Making Muscle Durable
One of the first TDL Fitness articles written on this website focuses on the Muscle Durability Factor. Since then more study has gone in to durability of a muscle when exercising both to lose and gain weight. It is seldom mentioned by personal trainers and fitness articles because to them it's not a factor. To TDL Fitness it is because understanding the durability of your muscle can help you advance in your fitness lifestyle, avoid plateau and apply your new fitness skills to sports and activities outside of the gym.
Muscle durability is quite simply a muscle's ability to work at around 100% effort for as long as possible. When you are at the weights section and you pick up weights to do an exercise for the first time how long is it before your muscle finds it hard to get to that last repetition? How long an your muscles go on for before you can feel a weakening? That question answered for you can give you a major clue in to what you need to work on and what is actually strong. Is muscle strength all about how much you can lift exclusively? OR is the factor of a muscle how much you can lift for as long a period of time as is necessary? Is someone stronger because they can bench press 180kg once or twice or someone who can bench press 150kg 12 times?
Muscle durability is of course a big hint when it comes to understanding if an exercise has gotten to easy for you. Can your muscle work to 100% right until the end of your workout? If it can then guess what, your workout is too easy for you. The durability of a muscle can mean it requires more to get that 100% effort to fall in order for more muscle to build up. What percentage does it have to be in order for more muscle to start building muscle or for weight loss to still be effective? It's all relative but around 60% effort or below will make all the difference, if you can feel 60% that is.
So how do we make muscle durable? Well there's no power lifting for a start. When you learn to become a personal trainer you learn the stages of fitness which are muscle endurance, hypertrophy, power and strength in ascending order of difficulty and muscle building. Muscle durability or the training of durability occurs in between muscle endurance and hypertrophy. Durability relies on the muscle's ability to have a lot of pressure exerted on it for a long period of time. This requires a hybrid approach to training. It also requires forward planning. Where you would usually train a muscle with more reps but less sets for endurance and visa versa for hypertrophy, durability is a two step process;
STEP 1: Focus on a muscle and attack in either a pre or post exhaust exercise with your chosen challenging weight. A Pre-exhaust for example is dumbbell flyes (focusing exclusively on the chest muscle) followed by chest press (mainly chest muscle with arms helping in the process). Post-exhaust is switching the two exercises around. This makes the muscle have to work both on its own and as a team and works the muscle targeted more than simply 4 reps of 10 - you now have a little routine where you are working on a muscle in 8 reps of 10. This will make you go down a dumbbell weight or two but there-in lies the durability factor.
STEP 2: A week or so later focus on how many sets you can do of 10-15 repetitions rather than how heavy you can go. Taking the chest exercise as an example again how many sets of chest press can you do? The weight you use will probably be the same as that used in step 1 which will probably be a weight you think is too light when doing the chest press in isolation. But how many sets can you do?
It is in STEP 2 where you find your muscle durability factor. From that information you can find how to make your chest day more efficient for you when working our in your chosen way. Of course you can stick to working out and improving your durability which is especially true if you are exercising for a particular sport.
If you are a tennis player then you know that muscle endurance is almost everything. The body's ability to stay at 100% strength and cardio throughout a long 2 hour game can be the difference between winning and losing. Working out in the gym in a style as described can give you the edge when your opponent is tiring. The same is true with swimming, or football or rugby. If you want to find out and improve your muscle's durability then you need to focus less on improving the strength of your muscle but improving the muscle's durability over time of exercising. Of course you will naturally get stronger with durability training but the focus is more on staying strong for longer; the most practical way to exercise for those who want practicality of course!