Conversion To Muscular Endurance

Conversion To Muscular Endurance

No matter how intensive or comprehensive it is, strength training cannot result in adequate adaptation and have a positive influence in every sport or event unless the specific physiological needs of the given sport are addressed. Most training specialists might agree with this statement, but in reality strength training programs for sport and events in which endurance is either dominant or an important component are still inadequate. Weight lifting and bodybuilding training methods still unduly influence these programs. Many researchers and strength training specialists still consider 15 to 20 repetitions to be an effective way to train M-E. Such a training regimen is grossly inadequate for sports such as mid – and long – distance swimming, rowing, canoeing, boxing, wrestling, cross – country skiing, speed skating and triathlon.

If a low – repetition strength training program with sub maximum or maximum loads is employed, the energy supply, recovery and physiological functioning of the organs and the neuromuscular system adapt to such loading. All the physiological parameters of such a program differ fundamentally from those required for effective physiological behavior of athletes involved in endurance – dominant sports. Thus, it would results in strength increments but would inhibit the endurance component of athletes’ adaptation for such sports.

A strength training program for endurance – dominant sports requires a load closely matching the resistance that must be overcome while competing, relatively low muscle tension and a high number of repetitions that approach the duration of the event. This trains athletes to cope with the fatigue specific to the sport and utilize simultaneous stimuli for both specific strength and endurance. Adaptation to such training will be very similar to the physiological requirements of competition. Fortunately, the neuromuscular system is capable of adapting to any type of training. It will, however adapt to whatever it is exposed to.

The importance of MxS for endurance – dominant sports increases in proportion to external resistance. For instance, 400 – meter swimmers swim with a higher velocity than 800 – to 1.500 – meter swimmers. To create the higher velocity, 400 meter simmers have to pull against the water resistance with greater force than 1.500 – meter athletes. Consequently MxS is more important for 400 – meter than for 1.500 – meter swimmers. In both cases, MxS must be improved from year to year if athletes except to cover the distance faster. Such improvement is possible only if swimmers improve their aerobic endurance and increase the force used to pull against the water resistance. Only this increased force will push the body through the water faster.

M – E is best increased through a strength training program that emphasizes a high number of repetitions. The selected exercises and the number of repetitions have to result in the desired adaption to the physiological requirements of the sports or event. If an adequate method is not applied during the conversion of MxS to M – E, positive transfer from one type of training to a different physiological requirement cannot be expected. In other words, if a body building or weight – lifting methodology with 20 repetitions is applied, improvement cannot be expected in a sport where 200 non stop strokes are performed during a race.

For endurance sports, aerobic endurance and M – E have to be trained at the same time. This can be done either by training each f them on separate days or by combining them in the same training session. In the latter case, M – E should be performed at the end of the session, since the specific endurance work includes technical training. Fatigue can limit combined work – outs and if the total work per day has to be decreased, M – E is normally reduced. Athletes with proper technique and aerobic endurance will find training M – E separately is more beneficial.

The strength – endurance axis refers to four types of combinations between the two abilities: power – endurance (P – E) and M – E short, medium and long. Each strength combination is required for certain sports, so the training methods for each are presented separately.


Sports like sprints in track and field, swimming and wrestling and positions like running back or pitcher require a high degree of power applied several times repetitively. Sprinting, including that in all team sports requiring explosive running (football, baseball, ice hockey, rugby and Australian football), is often misjudged. When sprinters cover the classical 100 meters in 10 to 12 second, they have trained to perform powerful leg actions throughout the entire race, not just at the start and for the following 6 to 8 strides. In a 100 – meter race, athletes take 48 to 54 strides, depending on stride length; thus each leg makes 24 to 27 contacts with the ground. In each ground contact, the force applied is approximately two times body weight.

Consequently, athletes who compete in these sports need to perform powerful actions over and over. In football, rugby and Australian football, athletes are often required to repeat a strenuous activity after only a few seconds of game interruption. To do this successfully these athletes need a high power output the ability to repeat it 20 to 30 times. This constitutes power – endurance (P – E). Athletes with a high level of P – E will have the capacity to avoid a decrease in stride frequency and velocity at the end of a race or a longer sprint.

