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Define Strength, Power & Muscular Endurance

author image Luann Voza
Luann Voza teaches both math and science in an elementary school setting and physical education in a college setting. A former fitness-club owner, Voza has taught group fitness classes in step, aerobics, yoga, Pilates and kickboxing. As a bodybuilder, she held the title of Ms. New Jersey Lightweight Division Winner. Voza has a master's degree in exercise physiology and a doctoral degree in education.
Define Strength, Power & Muscular Endurance
Define Strength, Power & Muscular Endurance Photo Credit: Jovanmandic/iStock/GettyImages

Strength, power and endurance are all forms of muscular ability. While excelling in some sports requires a greater proportion of one type of muscular ability, most sports require all three. Your ability to move weight, move it with speed and continue moving it for extended periods of time will help you be a better all-around athlete. A comprehensive training program includes phases that improve all three.

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Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert maximal force against resistance. Strength and power are often confused, but the main difference is speed. Strength is expressed by slower, controlled movements. For example, a heavy squat performed at a slow speed.

Strength can be measured based on the amount of weight lifted for a single rep. This is referred to as a one-rep max, or 1RM. 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 a measure of strength based on your body size, expressed by 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.

The top strength sports include weightlifting, football, wrestling, boxing, track and field and rowing.

Read more: Cardiovascular & Muscular Endurance


Power is the ability to move weight with speed. Being strong does not always translate to being powerful. For example, a strong lower body can do a heavy squat slowly, but it can't necessarily generate the power to do the same lift with speed. Power is explosiveness. Top power sports include Olympic weightlifting, track and field, boxing, football and ice hockey.

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert sub-maximal force against resistance for an extended period of time. 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.

Endurance sports include distance cycling and running, track and field, swimming, skiing and rowing.


Training is specific to fitness or skill goals. Strength training is based on progressive resistance exercises. Workouts consist of higher weights and lower repetitions performed with control. To train for strength, perform 2 to 6 sets of 1 to 5 repetitions with a lifting intensity of 85 to 100 percent of 1RM. Longer rest periods between sets -- 2 to 5 minutes -- allow for increased strength for the next set.

Power training is similar to strength training, but the intensity and speed are increased and there is less rest time between sets. Supersets may also featured, in which a strength move and a power move are done back-to-back. In addition, explosive movements geared to specific skill development should be added to training programs. To train for power, a general goal is 3 to 5 sets of 1 to 3 reps at 80 to 85 percent 1RM.

Endurance training is based on progressive repetition exercises. Workouts consist of lower weights and higher repetitions. A typical endurance training program, includes 3 sets of 15 to 25 reps at 20 to 70 percent 1RM. Shorter rest periods between sets -- 30 to 60 seconds -- increase fatigue levels for the next set.


Training is sport-specific, not one-size-fits-all. Your individual training program should reflect the weight and repetition demands of your sport. Consult a coach or 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.

Read more: Sports That Require Muscular Endurance

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