“What is the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance?”

Most of us have an idea in our head about what fitness results we are trying to achieve, but unknowingly sabotage those results with workouts that are either contradictory to those goals or simply do not have any real rhyme or reason as to how they are structured.

If you think this might be you, you can learn more about how to structure your workouts here: How To Structure Your Workout Program

In this article, we are going to cover the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance so that you have a better understanding of how and when to incorporate these in your own training.

Muscular Strength

Muscular strength is by definition, a muscle’s ability to exert maximal force against resistance one time. 

For example, your ability to barbell squat 250 lbs. for one rep is a measure of your muscular strength.

Why is your one rep max important?

The main reason is because it gives you a number by which you can consistently track your progress.

If one of your goals is to increase your overall strength, you will want to record and track your one rep max numbers, generally every 5-6 weeks, for some of the major lifts such as barbell squats, deadlifts, and bench press.

Even if you don’t necessarily care about your overall strength and are just trying to lose some weight, it’s still important to use progress markers like the one rep max.

Suggested Reading: How To Safely Test For Your One-Rep Max

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability to perform an exercise for a prolonged period of time without getting tired. 

For example, knocking out 50 push-ups in a row without stopping. 

In the gym, training for muscular endurance is done by using lighter weights for a higher number of reps, typically within the 12-20 rep range. However, if you are performing bodyweight exercises such squats, push-ups, pull-ups, or sit-ups, this number may exceed 20 reps.

Muscular Strength And Muscular Endurance


In my opinion, the vast majority of people should incorporate a combination of both strength and endurance exercises in their training programs. Whether you choose to focus more on one or the other depends on your goals. 

As it relates to the real world, both translate over to every day activities. 

For example, overall strength gained from barbell squats or deadlifts not only allows you to lift and move heavy objects like furniture or boxes, but they also teach you how to engage your core so you don’t throw your back out.

Muscular endurance allows you to perform activities such as playing with your kids, raking leaves in the yard, or walking 20 minutes to and from work everyday without getting tired. 

Both are necessary, and when it’s all said and done, the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn throughout the day, and the more capable you are of handling whatever comes your way.

Committed To Your Health,

Online Fitness Coach Brian DonovanBrian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personalized training and nutrition plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in publications and websites such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, Bach Performance, and The Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC).

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