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The #1 Free Weights Workout To Boost Your Muscular Endurance

Do these five exercises to help your muscles work harder for longer.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Sure, lifting gargantuan-heavy weights is an effective way to increase power and strength while adding bulk to your frame. But maxing out your compound lifts by only training with heavy weights doesn't do any favors for your muscular endurance—the ability to continuously contract a muscle (or group of muscles) against resistance for a sustained period. By building muscular endurance, you're better equipped to perform physical tasks for a longer—an essential component of healthy aging. That's why we've put together the #1 free weights workout to boost your muscular endurance, so listen up.

Boosting your muscular endurance is fantastic for your overall health. For example, increasing your muscular endurance can help you preserve good posture, enhance your muscles' aerobic capacity, improve your ability to perform daily tasks (like lifting heavy objects), and boost athletic performance in endurance-based sports, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

So how can you develop muscles that work harder for longer? Well, the answer is straightforward: regularly incorporating high-volume strength training into your workout routine. That means plenty of reps and lots of sets of lifting light to moderately heavy weights. However, knowing which exercises (and how many reps) are best for muscular endurance can be tricky. That's why we asked Natalia LePivert, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Life Time Palm Beach Gardens, to share her favorite free weights workout to help boost your muscular endurance. Read on to get the workout, then check out 5 Daily Exercises To Improve Muscular Endurance as You Age.

Air Squats

woman doing dumbbell squats at home

Whether you're using your body weight or light weights, squats strengthen the lower body and build core endurance. To perform air squats, LePivert breaks things down.

With a dumbbell in each hand, stand upright, and place your feet shoulder-width distance apart. Bend your knees, and lower yourself until you're parallel to the floor. Maintain a straight back, and squeeze your shoulders. Push yourself up by squeezing your glutes on the way up. Be mindful not to overextend your back. Perform two to four sets of 12 to 20 reps to maximize muscular endurance.


woman demonstrating lunges with dumbbells to boost your muscular endurance

One of the best things about lunges (besides giving your glutes, hamstrings, and quads a next-level burn) is that they have several variations. Each one is excellent for increasing muscular endurance.

Assume a split stance with one foot in front of you, ensuring you're balanced and stable. Engage your core, and maintain a straight back. Bend both knees until they form a 90-degree angle, then push yourself back to the starting position. Alternate legs, then walk forward or repeat the movement with the same leg. Perform two to four sets of 12 to 20 reps with each leg.

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man performing dumbbell pushups to eliminate man boobs

This classic exercise needs no introduction. Everyone from the ancient Roman emperor Constantine to today's CrossFit athletes has used pushups as an effective way to build upper body strength and enhance muscular endurance.

To get started, LePivert instructs you to place your hands shoulder-width distance apart on a set of dumbbells, and create a straight line from head to toe on the floor in a plank position. Avoid rounding your shoulders or concaving your lower back. Lower your body to the ground with your elbows close to your sides while maintaining a straight posture. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and keep your core engaged. Push your body back up to the plank position. Perform two to four sets of 12 to 25 reps for optimal endurance building.

5 Pushup Variations To Build a Stronger Upper Body, From an Expert

Dumbbell Sit-Ups

dumbbell sit-ups

"Sit-ups have long been an abdominal-building favorite. However, if you find your core endurance lacking, incorporating high-rep sit-ups will probably do the trick," says LePivert. The form to do a sit-up is straightforward.

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Have a dumbbell in each hand. Engage your core, and use your abdominal muscles to lift your upper body off the ground. Keep your lower body planted on the ground. Lower your body slowly to the starting position while engaging your abdominal muscles to maximize endurance-building. Perform two to four sets of 12 to 20 reps.


woman doing plank rows to boost your muscular endurance

The plank requires stability, balance, and control and is an excellent tool to boost your muscular endurance when held for long periods. Here's how to do it, along with a couple of variations.

Kneel on all fours, placing your hands on the floor. Next, step back one leg at a time, creating a straight line from head to toe. Engage your abs to support the lower back, and avoid a rounded spine. Only your toes and hands (or forearms) should touch the floor. Hold this position as long as possible, aiming for 30 to 45-second intervals. Maintain a stabilized body and a neutral spine.

For the first variation, have both hands on a dumbbell in your plank position. Raise one arm with the weight up to the sky. Then, lower your arm back to the floor, and repeat with the other arm. For another variation, you can perform plank rows by assuming a high plank position with your hands on the dumbbells, swapping between rowing one arm up, then the next arm up.

Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam