Strength and Conditioning Components for Elite Snowboarders: What Is Muscle Endurance?
Muscle endurance is one of the most important elements in any sport or activity. A strong body allows a person to perform better at all times. However, it’s not only about being able to lift heavy objects or run fast; it’s also about being able to maintain your physical condition throughout the day without getting tired. Without sufficient muscle power, you won’t be able to do anything strenuous.
The term “muscular” refers to the muscles of the body. They’re made up of various types of fibers (or units) which make up each type. These fibers are connected together by myofibrils, which are long strands of connective tissue.
Myofibers act like cables, holding together different kinds of muscle cells. When these fibers get fatigued, they become weaker and less effective in carrying out their function.
When you exercise, your muscles contract and produce force. Your heart beats to pump blood through the system. You breathe to move air into and out of your lungs.
All these actions require energy from the body. Energy comes from food, oxygen, and other substances in the bloodstream. If you don’t have enough energy, then nothing will happen!
Energy is stored in glycogen stores in the liver and muscles (stored fat). The liver and muscles can store only limited amounts of glycogen. They can’t be increased by training.
Eating a lot of carbohydrates increases the body’s capacity to store them, which allows the body to perform at its best for longer periods of time.
Aerobic exercise increases the number and size of blood capillaries in muscles. This allows more oxygen to pass through to the muscle cells, thus decreasing the amount of lactic acid that builds up in your muscles during exercise.
Aerobic exercise also increases the size of your heart. This improves its ability to pump blood around the body, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles, and taking away lactic acid that builds up during exercise.
Aerobic training also leads to an increase in energy stores outside the muscles themselves. The body has a number of systems that store energy – primarily carbohydrates in the form of glycogen but also in the form of fat.
Adaptations to aerobic training that improve endurance:
Increase in the number and size of mitochondria in muscle cells
Increased efficiency of muscles in transporting oxygen to the muscles and taking away lactic acid
Decreased time between heart beats (but the heart does not get bigger)
Increased number and size of blood capillaries near muscles (this is the main factor in improving cardiovascular efficiency)
Increased glycogen storage in muscles and liver
Increase in enzymes involved in energy production
Improved ability to buffer lactic acid (making muscles less prone to the effects of fatigue)
Boost in the body’s main energy substrate – adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
Endurance falls into two categories: strength endurance and cardiovascular endurance. You can improve on both with training!
Strength endurance is the ability of your muscles to resist fatigue during repetitive use. It involves the use of mostly ATP as the energy source. The body can store only relatively small amounts of it, but it can be regenerated fairly quickly.
Aerobic training improves strength endurance. So does practicing the sport you’re training for – if it involves the kind of movement that fatigues your muscles, then your body adapts to resist fatigue. For example, professional hockey players skate around the whole field at a fairly fast pace, and rarely do the same movement twice in a row.
They have excellent strength endurance.
Carbohydrate loading can help with strength endurance. Having glycogen in your muscles helps them work more efficiently, and having extra glycogen in the bloodstream spares the use of muscle glycogen.
Finally, Strength endurance can be improved by using the technique of “plyometrics” during training – this involves a controlled pause or “hold” in the middle of a movement, during which your muscles are under maximum tension.
Cardiovascular endurance involves the use of oxygen in the energy process. The heart and lungs work to supply working muscles with oxygen so that they can continue to work efficiently – even when you’re engaged in an activity that makes your muscles burn.
Endurance athletes have twice the amount of blood capillaries in their muscles as normal people do, because of this increased blood flow the muscles are able to get more oxygen in the blood stream.
Endurance training involves practicing the sport you wish to participate in, especially the specific movements involved in that sport. For example, running a fast mile involves practicing fast running. Swimming a mile involves literally swimming a mile (no pauses).
Aerobic training also improves endurance. It increases the efficiency of oxygen use in the muscles and helps to buffer lactic acid in the muscles. This leads to less fatigue during activity.
So, to improve your endurance you need to do two things. First, you need to practice the specific movement patterns involved in your sport until they become natural reflexes. Second, you need to practice that sport – as in go out and do it!
Endurance is very much a matter of training the body for the specific activity you wish to perform, as opposed to strength which is trained by lifting heavy objects.
There is no such thing as one size fits all training. What you do for your 2 hour walk with the dog is very different to what you need to do when you climb a 14,000 foot mountain, and both are completely different to running 100 miles in under 20 hours.
So if you want to be an endurance athlete you need to decide what sort of endurance sport you want to participate in and prepare your body for that specific activity.
On a personal note I’m training for an endurance event myself. My own journey began over two years ago, when I weighed in at over 300 pounds and had a 46-inch waistline. After dieting and exercising I was down to 230 pounds and a 38-inch waistline.
I then graduated to more intensive training and raised my fitness level through cycling, running and triathlons. I’m now at an endurance level that allows me to run and cycle for hours at a time and I swim quite a bit as well.
My goal is to complete an Ironman Triathlon: a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a full 26.2 mile marathon – all completed within 17 hours.
So far I’ve completed a Half Ironman and several shorter triathlons and I’m confident I can complete the full event. I’m writing this to let you know that it is possible for virtually anyone to train their body to an endurance level that allows them to do anything they want to do, as long as they’re prepared to work hard and maintain a consistent training schedule.
Of course I wouldn’t suggest that someone like me can become a world class body builder or professional basketball player, but there is no reason why someone who is 35+5 shouldn’t be able to complete an Ironman if they really want to.
The important thing is to find an event that you’re passionate about and train for that. If you succeed in your goal that achievement will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and good luck in whatever endeavor you pursue.
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