Muscular Strength vs Muscular Endurance

Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance are closely related. However, there are also distinct differences between the two categories. Let’s dive deep in to what their major differences are.

Definition

Muscular Strength is the being able to exert a maximal amount of force. This could be assessed using compound exercises such as the BIG 3, “Bench Press”, “Back Squat”, “Deadlift”.

Hence, in simple terms, strength is a skill that requires the use of the entire body’s function to execute maximum force production. An example of an activity that requires strength is powerlifting.

Endurance is being able to do something repeatedly for an extended period This could be assessed by the number of reps one can do on the push-ups. An example of an activity that requires endurance is boxing, where the athletes must continuously move and throw punches in the ring.

Training styles

Training for endurance and strength may require different training methods in terms of rest
periods, exercise selection, etc. Hence, let’s look at some of the main differences between
these two categories.

Rest Periods

Generally, when training for muscular endurance, let’s say in the gym, it is recommended to have shorter rest periods between sets from 30 seconds to less than a minute. This is used to support the goal of endurance training, which is to allow for sustaining the movement patterns with a certain weight of the same effort for as long as possible.

Hence, by inducing shorter rest periods, it allows the body to adapt for performance in muscular endurance. On the other hand for strength training, the rest periods may vary between 3-10 minutes. This is because it prepares the body to get into the next set. This is because Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), crucial for maximum force production, replenishes 85% after around 3 minutes and is fully
replenished after around 10 minutes. Hence, depending on the athlete, he or she may have to rest for extended periods of time between sets.

Weight

Since muscular endurance requires doing something for as long as possible, the weights used must be lighter. It does not make sense if you are lifting your 1 rep max to train for endurance. A general recommendation would be to lift 40-60% of your 1-rep max for endurance training. On the other hand, strength training requires for athletes to be able to get used to lifting heavy as strength is a specific skill. Hence, in order to get good at lifting heavy, you have to lift heavy. Hence, weights used for strength training usually ranges from 75-95% of your 1 rep max.

Exercise Selection

Exercises chosen for muscular endurance are normally bodyweight or isolation exercises. The reason for this is because these exercises easily allow for fatigue to kick in within the 15-25 rep range. On the other hand, compound exercises are normally used for heavier loads due to more joints and muscles contributing to the movement. It is not wrong to train endurance using these exercises, however, there are better alternatives which are bodyweight and isolation exercises.

One thing to take note of

There is a fine line between muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance. Muscular endurance requires for muscular fatigue to take place. Hence, the weight used has to be heavy enough to produce muscular fatigue, but not too heavy where not even 10 reps can be completed.

Hence, the recommended rep range used for endurance training is usually between 15-25 reps. The main reason why that is the recommended rep range is because anything lighter than that might translate to cardiovascular endurance. Hence, it is important to regulate whether your muscles feel fatigued after 15-25 reps. If they do not feel fatigued after that rep range, it is usually a sign to increase the weight.

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