When you train for increased strength, you are training differently than when you train for endurance. It all comes down to the length of time you are training, the number of repetitions (as well as built-in rests), and how much weight you are lifting.
You may have overheard one of your weightlifting aficionado buddies use the term “bulking” or “cutting.” For this article, bulking is synonymous with strength building, and endurance weightlifting is synonymous with cutting.
Muscle strength has to do with your ability to lift a maximum amount of weight for a short period, while muscle endurance has to do with your ability to do an action repetitively without much fatigue for a long time. Endurance is how long you can go, while strength is how hard you can perform.
If you want to focus on increasing strength, do a fewer amount of repetitions of an exercise with more weight (perhaps five to eight repetitions). If you want to focus on endurance, do more repetitions with lighter weights (perhaps 12 to 50 repetitions). You can intermingle endurance training with cardio exercises for great results — this is where endurance weightlifting gets the nickname cutting, as you are more likely to lose or cut overall body weight while you are training for endurance, as you maintain a higher heart rate for a long time, which helps your body burn more calories. Endurance training can help runners, cyclists, swimmers, and other athletes meet their goals for distance and time.
How often can you train for strength training versus endurance training?
For strength training, you may want to plan to spend only about two or three days a week (24 hours to 72 hours apart) using heavy enough weights that, after a few repetitions, you are at your maximum muscle ability. One great thing about heavy weights is that lifting them builds more muscle, which burns more calories — even while your body is at rest.
You can potentially take advantage of endurance training every day of the week (or at least more days than strength training, depending on how intensely you exercise for endurance) to reach maximum benefits. Endurance allows you to lift more while using less energy in your daily life.
There are different types of muscle built with endurance and strength; slow-twitch muscle fibers allow for endurance to be built and fast-twitch fibers allow for strength to be built. Slow-twitch muscle fibers may also be referred to as Type 1, and fast-twitch muscle fibers can be referred to as Type 2.
Strength training has benefits such as countering bone loss, fighting osteoporosis, preventing injury, and decreasing your risk of cancer, among others. Both strength and endurance training can technically be done by people of almost any age, although endurance training is perhaps what is more needed for a very new athlete.
Four strength exercises that cover most of the different areas of the body are the squat, deadlift, bench press, and barbell row. Other exercises that you might consider for strength training include:
- Reverse and side lunges
- Russian twists
How much to lift will vary from person to person due to variances in starting ability, natural build, and what other activities you are accustomed to performing regularly. You will want to challenge yourself for strength training, but for endurance training, you will not want to try to lift so much that you cannot make it to a reasonable number of repetitions or you will simply be strength training.
Another aspect to consider regarding strength training is the rest time between reps: You should rest two to three minutes between sets. With endurance training, you do not rest between sets, unless for a few seconds if necessary.
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