementation in humansMed Sci Sports Exerc.(2010 Jan)
  23. Iron - Brutsaert TD, Hernandez-Cordero S, Rivera J, Viola T, Hughes G, Haas JDIron supplementation improves progressive fatigue resistance during dynamic knee extensor exercise in iron-depleted, nonanemic womenAm J Clin Nutr.(2003 Feb)
  24. Citrulline - Benjamin Wax, Andreas N Kavazis, Kevin Weldon, Joseph SperlakEffects of supplemental citrulline malate ingestion during repeated bouts of lower-body exercise in advanced weightliftersJ Strength Cond Res.(2015 Mar)
  25. Citrulline - Andrew J Chappell, Daniel M Allwood, Trevor N SimperCitrulline Malate Fails to Improve German Volume Training Performance in Healthy Young Men and WomenJ Diet Suppl.(2020)
  26. Betaine - Trepanowski JF, Farney TM, McCarthy CG, Schilling BK, Craig SA, Bloomer RJThe effects of chronic betaine supplementation on exercise performance, skeletal muscle oxygen saturation and associated biochemical parameters in resistance trained menJ Strength Cond Res.(2011 Dec)
  27. L-Tyrosine - Catherine O'Brien, Caroline Mahoney, William J Tharion, Ingrid V Sils, John W CastellaniDietary tyrosine benefits cognitive and psychomotor performance during body coolingPhysiol Behav.(2007 Feb 28)
  28. Citrulline - Benjamin Wax, Andreas N Kavazis, William LuckettEffects of Supplemental Citrulline-Malate Ingestion on Blood Lactate, Cardiovascular Dynamics, and Resistance Exercise Performance in Trained MalesJ Diet Suppl.(2016)
  29. Chromium - Walker LS, Bemben MG, Bemben DA, Knehans AWChromium picolinate effects on body composition and muscular performance in wrestlersMed Sci Sports Exerc.(1998 Dec)
  30. Beta-Alanine - Baguet A, Bourgois J, Vanhee L, Achten E, Derave WImportant role of muscle carnosine in rowing performanceJ Appl Physiol.(2010 Oct)
  31. Citrulline - Glenn JM, Gray M, Wethington LN, Stone MS, Stewart RW Jr, Moyen NEAcute citrulline malate supplementation improves upper- and lower-body submaximal weightlifting exercise performance in resistance-trained femalesEur J Nutr.(2017 Mar)
  32. Betaine - Lee EC, Maresh CM, Kraemer WJ, Yamamoto LM, Hatfield DL, Bailey BL, Armstrong LE, Volek JS, McDermott BP, Craig SAErgogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performanceJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2010 Jul 19)
  33. Magnesium - Reno AM, Green M, Killen LG, O'Neal EK, Pritchett K, Hanson ZEffects of Magnesium Supplementation on Muscle Soreness and Performance.J Strength Cond Res.(2022-Aug-01)
  34. Caffeine - Grgic J, Grgic I, Pickering C, Schoenfeld BJ, Bishop DJ, Pedisic ZWake up and smell the coffee: caffeine supplementation and exercise performance-an umbrella review of 21 published meta-analysesBr J Sports Med.(2019 Mar 29)
  35. Capsaicin - .(2022-10-28)