Program Design

P – E is the determinant abilities in several sports and MxS is a determinant factor in both abilities. This section describes the training methodology for developing muscle endurance in an explosive manner, or P – E.

P – E requires 50 to 70 percent of MxS repeated rhythmically and explosively. Such a load requires dynamic repetition executed explosively 20 to 30 times nonstop. Such an important training requirement can be achieved progressively, starting with a lower number of repetitions (8 to 15) and increasing over 4 to 6 weeks, the duration of the conversion phase for such sports.

Early in the conversion phase, the FT muscle fibers were trained to instantaneously display the highest possible level of power. Now, for P – E purposes, the FT fibers are trained to resist the fatigue induced by performing many repetitions dynamically. Training is now aimed at developing the endurance component of speed, which is accomplished by progressively in creasing the number of repetitions and sets. This requires athletes to exert maximum willpower to overcome fatigue and to reach optimum mental concentration before each set is performed.

To perform a high number of sets for each primer mover, the number of exercises must be as possible (two to three). At the same time, each repetition in a set of 20 to 30 repetitions has to be performed explosively and the RI to be 5 to 7 minutes long.

During this type of work, athletes will experience a high level of lactic acid buildup. Unless this buildup is disposed of, it will impair the ability to repeat quality work. Thus, sufficient time must be allowed for removal of at least 50 percent of the total lactic acid before the next set is performed. Normally, it takes 15 to 25 minutes to remove 50 percent of the lactic acid accumulation. Since the muscle groups involved in training are being constantly alternated, by the time the same exercise is repeated, removal will take at least 20 minutes.

Speed of performance must be dynamic and explosive. Unless this rule is strictly observed, the training will be body building rather than P; the out come will be hypertrophy rather than P – E. It will take a few weeks before athletes should stop when they become incapable of performing a repetition of a set dynamically because P – E is listed in table 11.1. Figure 11.1 shows a sample 4 – week training program for a tennis player.

Table 11.1 Suggested Training Parameters for P – E

Training parameters Work

Load 50 – 70 percent

Number of exercises 2 – 3

Number of repetitions per set 15 – 30

Number of sets per session 2 – 4

Rest – interval 5 – 7 minutes

Speed of execution Very dynamic

Frequency per week 2 – 3

No Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4

1 Jumping half squats 50/15 2 50/20 2 50/20 2 60/25 3

2 Medicine ball side (right and left) throws 3 x 25 3 x 30 3 x 25 4 x 30

3 Medicine ball overhead forward throws 3 x 25 3 x 30 3 x 25 4 x 30

4 Reactive jumps 2 x 15 3 x 15 2 x 15 3 x 20

Loading pattern Medium High Medium High

Figure 11.1 Four – week P – E training for an international – class tennis player RI = 5 minutes

Muscular Endurance OF Short Duration Method

In the world sports, there are several events with duration between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, such as in track and field, swimming, canoeing, speed skating and skiing. There are also sports in which intense activity of this duration is constantly required during a game or match, as in ice hockey, soccer, rugby, basketball, boxing, wrestling and the martial arts. During such intense activity, athletes build up a high level of lactic acid, often more than 12 to 15 mill moles per liter, which shows that the lactic acid, often more system is either dominant or an important component in the overall performance of the sport or event. Most of these sports require very strong anaerobic power as well as very good aerobic endurance.

Strength training must complement overall physiological demands. One of the key objectives for endurance sports is to train athletes to tolerate fatigue, so strength training should have the same goal. As the competitive phase approaches, so strength training must be designed so that it challenges athletes’ ability to tolerate a high buildup of lactic acid.

