Programming Gym Based Local Muscular Endurance

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  • #32129


    I serve in the military and will be attending a selection event that will require me to demonstrate a significant amount of lower and upper body muscular endurance. My goal is to maximize push ups and pull ups done constantly in a two minute period. Those two minute efforts will be the shortest events that I will need to train for. I will also be moving under load with anywhere between 35-50% of my body weight for up to 20 hours per day. On any given day I might be required to lift a 200 pound mannequin onto myself and move it over ground, but also carry water cans (about 40 lbs) or sandbags long distances.

    I cracked open special strength training by Verkhoshansky, and it seems that he lists a variety of different set/rep/rest interval schemes, based on sport, movement pattern, and muscle group trained. However, I did not notice any specific workouts describing pushup and pull up muscular endurance. He seemed to prescribe much different set/rep/rest schemes for similar goals (improving glycolitic capacity or power) based on sport or muscle group trained.

    Additionally, I did not find any specific workouts within TFTUA or TFTNA that seemed appropriate for my goals.

    1. I’d like to know if you all have a gym based set/rep scheme, similar to what is outlined in training for the uphill athlete (CH 8), for weighted push ups, pull ups, etc?

    2. Should I progress with weight, repetitions per set/duration of set, or number or sets when generally programming for muscular endurance?

    3. I understand that ME is relative based on the duration of the event and the amount of strength required to perform a movement, but are there any general guidelines/ratios that govern how long the ME training session should last compared to the event? What do you recommend when the athlete has no idea how long the event could last?

    I appreciate any insight you all may have to offer.

Posted In: Tactical

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    Anonymous on #50634

    Hey Carson,

    Apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this. I’ll try and touch on your questions without getting too long-winded. The overarching answer to all of your questions at once is that there isn’t a singular/ideal/perfect rep scheme that if completed correctly will magically result in the performance you’re looking for. In reality, the answer is much more nuanced based on your current output and timeline. Books like TftNA and even Special Strength Training prescribe templated rep/set schemes as a way of putting a pin on a map, but they shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel. That being said, let’s go after those three questions you asked in your post:

    1) As an extension to the above, the short answer is no. However, various methods exist for adding variety to your current workload. For example, pyramids, density sets, basic circuits, etc. are all options that may help you bust through a plateau if you haven’t spent much time with them before. I can dive deeper into some of those if you’re interested.

    2) Generally speaking, for improving muscular endurance you want to think about progressing volume (sets, reps, time, duration, etc.). Virtually every selection event is a test of work capacity, and while being able to use a heavier weight with a push up is nice, it’s not necessarily going to create the physiological adaptations that we’re after for the test. I’ll usually prescribe submaximal sets and build volume over time, and then when it becomes too excessive for a single session, I’ll play with frequency by sprinkling additional doses through the training phase.

    3) This is essentially a question about what’s called “functional training volume.” With tactical events, this becomes challenging because as you mentioned, we often don’t know the duration of a test in advance. That being said, there are some assumptions we can comfortably make based on anecdotal evidence, previous exposures, etc. In my experience, an unbroken set of 80-100 push ups is adequate for a testing environment. Likewise, 20-25 pull-ups and 100+ sit-ups will usually do the trick. Once you find that you’re able to achieve these volumes comfortably, I’d have you introduce fatigue into the equation by hitting an assault bike, ski erg, etc before a set of bodyweight exercises to sort of simulate what you might feel during selection.

    I know I probably didn’t dive as deep as you’d like into some of those questions, so if you have follow up thoughts let me know.


    hejeji2661 on #59097

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    Anonymous on #60344

    tks for sharing

    dcgm on #60428

    “I can dive deeper into some of those if you’re interested. ”

    I’m not him, but I’m kinda interested.

    I feel like I have a pretty good handle on chins (20ish pretty much whenever, 25-28 when I’m all trained up) and nobody really cares about situps, but getting from 40ish pushups to, say, 70ish has been something of a persistent bugbear. I am pretty sure a lot of the problem is figuring out a way to consistently do enough pushups to get a training effect but not so many that I start getting hurt, and at some level I suppose the solution is to just pick something from Stew Smith or whatever and do it for a while, something like the progression outlined here:
    But at the same time, here I am not doing it. Maybe I answered my own question.

    Anonymous on #60707


    It’s hard to give a specific answer without more context as to your current training load, but if higher volumes of calisthenics have sort of hit a plateau, one thing that might be effective is a period of higher intensity resistance work. I’ve had this work before with guys where we rotate in a handful of weeks hitting some heavier bench press, DB shoulder press, etc. and that can allow for enough adaptation to push past the plateau. The way I’d set this up is to have a push-up “test” embedded within your week of training…maybe a set of max reps on Monday or something…and then just track that while keeping other variables fixed (i.e. DB Bench Press x10-12 @ RPE 8). If that max rep number keeps going up, don’t change anything. Once it plateaus, rotate in new movements.

    Sometimes the answer to the question is just to try things that you normally wouldn’t.

    dcgm on #60853

    Ah yeah, I’m actually working on a max strength cycle right now, wasn’t planning to test before about 6 weeks but maybe I’ll throw in the max rep sets more frequently. Thanks!

    Anonymous on #60865

    I think that’s as good strategy. The problem with setting aside a specific time every few weeks for a test is that as soon as you test something, the athlete is a fundamentally different athlete and thus the test itself loses some clarify when it comes to driving decision-making.

    So basically the way to counter that is to embed “tests” in your programming consistently, such that the training and the testing become one in the same and everything you do feeds into an information loop that allows for you to adjust training in as close to real time as possible…versus doing something for, say, six weeks and then waiting until week six to find out if it worked or not.

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