What's The Difference Between Building Muscle Strength And Endurance?

Muscle strength and endurance are crucial components of a well-rounded fitness program, and they are important for our overall health, per Popsugar. While both involve the muscles of the body, the concept behind each is different. 

"Muscular strength is the maximal load that a muscle can move," University of Miami professor Dr. Joseph Signorile explained to Popsugar. This refers to the short-term act of exerting force against resistance, such as lifting the heaviest weight possible for one rep. "Muscular endurance is the amount of repetitions that an individual can do of any type of an activity ... and the amount of fatigue they show in doing that number of repetitions," Dr. Signorile continued. To measure endurance, you need to determine how long you can keep up an activity before no longer being able to continue.

While muscular strength and endurance have different endpoints, they are ultimately complementary (via Popsugar). "As you increase someone's muscular endurance, there also are strength gains," exercise physiologist Ashley Fluger told Popsugar. Any exercise designed to increase muscle strength will automatically increase endurance. You can think of it this way: If you start out lifting a 5-pound weight, you will slowly be able to increase the weight as you train over time. On day 7, you may be able to lift the same 5-pound weight 10 times in a row as your new maximum weight becomes 10 pounds. This would mean you have increased both your muscle strength and endurance with the same exercise.

Exercises to boost muscle strength and endurance

You may be wondering which exercises are recommended for endurance, as well as muscle strengthening. MedicineNet points out that any type of cardio exercise will boost muscle endurance — this includes walking, running, cycling, swimming, and more. As you engage in each exercise consistently over time, you will see improvements in the amount of time you can sustain the activity. For example, you may start out running 1 mile a day and slowly increase the distance until you are able to run an entire marathon. 

More weight-specific examples of muscle endurance exercises are planks, push-ups, lunges, and squats. These exercises use bodyweight to increase the amount of time your muscles stay engaged. A great example of a muscle-strengthening exercise is weight-lifting, per Parade. Weight-lifting exercises vary and can be adjusted to individual fitness ability. Some weight-lifting moves include pull-ups, dumbbell chest presses, hammer curls, kettlebell swings, and tricep press-downs. 

When it comes to any physical activity, you need to warm up properly to reduce the chance of injury (via Parade). This is especially the case when it comes to muscle strengthening exercises. "Your warm-up should last about five to ten minutes and begin with low-to-moderate intensity and gradually increase in intensity," medical exercise specialist Chris Gagliardi told Parade. Following your training session, Gagliardi recommends ending with a cool-down "to focus on improving your flexibility and returning your body to a more relaxed state."