The specifics of M – ES are similar to the intensive internal training method used in circuit training (CT) where an oxygen debt is developed during the RI, which is typical for activities where the anaerobic energy system prevails. After 60 to 90 seconds of such activity, the heart rate can be as high as 180 to 200 beats per minute and blood lactic acid concentration between 12 and 15 mill moles per liter, or even higher. The energy sources for M – ES are blood and muscle glucose and in particular, the glycogen stored in the liver.

The structure of M – ES can follow the format of CT, in which the repetitions are performed rhythmically and at a fast pace. The load is not very high, 50 to 60 percent, but is performed at a high intensity, at or close to the rate in competition and thus the lowest number of exercises (three to six) should be selected.

The number of repetitions can be set precisely, but as in interval training, it is more appropriate to decide the duration of each set and the speed of performance (30 to 60 seconds). If the number of exercises is low, there to six sets or circuits can be performed. The speed of performance and the duration and number of sets have to be increased progressively over time from a lower level to that suggested in figure 11.2. To train athletes to tolerate lactic acid buildup, the RI must be short (60 to 90 second). Table 11.2

Table 11.2 Suggested Training Parameters for M – ES

Training parameters Work

Load 50 – 60 percent

Number of exercises 3 – 6

Duration of activity 30 – 60 seconds

Number of sets per session 3 – 6

Rest interval 60 – 90 second

Speed of execution Medium to fast

Frequency per week

No Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6

1 Bent – over arm pulls; load 50 % 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 45 second 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 45 seconds 3 x 45 seconds

2 Abdominal V – sits (reps) 2 x 20 2 x 25 2 x 30 2 x 25 2 x 30 2 x 35

3 Lay on back, arms above head, hold; medicine ball forward throws 1 x 25 2 x 25 2 x 30 2 x 25 2 x 30 2 x 30

4 Leg extensions; load 50% 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 45 seconds 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 45 seconds 2 x 45 seconds

5 Cable elbow extensions; load 60% 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 45 seconds 2 x 30 seconds 2 x 45 seconds 2 x 45 seconds

Loading pattern Low Medium High Low Medium High

Figure 11.2 Six – week training program for M – ES training. Figure 11.2 is a sample 6 – week program for a national class 100 meter fly swimmer.

Muscular Endurance of Medium and Long Duration Method

The development of M – E is one of the main factors in improving performance for all sports where performance time is greater than 2 minutes. A specific strength training program has to relate to the non stop duration of activity for sports where aerobic endurance is either dominant or an important component of the final performance.

M – E training is of major benefit for boxing wrestling, rowing, swimming (400 to 1.500 meters), kayaking/canoeing (1.000 to 10.000 meters), road cycling, cross – country skiing, biathlon and triathlon. The incorporation of M l- E of medium duration during the preparatory phase is also beneficial for some team sports, especially rugby, ice hockey, basketball, soccer and Australian football.

M – E training can be performed as CT following the principle of interval training of long duration. This training method can also be called “extensive interval training”, because the tern extensive implies a high – volume, long duration type of activity. The main objective of training for M – E is to increase the ability to cope with fatigue. Athletes improve anaerobic and aerobic endurance, since M – E training employs a high number of repetitions, often more than 100. In the early par of a nonstop set with many repetitions, energy is provided by the anaerobic system. This produces a buildup of lactic acid that creates physiological and psychological problems for athletes as they attempt to continue the activity. As these challenges are over come and athletes continue to work, energy is supplied by the aerobic system. Repetitive M – E training results in specific adaptations that improve cardiovascular regulation and aerobic metabolism.

Physiological adaptations promote better oxygen and energy supply and increase the removal of metabolic wastes. Repetitive M – E training increases glycogen stores in both muscles and liver. Thus, the specific benefit of M – E training is an overall increase in physiological efficiency.

Because M – E employs such a relatively low load (around 30 to 50 percent), the muscles improve their long – term contracting capability without any evident increase in muscle fiber diameter. Only a certain number of motor units are active at one time; the others are at rest and are activated only when and where the contracting fibers become fatigued. Improvement of MxS during that phase is also beneficial for sports where M – E represents an important training method. If the diameter of an individual muscle fiber has increased as a result of MxS, a smaller number of motor units are needed to perform an M – E training task.

