Muscular Strength and Endurance

Blog by: Manasi Joshi

Muscle strength is defined as one’s ability to perform a single repetition with maximum resistance.

Muscular endurance is one’s ability to perform many repetitions with a sub-maximum resistance.

Improving muscular strength requires lifting heavier loads (weights) for lower repetitions. Improving muscular endurance involves lighter weights for a higher number of repetitions. There is direct relationship between muscle endurance and strength. As muscle strength increases you can perform same number of repetitions lifting higher weight.

Strength training is the process of exercising with progressively heavier resistance for the purpose of strengthening the musculoskeletal system.

Benefits of Strength training

Improves functional capacity.  Strength training increases the size and strength of our muscle fibers, resulting in greater physical capacity to perform work. Stronger muscles enable us to lift a heavier weight once (muscle strength) and to lift a lighter weight more than once (muscle endurance).

Enhances Physical Appearance. A person with more muscle fiber and less %age of fat will look leaner, firmer and fitter. Strength training plays a major role in enhancing our body composition.

Increases Metabolic rate. Muscle requires high energy for maintenance and rebuilding process. Even at rest it will burn calories. As we age our metabolic rate decreases by 5% every decade due to gradual increase in fat % and decrease in muscle strength in our body. This can be delayed by regular strength training.

Reduces risk of Injury. Our muscles are shock absorbers and balancing agents. Stronger muscles helps to avoid risk of injuries caused due to high impact activities like aerobic dance and running. Participating in competitive sports may cause injury due to stress on a particular body part or muscle. Proper balanced strength training program may avoid such kind of injuries.

Regular strength training Exercises also improves bone density decreases resting blood pressure and protects against various degenerative problems.

Guidelines of strength training.  There are many ways to develop strength training. Almost any form of progressive resistance exercise will stimulate some degree of strength gain. Unfortunately many strength training programs have a high rate of injury and a low rate of muscle developments.  Here are some guidelines to help achieve safe, effective and efficient strength training.  They will provide a sensible approach for achieving high levels of strength fitness.

Exercise Selection.  We see many men having developed only upper body but have thin legs.  Men tend to concentrate only muscles of chest, arms and shoulders to improve their physique or to show off their body and women concentrate on their hips and thigh muscles.  Training only a few muscle groups leads to muscle imbalance and increases risk of injury.  It is very important to select at least one exercise for each major muscle group to ensure comprehensive muscle development.

Exercise Sequence.  Starting form larger muscle groups of the legs to the smaller muscle groups of torso, arms and neck allows you to perform the most demanding exercises when you are least fatigued. Another option is to group exercise into upper body/lower body movements which provides recovery between exercises and decrease the duration of the workout.

Exercise Speed.  Exercise speed plays a major role in both injury risk and strength development.  Lifting at a fast pace places a high level of stress on the muscles and connective tissue at the beginning of each movement.  A reasonable training recommendation is 1 to 2 seconds for each lifting movement and 3 to 4 seconds for each lowering movement.

Exercise Sets.  The number of sets per exercise is largely a matter of personal preference.  Several studies have shown similar strength gains from one, two or three sets of exercise.  Single-set exercise usually continues to the point of momentary failure which is high intensity training. Those who prefer multiple sets rest 1 to 3 mins between sets.  Regardless of number of sets performed, each repetition should be done using proper exercise form and control.

Exercise Resistance and Repetition.  There is an inverse relationship between exercise resistance and repetition.  Higher the resistance lesser the repetitions,  For beginners start with 15 to 20 reps with intensity of 40 to 60 % of maximum resistance,  Gradually decrease repetitions to 8 to 12 reps per set increasing resistance upto 70 to 80%

Exercise Range.  It is important to perform each exercise through full range of joint movement emphasizing on the completely contracted position to achieve maximum benefit.

Exercise Progression.  As the muscle adapt to a given exercise resistance, it must be gradually increased to stimulate further strength gains.  This may temporary decrease the number of repetitions.  It is advisable to alternatively increase resistance and repetitions for safe and systematic muscle strengthening. You can begin with 8 to 12 reps and when 15 reps can be completed increase the resistance by 5%.  This may vary according to individual’s capacity it is not advisable to increase the resistance by more than 10% between successive training sessions.

Exercise Frequency.  High- intensity resistance exercise may cause tissue microtrauma that temporarily reduces strength output resulting in some muscle soreness.  This is why ample rest time between successive training sessions is important. During this recovery period, the muscle synthesizes proteins and builds slightly higher levels of strength.  As the muscle rebuilding process requires about 48 hours, strength workout should be scheduled every alternate day. Those preferring to train daily can workout alternate muscle groups daily.

Warm-up Include some light aerobic activity such as stationary cycling/walking/running/stair climbing.  It is also important to perform stretching exercises for the major muscle groups paying attention to low back area. Performing one light weight set of each exercise before doing heavy weight set also warms up that particular muscle.

Cool down Blood tends to accumulate in the lower body when a vigorous exercise session is stopped abruptly.  This may result in light headedness.  Thus, it is important to continue lower-level physical activity after the last exercise set is completed. 5 to 10 mins of slow cycling/ walking following a stretching of the muscles worked out is recommended.

Common Training Mistakes Too much resistance results in poor form, which results in risk of injury.  Rebounding the bar off the chest in the bench press, bouncing at the bottom of the squat, using hip/back extension to initiate barbell curls, bending backward under barbell presses, and using momentum and fast training speeds are most common and critical training mistakes related to exercise technique.

Recommended Exercise Program for Beginners

Warm up by doing light cardio for 5 to 10 mins like cycling/walking/jogging and some dynamic stretching exercises.

First 4 to 6 weeks : concentrate on learning good exercise form, control of speed, range of movement, balance and posture. Improving on muscle endurance.

After 6 weeks : Starting to build some strength

After 3 month : concentration on strength building

Resistance : Load should be such that u can perform only the given repetitions maximum

Exercises should be covering all major muscle groups of thighs, calves, hip, chest, arms, shoulders, back and abdominals. No. of exercises should be 8 to 10 exercises each session

First 4 to 6 weeks

Resistance : 15 to 20 RM (lift such weight that you can perform maximum 15 to 20 repetitions)

Sets per exercise : 1 per exercise

Repetitions : 15 to 20 reps

Frequency : 3 to 4 times per week

After 6 weeks

Resistance : 12 to 15 RM

Sets per exercise : 1 – 2 per exercise

Repetitions : 12 to 15 reps

Recovery betw sets : 1-2 mins

Frequency : 2 to 4 times per week. Split your exercise routine alternate days into lower body and upper body. (exercise each muscle 1/2 times per week resting that muscle groups 48 hrs)

Ater 3 months

Resistance : 8 to 12 RM

Sets per exercise : 1 – 2 per exercise

Repetitions : 8 to 12 reps

Recovery betw sets : 2-3 mins

Frequency : 3 times per week. Split your exercise routine further into Chest- Shoulder-triceps, Back-biceps, Hips-thighs-calves (exercise each muscle group once a week)


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