Muscular Strength and Endurance

When athletes and coaches talk about muscular strength and endurance, they are really talking about a quality known as “strength endurance”. Have you ever wondered how some endurance athletes find the power and energy to out-sprint their opponents at the end of a long gruelling race? Having superior strength endurance is how they do it.

Strength endurance is displayed in activities which require a relatively long period of muscular tension with the least loss of form. It can also be defined as your ability to resist a force over a specific time frame or to make repeated muscle contractions against a force.

Sports scientists recognize two types of strength endurance:

  • Static strength endurance
  • Dynamic strength endurance

Static Strength Endurance

This is the type of muscular strength and endurance which enables you to maintain a constant level of muscular activity to hold a given body position or posture for a certain amount of time. This type of strength is important to sports such a gymnastics, skating and wrestling and is sometime referred to as a isometric contraction.  The interesting thing about this type of strength is that there is a high correlation between static strength endurance and maximum strength, i.e. the higher your maximum strength levels, the longer you are able to hold and maintain a certain level of muscular tension.

Dynamic Strength Endurance

This is the type of muscular strength and endurance is the type of strength which enables you to apply a high level of force and for this to be produced repeatedly over an extended period of time. In this sense dynamic means exactly that (with movement). This type of strength is useful for sports or activities that are cyclic (same movements repeated over and over again) in nature as in a lower body cyclic activity such as in running or an upper body activity such as in canoeing.

The energy to perform this type of strength endurance (dynamic strength endurance) is delivered through the two energy systems - anaerobic and aerobic.

Dynamic strength endurance can therefore be further divided into two sub-categories. These can be referred to as “anaerobic power endurance” and “local muscular endurance”.  They are so called because the training methods that are used in the two sub-categories aims to utilize the primary energy system which bring about success in that given sport or activity. Therefore, anaerobic power endurance will primarily utilize the anaerobic energy system and local muscular endurance will primarily utilize the aerobic energy system.

In simple terms, the classification of the two type of dynamic strength endurance can be based on the amount of force and the time period over which force is applied. So, for example:

  • Anaerobic Power Endurance - This is your ability to execute short term maximal anaerobic effort (10-15sec). With this method the force output is extremely high
  • Local Muscular Endurance - This is your ability to maintain muscular contractions for an extended period of time in an aerobic environment.

Muscular Strength and Endurance – Activities and Methodology

The following are examples of the type of activities will enhance static and dynamic muscular strength and endurance.

Static Muscular Strength and Endurance

For body weight exercises such as the bridge or plank and their variants, you should hold a contraction initially from 5 to 30 seconds. However, you can increase this period up to 60 seconds.

For exercises with a load such as in resistance training with barbells or machine weights, the following guidelines should apply.

  • Joint angles for each exercise should correspond to those of the sport position;
  • The tension should smoothly increase up to maximum;
  • Each contraction should be held for 6-8 seconds;
  • Each set should have 3-5 repetitions;
  • There can be 2-3 sets for each exercise;
  • Rest intervals between each contraction should not be less than 60 seconds and 4-6 minutes between each set.

Dynamic Muscular Strength and Endurance

As explained earlier, strength and endurance in the dynamic regime should be performed with close to maximum efforts in a climate where the sports person has to endure. For lower extremities exercises the following training methods can be used.

  • 50m alternate bounds up an incline;
  • Consecutive jump squats in repetitions of 8-10;
  • Resistance exercises such as the squat, 30-70% of 1RM, with 3-5 sets;
  • Box jumps, using repetitions of initially 15-20, and increasing up to 30-40 for activities with high demands.

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