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Bodybuilding Training For Muscular Endurance

Training for muscular endurance (me) for most bodybuilders and strength and conditioning athletes is way down, if at all, on the priority list. The main aim for these athletes is chronic hypertrophy. In order to achieve a truly symmetrical, well defined and balanced physique that has deep cuts and striations, a range of training principles need to be employed. The human organism is highly responsive and adaptive: hence the development of principles such as the SAID and Specificity principles. If you want to get bigger and stronger, lift heavier weights. If you want to be a better runner, then run. If the main aim of bodybuilding is chronic hypertrophy, then why bother discussing how to manipulate the training variables in order to facilitate me adaptations? For those athletes amongst you who require specific me adaptations (you know who you are), read on. For those bodybuilders and strength and conditioning athletes who think this article will offer you absolutely nothing, i ask of you two things: firstly, that you simply exchange the word endurance for definition and secondly, that you be broad minded with respect to what you are about to read.

Specific Adaptations For Me Training

The main adaptations to muscle fibres for me training are as follows:

  • Hypertrophy of the slow twitch type 1 muscle fibres – hypertrophy being particularly important to bodybuilders;
  • Increased capillary number and density – which allows for greater exchange of gases, heat, wastes and nutrients (performance and recovery);
  • Increased myoglobin – similar to haemoglobin but found in muscle tissue, carries oxygen from the cell membrane to the mitochondria (powerhouse of a cell);
  • Increased size and number of skeletal muscle mitochondria – resulting in improved aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) function;
  • Increased aerobic enzymes (enzymes being a catalyst that increase the speed of a chemical reaction);
  • Allows for significant oxidisation of subcutaneous fat, resulting in visible muscle striations; and
  • Improved buffering capacity – resulting in the ability to sustain longer, continuous sub-maximal contractions.

Me training for most bodybuilders, and indeed endurance athletes typically revolves around repetitions from 12 – 15. Periodisation subject matter experts like Tudor Bompa have redefined the scope of me training and can have conditioned athletes performing up to 150 repetitions, or 10 minutes continuous work per exercise. Clearly this volume is not suitable for bodybuilders, but for triathletes, marathon runners, cross-country skiers, long distance swimmers and cyclists, kayakers and canoeists who may be required to sustain continuous sub-maximal contractions, this kind of training can yield tremendous results. When designing training programs for sports specific purposes, it is fundamental to perform a needs analysis. This will allow you to determine the dominant energy system (s) utilised and the main muscles involved. Once you know the main muscles, you simply determine their actions and choose exercises that either replicate the actions in the given sport, or recruit the major muscles utilised.

Me training can be broken down into three categories, which are as follows:

  1. Muscular endurance of short duration (me-s);
  2. Muscular endurance of medium duration (me-m); and
  3. Muscular endurance of long duration (me-l).

Me-s

Me-s is characterised by events lasting from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, such as 400m and 800m running, 200m swimming and speed skating events. Additionally, sports also exist where short bouts of high intensity are required over a long period of time, such as boxing, wrestling, martial arts, soccer and rugby. Suggested training parameters, mentioned below, details the parameters to facilitate me-s adaptations whilst table 1 provides an example of a six week training program.

Suggested Training Parameters For Me-s

Variables and prescription

  • Load = 50 to 60% 1rm
  • Number of exercises = 3-6
  • Duration = 30-60 seconds
  • Number of sets per session = 3-6
  • Rest interval = 60-90 seconds
  • Rep speed = med - fast
  • Sessions per week = 2 - 3
  • Loading pattern = vertical

Table 1: example 6 week training program for a 800m sprinter

No

Exercise

W1

W2

W3

W4

W5

W6

1

Squats

3x30

3x45

3x60

4x60

5x60

6x60

2

Seated row

3x30

3x45

3x60

4x60

5x60

6x60

3

Leg curls

3x30

3x45

3x60

4x60

5x60

6x60

4

Power cleans

3x30

3x45

3x60

4x60

5x60

6x60

5

Reverse leg press

3x30

3x45

3x60

4x60

5x60

6x60

6

Knee lifts

3x30

3x45

3x60

4x60

5x60

6x60

 

Note: 1. 3x30 = 3 circuits x 30 seconds each exercise. 2. Perform all exercise from top to bottom without rest. 3. Rest 60-90 sec between circuits.

