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The Longevity Combine: Muscle Size and Muscular Endurance (Part 3 of 4)
Practical Tests to Assess and Improve Your Health and Fitness
It fills me with pride that the Longevity Minded newsletter surpassed 400 subscribers last week.
I’m grateful for every one of you that reads and applies these strategies and tactics in pursuit of living longer, feeling healthier, and cultivating a purposeful life.
Now, onto the newsletter…
If you missed the last two weeks, we’ve been covering practical tests to assess and improve your health and fitness:
This week we’re covering tests for muscle size (hypertrophy) and muscular endurance.
Next week we’ll close this series with assessments for your aerobic peak and anaerobic capacity.
Tests to Assess and Improve Your Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance
Hypertrophy (Muscle Size) Tests
Hypertrophy is an exercise-induced increase in muscle size.
The aesthetic part of hypertrophy is up to you.
You get to decide what feels and looks good. I encourage you to strive to achieve the physique of your dreams.
However, there is a certain amount of muscle that you MUST have to escape the danger zone.
If you are below that number, your lack of muscle will contribute to the degradation of your health and your inability to perform activities of daily living into old age.
How do you know whether your musculature is sufficient? Body composition tests.
The Gold Standard: DEXA Scan
For a primer, read this article on the utility of DEXA Scans and how to understand your results.
One of the key pieces of information a DEXA Scan provides is your body fat percentage.
With your body fat %, your total body weight, and your height, you can use an online calculator to determine your FFMI score.
FFMI stands for fat-free mass index.
It provides insight into your muscle mass in relation to your height and weight.
If you’re a man, your FFMI should be 20 or higher.
If you’re in the 24-25 range or above, assuming you’re reasonably lean, you have a very solid amount of muscle mass. Well done.
Women should look for a score of 18 or above.
If you’re sub-17 as a man or sub-15 as a woman, you’re in the danger zone.
That means you are insufficiently muscled and should dial up the frequency and/or intensity of your resistance training sessions.
It’s important to look at body fat in conjunction with FFMI.
It’s possible to have an FFMI that is optimal and unhealthy levels of body fat at the same time.
Other Body Composition Tests
Although DEXA Scans will provide the most accurate results, there are other body composition tests out there:
Skinfold caliper test (requires a skilled practitioner)
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)
Hydrostatic (Underwater) Weighing
Muscular Endurance Tests
There are a number of ways to measure muscular endurance.
You should be able to hold…
A front plank (on your forearms) for at least 60 seconds.
A side plank (on your forearm) for at least 45 seconds per side.
Unless you have a reason to limit range of motion, fitness testing should always be performed through a full range of motion.
For a push-up, that means locking out your elbows at the top and your chest touching the ground at the bottom.
Keep your method consistent each time you perform the test so you can accurately compare results and measure progress.
Men should be able to do 25 consecutive push-ups. No pausing, just up and down like a piston for 25 reps.
If you’re a male in the 10 to 25 push-up range, you have some work to do.
And if you’re under 10 then that’s a serious red flag.
Females should aim for at least 3 to 5.
If you cannot do at least 3 push-ups, you need to work on strength and not muscular endurance.
Reverse Engineer Strength Tests to Measure Muscular Endurance
Another way to measure muscular endurance is by taking the results of your strength tests, loading the weight to 75% of your one rep max (1RM), and then doing as many reps as possible.
For example, say my 1RM on the leg extension test was 200 lbs. I’ll take 75% of that weight (150 lbs) and do as many reps as I can muster.
A good score using this test is 8 to 12 reps.
If you do substantially more than that, say 15 to 20 reps, you either:
Did not perform the strength test correctly and have underestimated your true 1RM, or
Have a deficiency in your peak strength.
If you’re under the 8-rep threshold, you need to work on your muscular endurance.
This 75% of 1RM test provides an accurate measure of muscular endurance and can be applied to any strength exercise.
Just make sure you can perform the movement with proper form through a full range of motion.
Don’t risk injury.
Assessing Weak Spots: Strength vs. Muscular Endurance
If you are unable to perform one single push-up, you don’t have a muscular endurance problem.
You have a strength problem.
Muscular endurance is completely irrelevant if you can’t yet perform one rep of something.
So, focus on getting stronger.
Use the principles from a previous newsletter, 4 Ways To Scale Any Exercise, to make the exercise you want to get stronger at easier or harder.
If you are not strong enough to perform a movement yet, you can make great progress by repeating the eccentric (lowering) part of the exercise with a slow tempo.
That is exactly how I became strong enough to do pull-ups when I was a kid.
That’s all folks.
Get out there and have some fun testing.
And if the spirit moves you, let me know how it goes!
I always love hearing from readers.
Much love to you and yours,