What Is Strength?

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One of the best things you can do for your health is strengthen your body. While there are many forms of exercise, resistance training is one of the most crucial for overall health. Strength training not only increases your metabolism and lowers body fat—which can help protect you from some of the leading causes of death—but it can also help build stronger bones and muscles, which can prevent injury and may even help better overall mental health. 

Here we explore what strength is, its benefits, and the types of strength training available. We also take a look at how often you should be doing strength training.

What Is Strength?

Strength refers to the quality or state of being strong. Our muscles are vital to our bodies and are the reasons we can walk, run, carry things, and so much more. But muscles start to deteriorate as we age, so finding ways such as resistance training to build muscle is crucial.

Resistance training, also known as weight lifting and strength training, refers to any exercise where you push, pull, or try to work against a type of resistance. Resistance itself is a force that makes a movement harder to execute. 

The simplest form of resistance training is using your body weight to do various exercises. Movements such as pushups, pull-ups, and planks use gravity as the resistance. You can also attain resistance by using dumbbells to perform exercises such as deadlifts, bicep curls, and bench presses.

If you currently exercise without weights, adding resistance training can be a great way to gain strength. If you are new to lifting weights, starting small with light dumbbells and compound weight machines such as the leg press and lat pull-down machine can be beneficial to strength and getting more comfortable in the gym. But you also can do resistance training at home if you do not have access to a gym.

Benefits of Strength

Building strength can help prevent and aid in fighting various diseases and injuries. For example, strength training boosts metabolism and aids in weight loss, resulting in overall body fat loss. While you can't spot-reduce fat, losing overall body fat can lead to a loss in visceral fat, which can help prevent and manage conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Weight lifting may also stimulate bone development by increasing bone mineral density. It also is often used to reduce lower back pain and ease the discomfort that is brought on by arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Benefits of Resistance Training

The benefits of resistance training are plentiful. Research shows that some benefits include:

  • Improved physical performance 
  • Better motor control
  • Improved bone density
  • Higher levels of self-esteem
  • Reduced levels of anxiety and depression
  • Enhanced cardiovascular health

Types of Strength Training

When people think of strength training, they may purely envision using dumbbells and barbells to gain muscle. But there is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to gaining strength. Below we explore the different types of strength training.

Muscle Endurance

In strength training, muscle endurance refers to the ability of a particular muscle to exert force or continue repetitions over a period of time without needing to stop and rest. Instances include how many reps of a bicep curl or deadlift with a light-to-moderate weight before you exhaust your body to the point of breaking form.

Increasing your muscular endurance or stamina can not only assist you in the gym by giving you the tools you need to do more reps, but studies also show that an increase in muscular endurance can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and may even decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Circuit Training

Circuit training has been all the rage in the last few years, and for a good reason. Circuit training refers to doing a series of exercises, usually a mix of strength and cardio, with no rest in between.

Circuit training can be beneficial for various reasons, including an increase in heart rate, which can help you move oxygen and blood to your muscles more efficiently, which in turn can help you burn more calories and lose weight faster. Circuit training can also help you avoid plateaus if you have been lifting or exercising for long periods because the workouts generally change monthly. 

Hypertrophy Training

When it comes to hypertrophy training and strength training, they may seem very similar but are, in fact, different. Muscle hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of muscle cells, so when you engage in hypertrophy training, you are trying to build the overall muscle size.

On the other hand, strength training aims to enhance the functional ability of the muscles. Unlike strength training, where an individual aims to lift the most weight they can over time, hypertrophy training requires more sets and reps with lower amounts of weight than typically used for increasing strength. 

Increasing Muscle Strength

When we think of strength, we most likely think of how many pounds someone can lift at the gym, but what defines strength is a bit more complicated. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), strength can be defined as the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce internal tension—in the muscles and connective tissues that pull on the bones—to overcome an external force (or external load).

The best way to build muscle is with resistance training, also known as strength training or weight lifting. Strength training can help lower body fat, build stronger bones and muscles, and protect you from cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. 

Frequency of Strength Training

Studies show that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to produce the most amount of muscle growth and reap the benefits strength training can provide. If your goal is to gain muscle or increase your overall strength, adding more days and splitting your training up can be beneficial.

Split training refers to dividing your weekly workouts that focus on either your upper or lower body on different days. This will allow you ample rest time for your muscles to recover. Some forms of exercise do not require a split plan, but you should always make sure to give your body at least 48 hours in between workouts to recover fully.

Safety Tips

All types of exercise are essential for overall health. When you begin strength training, make sure to start small and work with a certified personal trainer or another fitness professional who can help you develop a training program tailored to your body.

Remember, too, that resistance training is not a one size fits all approach. As you get more into your workouts, make sure to have a spotter when attempting a new exercise or going up in weight so you don’t risk injuring yourself. You can return the favor by spotting for them as well.

A Word From Verywell

Resistance training is a vital part of gaining strength. Having more muscle can help you lead a happier and healthier life. As you lift weights, your body will begin to adapt, and you will be able to go up in weight and do more repetitions.

But before you begin a new exercise program, talk to a healthcare professional to ensure strength training is safe for you. Remember, everyone's fitness journey is different. So, if something doesn't feel right, adjust your plan. It is fine to go slow and train at a speed that is comfortable for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is building strength important?

    Building strength is important for optimal daily functioning, preventing injuries, and reducing your risks of certain diseases. As you age, your strength will decline unless you actively work to prevent it with strength training.

  • How does strength training impact metabolism?

    Strength training can help your metabolism work harder, burning more calories, even when at rest. This effect is due to hormonal changes plus building muscle tissue that is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories even at rest.

  • Which is better, cardio or strength training?

    Cardio and strength training are both vital for optimal health. However, when you strength train, you can also work your cardiovascular system. Strength training is the best choice if you can only fit one type of exercise in, but be sure it also challenges your heart and lungs to get the best of both.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.