Me-m

Me-m is characterised by events lasting between 2 and 10 minutes, such as boxing, wrestling, rowing, triathlon, swimming (400m to 1500m), kayaking/canoeing (1000m to 10000m), cycling and cross-country skiing. It is also beneficial in some team sports such as rugby, ice hockey, basketball, soccer and aussie rules. Below are the suggested training parameters to facilitate me-m adaptations whilst further on provides an example of a 10 week training program for a rower.

Suggested Training Parameters For Me-M

Variables and prescription

  • Load: 40-50% 1rm
  • Number of exercises: 4-8, 2-4
  • Rest intervals between sets:  2 min
  • Rest intervals between circuits: 5 min
  • Rep speed: medium
  • Sessions per week: 2-3
  • Loading pattern: vertical

Example 10 Week Training Program For A Rower

  • Exercises: dead lifts, seated row, squats, bench press, bicep curl, seated calf raise
  • Number of weeks and instructions.
  • 4 weeks: 30 - 50% irm and perform 50-60 reps non-stop for each exercise, moving top to bottom. Rest 1 minute between exercises.
  • 3 weeks: pair exercises and perform 100 reps combined (i.e. 50 squats and 50 bench press). Rest 1-2 min between each pair.
  • 3 weeks: perform four exercises non-stop or 200 reps. After the rest inteval, repeat for the remaining four exercises. Rest 2 min between each group of four.

Suggested Training Parameters For Me-L

Variables and prescription

  • Load: 30-40% 1rm
  • Number of exercises: 4-6
  • Number of sets per session: 2-4
  • Rest interval between sets: 2 min
  • Rest interval between circuits: 5 min
  • Rep speed: medium
  • Sessions per week: 2-3
  • Loading pattern: vertical

Example 12 Week Training Program For a Cyclist

Exercises: squats, seated row, jump half squats, upright row, seated leg curl, seated calf raise.

Number of weeks and instructions:

  • 2 weeks: 30% 1rm and perform 4 min non-stop reps for each exercise, moving top to bottom. Rest 1-2 min between exercises.
  • 2 weeks: 30% 1rm and 7 min non-stop per exercise. Rest 2 min between exercises.
  • 2 weeks: 30% 1rm and 10 min non-stop per exercise. Rest 2 min between exercises.
  • 2 weeks: perform 2 exercises non-stop for 30 min (10 min each). Repeat for last three exercises.
  • 2 weeks: perform all six exercises non-stop for 60min work (10 min each).

As always, the training must be progressive: as such, if training for me-l duration, you would need to progress through both the me-s and me-m training phases before commencing the me-l phase. Bodybuilders can implement the same training parameters and use them as part of their pre-contest preparation. Supplemented with a nutritional plan and aerobic based modalities specific to maximising the oxidisation of triglycerides, can lead to devastating results. To illustrate how me can be utilised as muscle definition training by bodybuilders, the muscle definition specfic mesocycle for a 12 month period, below, identifies a mesocycle (annual training plan) where the main aim is muscle definition.

Muscle Definition Specific Mesocycle 12 Month Period

  • 3 weeks: aa – anatomical adaptation (circuit style trg)
  • 6 weeks: h – hypertrophy (mass trg)
  • 3 weeks: mxs – max strength (80-100% 1rm)
  • 1 weeks: t – transition ( reduce trg load by 60 – 70%)
  • 4 weeks: md – muscle definition
  • 1 weeks: t – transition ( reduce trg load by 60 – 70%)
  • 6 weeks: md – muscle definition
  • 2 weeks: t – transition ( reduce trg load by 60 – 70%)
  • 3 weeks: aa – anatomical adaptation (circuit style trg)
  • 6 weeks: h – hypertrophy (mass trg)
  • 3 weeks: mxs – max strength (80-100% 1rm)
  • 1 weeks: t – transition ( reduce trg load by 60 – 70%)
  • 4 weeks: md – muscle definition
  • 3 weeks: md – muscle definition
  • 4 weeks: t – transition ( reduce trg load by 60 – 70%)

The Final Word on Muscular Endurance Training

To summarise, me is generally a sport specific adaptation; however, the training parameters can used by bodybuilders as part of their contest preparation.

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