Strength, power and muscular endurance are fitness components with many things in common. They require the application of muscular force to overcome resistance while in motion; they involve muscular contraction of a specific muscle or muscle group; and they are measurable components of fitness. Training programs can improve these fitness components.
Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert force to overcome the most resistance in one effort. Strength can be measured based on the amount of weight lifted. Upper-body and lower-body strength are measured separately. Strength tests include the bench press for upper body, the squat for lower body and the deadlift for lower back and leg assessments. Relative strength is based on a ratio of weight lifted to body weight. For example, if two people lifted the same weight, the person who weighs less has greater relative strength.
Power is defined as the amount of work performed per unit of time. Power is an element of skill-related fitness that is needed to excel in athletic performance. Increased strength does not always translate into increased power. For example, a strong upper body lifts a high amount of weight. However a strong upper body does not always have the ability to throw a shot put very far if enough speed cannot be generated.
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert force to overcome a resistance many times. Often the resistance is the body itself. The measurement of muscular endurance is based on the number of repetitions performed. Muscular endurance is specific to the assessment. The ability to perform upper-body exercises many times is separate from the ability to perform lower-body or abdominal exercises many times. Muscular endurance tests include push-ups, pull-ups and dips for the upper body, and sit-ups for the abdominals. Lower-body endurance can be assessed with squats.
Training is specific to fitness or skill goals. Strength training is based on progressive resistance exercises. Workouts consist of higher weights and lower repetitions. You should perform three to four exercises for each muscle group with three to four sets of six to eight repetitions each. Longer rest periods between sets allow for increased strength for the next set. Endurance training is based on progressive repetition exercises. Workouts consist of lower weights and higher repetitions. Perform three to four exercises for each muscle group with three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each. Shorter rest periods between sets increase fatigue levels for the next set. This type of training will further improve endurance levels. Power training is similar to strength training. In addition, explosive movements geared to specific skill development should be added to training programs.
Consult a personal trainer to get help assessing your strength, power and muscular endurance. A trainer can also help you set reasonable goals and provide you with a training plan for reaching them. Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program. Your doctor or other medical provider can assess your general health and tell you if the program is right for you.
- Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance; McArdle, Katch & Katch
- Stronger Abs and Back; Dean Brittenham & Greg Brittenham
- The Sports Medicine Fitness Course; David C. Nieman