Which Is Better, Muscle Strength or Endurance?

Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2021
which is better, muscle strength or endurance
While there is a difference between strength training and endurance training, both muscle strength and muscle endurance are important for overall fitness

While there is a difference between strength training and endurance training, both muscle strength and muscle endurance are important for overall fitness. You need both in everyday life.

However, understanding the difference can help you design a fitness program that aligns with your goals. 

Building muscle strength is more important for people involved in weight-lifting activities. Building endurance is of priority for people involved in performing the same muscle activities repeatedly for a prolonged period, such as marathon runners.

Muscle strength vs. endurance

Muscle strength

Muscle strength is the ability to exert force against resistance for a short period of time, and is necessary to complement and help improve endurance. Muscular strength improves the intensity of the performance, whereas muscular endurance improves the length.

Muscle endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability to perform an action over and over for a prolonged period of time. According to the American Council on Exercise, the benefits of muscle endurance include:

  • Maintaining good posture for longer periods, such as sitting on a chair for office work
  • Helping to carry out normal activities, such as lifting heavy items to move them to a different place
  • Improving athletic performance in endurance-based sports, such as running a marathon

How to improve muscular endurance

  • Cardio training: Cardio is an effective way to improve endurance and build stamina. Unlike weight-lifting, cardio needs to be performed for a longer duration. It helps build the body’s lactic acid system, which allows the body to sustain muscle contraction for longer. Examples include:
  • Local muscular endurance exercises: Muscular endurance exercises that use the body weight and target specific muscles of the body include:
    • Planks: 
      • Rest your body on your bent forearms and straightened knees.
      • Push off the floor, raising your legs onto your toes and resting mainly on your elbows.
      • Tuck your abs in and avoid sagging down. Keep your back straight, preventing it from curling. Imagine yourself looking like a plank.
      • Hold this position for as long as you can. Aim for 30 seconds in the beginning and work your way up to one minute over the next few days.
    • Push-ups:
      • Get down on all fours. Your hands should be placed slightly wider than your shoulders.
      • Straighten your back, trunk, arms, and legs.
      • Lower your body, keeping your arms straight, until your chest nearly touches the floor. Your core should be tight.
      • Pause and then push yourself up to the starting position.
      • Perform 3-5 sets of 15 repetitions each.
    • Walking lunges:
      • Keeping your back straight and core tight, take your right leg forward and lower your body down so that your back leg just touches the ground.
      • Stand back straight, pushing down through your front heel.
      • Repeat the same movements with your left leg.
      • Perform 5 sets of 15 lunges.
    • Squats:
      • Stand straight with your legs being slightly wider than your hips.
      • Bend your legs until your butt reaches the height of your knees.
      • Your knees should be in line with your toes and not caved in.
      • You should be looking straight ahead and your back should not curve.
      • Maintaining your weight on your heels and squeezing through your glutes (buttock muscles), push yourself back to the starting position.
      • Perform 3-5 sets of 15 repetitions.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2021
References
Avers D. Chapter 8 - Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults. In Guccione's Geriatric Physical Therapy, 4th ed. 2020;166-200. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/endurance

McCall P. 7 Different Types of Strength and Their Benefits. The American Council on Exercise. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5495/7-different-types-of-strength-and-their-benefits/