Muscular endurance vs. lactic tolerance

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  • #72151

    I hope I am not getting too esoteric here… But I would appreciate some guidance on the difference between these two and their utility.

    Based on this site, I understand Muscular Endurance to be the capacity of the muscles to utilize efficiently the oxygen that is delivered to them by the heart and to maintain a high percentage of contractile force for many repetitions of the propelling movement. When I think of Muscular Endurance, I think of heavy carries with lots of vertical over many hours, technical snow/ice/rock climbing with an overnight pack and supplies. In other words, sustained, heavy loads, for long periods of time.

    When I was in college, I rowed, and our events were typically 5-7min long. We called it sprint endurance. The 1st minute was free. Your lungs and legs screamed after that, and the winners had the mettle and physical capacity to maintain a high output level, while the losers took it down a notch to something that felt more sustainable – I am guessing at or below their AnT? The coaches called it lactic tolerance. Training to body to become accustomed to the severe discomfort of producing lactic acid when working anaerobically, and improving the body’s ability to metabolize this byproduct.

    Now that I am involved in endurance sports like mountaineering and alpine climbing, I wonder if there is some utility to lactic tolerance here too. We used to train it by doing sets of intervals/sprints, and also body circuits where you would do ~45min of burpees, squat jumps, lunges etc until your legs melted. It was grueling work but I do recall getting better quite quickly. I’ve seen glimpses of this in ChamFit, e.g. in the circuit.

    So is this useful for uphill athletes? Would it help with crux technical sections for example where you have to punch through, or is it most useful when the pace of the ascent dictates a high output (e.g. speed records, alpine-style blitzes)? Or does Muscular Endurance work supersede lactic tolerance? I am not even sure I am understanding the relation between the two correctly.

    Any insights would be appreciated! Thanks.

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    Anonymous on #72309


    Sorry this slipped down the page here before I saw it. There is some value in higher intensity work for long duration endurance activity but not nearly the same way as for short duration rowing. This is primarily for 2 reasons in my mind. The first and most obvious is the relative intensities for an all day event is just so low that youre almost always well down in Zone 1/2 and primarily fat burning. The second is that much of mountaineering takes place at high altitude where the reduced oxygen environment makes upper HR Zones effectively inaccessible anyway.
    The first article below does a good job of explaining how the aerobic system is so valuable as it is actually the one responsible for clearing excess lactate and why a really well developed aerobic capacity is actually your best friend for very high level effort.

    Clogging Up the Drain: Why You Are Forced to Slow Down

    The second link here has some data discussing the fact that upper HR zones arent accessible at altitude regardless.

    David Goettler and Ueli Steck Put Low-Intensity Training to the Test in the Khumbu

    Since a lot of things we do in the mountains are pack weight related we do find the ME type work here that your talking about quite valuable. I suspect its more from a muscle fiber recruitment and neural pathway development perspective than anything else. When your training by carrying a very heavy pack with high intensity like this in training a lighter pack and lower intensity will be much easier and your movements will be very economical.

    george.peridas on #72549

    Mark, this is fascinating, thank you!

    I had wrongly assumed that the heart goes nuts at high elevations, maxing out. Time to rethink that.

    The other conclusion is that someone with mountain ambitions who spends a lot of time on crossfit or equivalent not only shoots themselves in the foot by wasting training time and fatigue, but they also develop a higher Fast Twitch musculature at the expense of Slow Twitch, which does not serve them well – am I right?

    Anonymous on #72556

    In general I would say yes that is correct. I think the main way to think about it is what metabolic system are you dialing in. A lower intensity primarily fat burning system is the one you’ll be using for these goals (its the only one you can really access) so thats the one you should be spending most (although not all) your time dialing in. One of the reasons we associate high elevations with high HR is a lot of the time our breathing rate is very high and it “feels” intense. Normally that would correspond to high HR as well but at altitude that’s less the case.

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