Strength Power and Muscular Endurance
Strength, power, muscular endurance, and conditioning are all expressions of muscular ability, as well as overall physical ability, in one way or another.
While overlap occurs from one to the next, there are clear differences between each form of muscular output. However, understanding the differences does not come naturally and is something a person must learn through education and experience.
Let us jump into what each is.
What is the difference between strength and power?
When it comes to strength and power, the two are often confused. With many terms such as starting strength, speed-strength, strength-speed, static strength, and power, it is easy to understand why confusion can occur.
At Nathan DeMetz Personal Training we simplify things by offering singular definitions for strength and power.
- Strength-moving weight or some other form of resistance at a slow pace or holding said resistance in a static position.
- Power-moving an object with speed.
The definitions alone may not provide enough clarity. To help you understand more about power versus strength, here are examples of each.
Examples of strength
Powerlifting events such as the bench, squat, and deadlift
Pushing a car
Examples of power
Weightlifting events such as the snatch or clean and jerk
Throwing a ball
One example that may be confusing is powerlifting, since it is listed under the strength examples. Should that be under power?
No. In general, the bench, squat, and deadlift are performed in a controlled manner. In contrast, the snatch is performed in an explosive manner, making it a power move.
Another way to view it is through a definition provided by Christian Bosse on his website.
What is Strength?
The definition of strength is “Strength is the ability to exert force (measured in Newtons) in order to overcome the resistance.”
The physical formula of force is Force = mass * acceleration (F = m * a).
What is Power?
The definition of power is “Power (measured in Watts) is the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time.”
Or in other words, power is moving weight as explosive (fast) as possible, which differentiates it from strength.
What is the difference between muscular endurance and conditioning?
These two terms are as easily confused as strength versus power. When speaking of muscular endurance and conditioning, a person may think they are one in the same. However, this is not the case. Muscular endurance is an expression of a muscle’s ability to perform repeatedly.
This may not leave a person breathing hard, therefore exhibiting little effect on cardiovascular ability. The bicep curl is a good example of this. If you perform a bicep curl to failure, your muscle will give out, but you likely will not be gasping for air.
By that same logic, performing a single max effort thruster may not stress the cardiovascular system, but if you completed CrossFit workout Fran—which is three rounds, 21-15- and 9 reps, for time of 95-pound thrusters and pull-ups—your cardio might be taxed.
Now conditioning is not all about cardio. If that were the case, then all the best runners in the world, especially the long-distance runners, would be the best conditioned. However, running long distance is not the only expression of physical ability and therefore not the only aspect of conditioning.
We define fitness as the ability to do work. Conditioning should be viewed in the same way. The more work a person can do, the fitter he or she is. The more work a person can do in a constrained time without rest, the more conditioned he or she is.
Now, those are loose definitions subject to interpretation and meant to reflect our views on the topics, not necessarily world views. Some people will mirror our views while some will not, but our views are the product of the education and experience we received. They are good views and will serve you well if you use them.
Conditioning work is varied. Fran is one example of conditioning work, as is running long distances, but the following would also be.
Complete as circuit:
10 handstand push ups
30 pull ups
40 ring dips
50 dumbbell thrusters
60 dumbbells renegade rows
70 dumbbells walking lunges
80 kettlebell swings
90 kettlebell deadlifts
100 squat jumps
200 push ups
300 single unders
If it is not clear at this point, muscular endurance is required for all of these movements, but the level goes beyond that of a biceps curl or similar exercises. Conditioning is about full body work and can be defined as the ability to do work in a constrained time without rest.
Which should you focus on?
Strength, power, muscular endurance, and conditioning all have a place in a training program. For the average person and most athletes, all these elements should be included.
As applied to the average person, focusing on the different areas will provide him or her with the greatest fitness. For athletes, these areas will provide general physical preparedness that can then be transferred into sport specific training.
Secrets for Better Muscular Strength
Strength, power, and endurance are all important if you’re interested in overall health and fitness. But if you want to use strength training to increase what you lift compared to your body weight, or exert higher maximal force, there are some important strategies you’ll need to follow:
- Avoid explosive movements. Power training can be valuable, but it’s not going to help you build your strength as optimally as strength training. Explosive movements, like jumping on plyometric boxes or performing a snatch, simply aren’t going to be as effective as movements designed to build your strength. If you want to build strength, power, and endurance, you’ll need elements of all three, but if strength is your priority, strength training should be dominant in your regimen.
- Avoid highly repetitive movements. Endurance training is similarly valuable, especially if you want strength, power, and endurance all at once, but again, if you’re optimizing for muscular strength, too much endurance training can do more harm than good. This is especially true if you’re practicing endurance cardio, since overtraining in this area can result in excessive caloric burn, compromising your strength gains.
- Focus on control. During your muscular strength building exercises, it’s important to focus on control. Throughout all your muscular strength training exercises, you need to have full control of your weights at all times. Too often, amateurs increase the amount of weight they lift as a vanity exercise, hoping to feel better about themselves or shortcut themselves to higher levels of strength. But if you lift too much too quickly, you’ll be forced to perform your repetitions quickly and in an uncontrolled, jerking manner. Not only will this render you prone to injury, but it will also compromise your muscular strength gains, since your muscles will have less time under tension. Instead, it’s better to use a sub maximal force, using slow, deliberate movements as you exert that force. Training to failure can sometimes be valuable, but if you can’t control the weight you’re lifting, you’re probably lifting too much.
- Master your form. Many coaches acknowledge that form is the most important thing to master when getting started with strength training. Not only will better form keep you safe and free from injury, it will also help you maximize your gains. Better form leads to more control, the ability to exert more force, better muscle group targeting with a full range of motion, and more consistent efforts. Thankfully, it’s easy to learn good form for muscular strength when you work with an online fitness coach.
- Consistently increase your load. Muscles grow and develop more strength when there are greater demands placed on them. Accordingly, you’re only going to see results if you consistently increase your muscular challenges. There are different ways to do this, such as increasing the amount of weight you lift and increasing the number of repetitions you do; but you’ll need to increase all these variables consistently if you want to consistently increase your strength.
- Vary your workouts. Over time, your body can grow acclimated to an exercise routine if you repeat it often enough. That’s why, in addition to increasing the amount of weight you lift and the number of repetitions you do, you should consider varying the exercises you do. One week, you can focus on a barbell bench press. The next week, you can do weighted pushups and flys; though very similar in muscle group targeting, these exercises work your muscles in different ways. It’s also a good idea to incorporate other exercises that support your fitness goals, such as kettlebell swings, endurance sports, and activities that support strength, power, and endurance (as long as strength remains your primary focus). As a bonus, varying your workout routine can stave off boredom and prevent burnout, allowing you to pursue a consistent exercise routine for longer.
- Use the right exercises. Different exercises target different muscle groups. If you’re focused on building strength in one area of the body, you need to focus on exercises that support those muscle groups. Ideally, you’ll incorporate exercises that help you build full-body strength.
- Eat more. If you want more muscular strength, strength training itself isn’t enough; you need to follow a nutritional plan to increase your muscle mass as well. Bigger muscles, with stronger muscle fibers, tend to be stronger muscles. But you’re only going to develop those muscles if your body’s getting suitable nutrition. Bodybuilders and strength trainers must eat a caloric excess and ensure adequate protein intake as well.
- Rest appropriately. Finally, make sure you follow appropriate rest periods. It’s tempting to think that more weightlifting is always a good thing, but rest is just as important; otherwise, your muscles won’t have time to recover, heal, and grow. It’s typically unwise to work out the same muscle group two days in a row.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas.
His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!