In “Men in Black”, Will Smith’s character is running after an alien. He seems to have unlimited stamina, and not only can he run, but he seems to be able to climb, jump stairs, and pull his bodyweight with total ease continually in a short period of time. He never tires (until the plot demands it), and even gets inducted into a secret alien watching organization because of his endurance alone.
In “I am Legend”, we see him exercising by performing countless pull ups. Later on, he singlehandedly wages a war against the super-mutants, and even manages to wrestle one out of a crashing window without showing any signs of fatigue…
What is one thing in common with all of Will Smith’s characters that allows them to keep on going when normal people wouldn’t be able to continue? The answer is simple. Muscular Endurance.
What Muscular Endurance Is, and Why You Need It…
I define muscular endurance as two things. One – how many repetitions you can repeat an exercise. And the second, how quickly you can recover for a second set of an exercise. I believe it to be one of the foundations of functional fitness, as it sets the tone for how quickly your body can recover and respond in real life scenarios without fatiguing.
[I don't think there's one movie starring Will Smith where he's not sprinting for some reason. Check out the above video to see a compillation of all his running moments!]
The great thing about muscular endurance exercises is that there really aren’t any. You don’t make any huge changes to your workouts, but rather change the way you approach them. That’s why it annoys me that people totally ignore it in their training. Even if you’re not training specifically for functional fitness, it requires such a small change in your training for such huge benefits that it seems crazy not to train for.
How to Train for Muscular Endurance
There are two very simple ways to train for muscular endurance. The first way is to add a training session where you’re trying to do as many repetitions as possible. This is great for all of us who are concentrating on body weight or low weights, but less so for people trying to do less repetitions with more weight – which is why there is also a second way.
The second way to build muscle endurance is to minimize your rest time in-between sets. I try to leave my rest time inbetween sets at around 20 seconds, which was taught to me by a friend who is a far better athlete than me. I’d say anywhere from 15-30 seconds is a pretty good time frame for building endurance.
One Last Thing About Functional Fitness for Today…
As long as we’re on the topic if functional fitness, I wanted to mention that something that I find really important in building your body is trying to really push for that last repetition, or that extra set. When you get in that last repetition, the “past-fatigue repetition”, it does two things. One, your body understands that it needs to get stronger, so that it isn’t put in the same annoying situation in the future.
Secondly, and this is the important part, it strengthens you mentally. Sometimes when I’m training, I don’t even know whether I’m stronger, or I’m just able to push myself harder. I’m mentioning this because when it comes to functional fitness - I think the ability to will yourself to continue is the most important trait that training can give to you and something that we should really be aware of when working out.
My Suggested Exercise…
The next time you work out, try to get one more repetition or a slightly faster run not because you’re stronger, but because you’re able to push your body harder. Think of something in your life that motivates you to go one step further. For those of you who decide to do it, make sure to leave a comment on this post and let me know how it went!