This type of strength reserve is critical and increases the muscle’s capacity to produce work more effectively since fewer fibers are involved to overcome the resistance. Thus, MxS should not be minimized. On the contrary, it should within limits, be used for all the sports mentioned or sports that require less than 30 percent of MxS to perform the activity, further increments of MxS have negligible, if any benefit (Hartmann & Tunnemann, 1988).

M – E medium and M – E long training have similar physiological bases. M – E medium (M – EM) is, however suggested for sports where the duration of competition is between 2 and 10 minutes, whereas M – E long (M – EL) is suggested for sports where the duration is 10 minutes or longer. This distinction is necessary because M – EM has a stronger anaerobic component, whereas M – EL is clearly aerobic. The program designs for each type of M – E will be described separately since the load, duration of a set and speed of execution are clearly different.

Program Design for Muscular Endurance of Medium Duration

The M – EM training program can be designed either as CT or as interval training. The first option is suggested for sports where it is necessary to train more muscle groups (wrestling, boxing) whereas the seconds is advisable for sports where one limb prevails (speed skating, canoeing). An example will be presented for each option.

The load for M – EM is 40 to 50 percent (table 11.3) performed progressively over a longer durations. As show in table 11.4 and 11.5 the duration and number of repetitions are increased progressively over a longer period. The duration of the conversion phase for M – E must be 8 to 10 weeks. This length of time is necessary for physiological adaptation to such high training. Throughout the M – EM phase, the load, number of exercises, rest interval and speed of execution remain constant. The number of repetitions, however, increases every second week (table 11.4).

As shown in table 11.3, the rest interval between sets is short, so athletes have insufficient time to recover adequately. However, the program considers the physiological characteristics of the sports employing M – EM and is designed precisely to expose athletes to high levels of fatigue constantly so they learn to cope with the pain and exhaustion of competitions.

Table 11.3 Training Parameters for M – EM

Training parameters Work

Load 40 – 50 percent

Number of exercises 4 – 8

Number of sets per session 2 – 4

Rest interval between sets 2 minutes

Rest interval between circuits 5 minutes

Speed of execution Medium

Frequency per week 2 – 3

Table 11.4 Hypothetical CT for a Wrestler

Number of weeks

Exercise 2 2 2 2

Half squats 30 40 50 60

Arm curls 30 40 50 60

Leg curls 30 40 50 60

Bench presses 30 40 50 60

V – sits 15 20 25 30

Dead lifts 15 18 20 25

Table 11.4 shows a difference in number of reps between the first four exercises and the last two. The latter exercises are considered a lower priority. The ability to perform more repetitions of this exercise requires a solid training background of several years. The load for a dead lift must be lower (30 to 40 percent) and used carefully with beginners (long – term progression).

A CT designed for either M – EM or M – EL can be use a barbell or any other piece of equipment. The advantage of using a barbell is that different limbs can be exercised without stopping to rest, as required in the circuit shown in table 11.5.

The circuit in table 11.5 includes eight exercises performed as follows. Place a barbell of 40 percent of MxS on the shoulders and perform 50 half squats. After completing the last repetition, sit on a bench and perform 40 arm curls. Then lie on the bench and do 50 bench presses. Quickly place the barbell back on the shoulders and perform 50 half squats. Follow this with 50 vertical rowing actions. Again, quickly place the barbell back on the shoulders and perform 60 toe raises followed by 50 dead lifts. Now place the barbell on the floor and perform 50 V – sits for the abdominal muscles. The total number of repetitions performed in our hypothetical circuit is 400.

The advantage of this method is that as training alternates different muscles groups, the cardio respiratory system in involved throughout the circuit. This develops M – E and aerobic endurance, the two crucial abilities for any of the sports discussed in this chapter.

Table 11.5 Example of an M – EM for a Rower

Number of weeks

Exercise 3 – 4 3 3 2

Half squat Take a load of 30 – 50 percent and progressively aim to perform 50 – 60 reps nonstop per exercise Perform two exercises nonstop or 100 reps together, for instance, 50 half squats followed by 50 arm curls. Pair the remaining six exercises Perform four exercises nonstop, or 200 repetitions. After a rest interval, repeat the other four exercises in the same manner Perform all exercises; eight exercises x 50 repetitions = 400 repetitions nonstop

Arm curls

Bench presses

Half squats

Seated rows

Toe raises

Dead raises

V – sits

Rest interval between exercises 1 minute 1 – 2 minutes between each groups of two 2 minutes between each group of four -

Rest interval between circuits - - - 4 – 5 minutes

A similar program can be developed for 400 – to 1.500 – meter swimming, middle – distance events in speed skating, kayaking/canoeing and so on.

To further clarify the information table 11.5:

The number of repetitions is progressively increased to reach 40 to 60 or even higher; 2 o 4 weeks may be needed to accomplish this.

The number of exercises may vary depending on the needs of the sport.

The same exercises can be repeated twice in the same circuit to emphasize the importance of that group of muscles in a given sport (half squats in our example).

The number of exercises may not be the same for every limb. This decision should be based on the strength and weaknesses of the athletes involved.

Observe a steady speed throughout the circuit; it will be easier on the cardio respiratory system.

Set up all the equipment needed before training, so the least amount of time is wasted changing from one exercises to another.

Perform two exercises nonstop in the second phase, four exercises in the third phase and all of them in the last phase.

It may take 6 to 8 minutes or longer to perform an eight – exercises circuit nonstop, depending on the classification of the athlete involved. An even longer circuit can be designed for better improvement of M – EL.

Since the physiological demand of M – E and M – EL are severe, this method should be applied only to athletes with a strong background in both strength and endurance training (national – class athletes and higher). For a less demanding circuit (for juniors) include only four to six exercises.

It is best to use an even number of exercises because of the way they are performed – two, then four then all together nonstop.

As athletes adapt to performing the total number of exercises nonstop during the last phase, the coach can be use a stopwatch to monitor improvement. As a result of adaptation, the time of performance may decrease continuously.

This type of M – EM training should not be used for purpose or for comparing the achievements of two or more athletes. Since anthropometrics (size or length of limbs) differ from athlete to athlete, such a comparison would be unfair, especially for all athletes.

Program Design for Muscular Endurance of Long Duration

Sports of longer duration require a different kind of physiological training. In most of these sports, athletes apply force against a given resistance, for example: water in swimming, rowing and canoeing; the pedals in cycling (body weight applied as strength, especially uphill); ice in speed skating; or snow and various terrains in cross – country skiing and biathlon.

The dominant energy system in these sports is aerobic endurance. Since improved performance is expected to come from increments in aerobic power, strength training must be designed to enhance this. To increase M – EL, there fore, the key training ingredient is a high number of repetitions performed nonstop. The other training parameters remain constant, as indicated in table 11.6.

Since one of the training goals of M – EL is to cope with fatigue; the RI does not allow full recovery. Only a very shorts rest is afforded as athletes change stations, usually 2 to 5 seconds.

Table 11.7 exemplifies a typical training program for M – EL for sports such as triathlon, marathon, kayaking/canoeing (10.000 meters and marathon), and long – distance swimming, road cycling and cross – country skiing. Note that the work is expressed in minutes rather than number of repetitions to make it easier to monitor the many minutes of steady work.

The first four exercises can be performed with a Universal gym or any similar training machine. The last two exercises must be performed using rubber cords, often called elastic cords, which are available in many sporting goods stores. Since this particular program is for long – distance kayaking or canoeing, the elastic cords must be anchored before training so that arm pulls or elbow extensions, typical motions for these two sports, can be performed from a seated position.

Table 11.6 Suggested Training Parameters for M – EL

Training parameters Work

Load 30 – 40 percent

Number of exercises 4 – 6

Number of repetitions per set 2 – 4

Rest – interval See table 11.5

Speed of execution Medium

Frequency per week 2 – 3

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