Muscular Endurance versus Muscular Strength

17 comments written by Ken Hutchins

Why There is No Versus

By Ken Hutchins

We may easily accept the notion that we can increase muscular strength disproportionately to muscular endurance. After all, they are not the same thing—right? And they deserve a different emphasis in any worthy exercise program—right?

Or so this is what I believed since my early exercise experience. In fact, I performed high-repetition sets of bench press to develop endurance and one-repetition maximum lifts to develop raw strength.

I pretty much sustained this belief even after I started my Nautilus career with Arthur Jones. Then Ed Farnham, the Nautilus general manager, explained my embarrassingly faulty thinking.

For example: Previously untrained, a man tests his one-rep maximum in the bench press to be 120 lbs. And then he finds that he can perform exactly 10 repetitions—same speed, form, conditions, etc.—with 80 lbs.

After a year of training, he tests and learns that he can perform one repetition with 240 lbs. Then he returns to the previous endurance test with 80 lbs and learns that he can perform 43 repetitions. He concludes that his strength has doubled while his endurance has more than quadrupled.

I and many others have made the same incorrect conclusion based on the same general relationships. And much of what passes for so-called research applies the same non sequitur.

If, in the aforementioned example, we double the one-repetition maximum from 120 lbs to 240 lbs, we must also double the original 10-repetition endurance test from 80 lbs to 160 lbs. Then we observe that he can now perform exactly 10 repetitions.

This simply demonstrates a constant relationship between muscular strength and so-called “muscular endurance.” And the “endurance” increase occurred merely because the muscle became stronger! Hence the endurance is strength and the strength is endurance. They are inseparable!

One caveat, however: If the comparison test is carried much beyond two minutes then failure occurs for reasons other than purely the lack of muscular strength. The now-poorly-controlled test fails to show the relationship that is truly resident.


P.S. Come join the RenEx Team and Dr. Doug McGuff at the Future of Exercise Oct 6-7th in Cleveland, Ohio.


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Luke O'Rourke August 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I always believed endurance is a combination of economy of movement and psychological will. The more skilled at a movement you are the less energy you’ll waste doing it and hence the longer you can sustain said action. Beyond that it’s just a willingness to put up with the discomfort and or monotony.


avatar Joshua Trentine August 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm


You got it right.


avatar Rick Chartrand August 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Still spaces for oct 6-7. My son wants to join me. .?


avatar Joshua Trentine August 13, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Yes some left still


avatar James Steele II August 14, 2012 at 4:23 am

Repeated testing at the same sub maximal load would be reflective of absolute endurance, testing at a %1RM or maxTFT etc. would be reflective of relative endurance. The important point is though that relative endurance=strength, the relationship doesn’t change. But increasing strength will increase absolute endurance.


avatar Ken Hutchins August 14, 2012 at 7:56 am

Responding to Luke O’Rourke:

Perhaps I was not adequately clear with ” —same speed, form, conditions, etc.—”. Skill is factored out of this explanation. If not, then my assertion fails.

By the way, endurance does not involve more skill. More accurately, it involves different skill.



avatar Steven Turner August 16, 2012 at 3:50 am

Hi Ken,

I have done that same little experiement once or twice every for the past few years – testing my strength and endurance. When you think about it or when it has been pointed out to you it just makes sense and you wonder why you never made the connection between muscle strength and muscle endurance – it so self-evident.

How many trainees have been misinformed that you must train muscle strength and muscle endurance separately. When I point out to them as you explained above the response is usually, but the so-called expert down the gym told me. I ask them to go back to a workout that they done 12 months ago and repeat that same workout or an exercise and see how many reps that they can do. You know what their answer is an increase in reps.

Thanks another great article.


avatar Joshua Trentine August 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm


Thanks for the feedback.



avatar Bradley Warlow August 16, 2012 at 4:39 am

I always used to get confused with this . I thought that if strength was proprtional to endurance then you would go up the same weight for ten rep maximum than you would for one rep maximum. Finally now i see that it is actually the percntage increase that is proportional and not the weight. I found it intriguing that our muscles are expressed as percentages. Thankyou Ken


avatar Patrick August 22, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Certain trainers of the so called functional movement go even further in breaking down types of strength..ugh.…/8-types-of-strength-for-sports.html

1. Optimum Strength – The ideal level of strength needed to perform in your sport. Continually getting stronger will not continually increase your power. Every athlete needs this level of strength.

2. Relative Strength – It is the maximum force that you can generate per unit of bodyweight regardless of the rate-of-force production. Wrestlers, football players (especially linemen) and rugby players need high levels of relative strength.

3. Maximal Strength – The maximum force that your muscles can produce in a single voluntary effort regardless of the rate-of-force production. Maximal strength is rarely needed during sports competition.

4. Limit Strength – The maximum force that your muscles can produce in a single contraction. A few elite athletes have this type of strength.

5. Endurance Strength – The ability to produce and maintain force over an extended period of time. This type of strength is critical for athletic success.

6. Stabilization Strength – The ability of your body’s stabilizing muscles to provide dynamic joint stabilization and maintain postural control during athletic movements. Core strength would fall within this category. Many athletic injuries can be traced to inadequate core strength. No athlete will be successful without this type of strength.

7. Speed Strength – The ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible force in the shortest period of time (power). Obviously, every athlete wants and needs this type of strength. While it is very important, other types of strength cannot be ignored.

8. Functional Strength – The athlete should train movements during strength training sessions. Producing dynamic, multi-planar eccentric, concentric and isometric contractions quickly and efficiently is the goal of training for functional strength.


avatar Nathan Block August 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

Patrick… so what ? “Certain trainers of the so called functional movement” should be locked in psychiatry.


avatar Steven Turner August 23, 2012 at 8:28 pm


I suppose to some extent we could make an endless list of different types of strength required for every different types of circumstance that we could potentially confront.

What about the strength that is required for the life or death situations where great feats of strength are displayed by people without any formal strength training we could call that the “life and death strength”, the strength list could be endless.

From my limited understanding of neuromuscular physiology I don’t think that we could have different types of strength the physiology just doesn’t allow for it. I know that Arthur Jones wrote often of strength being general but the application of strength being specific to the task.

I agree with Nathan’s comments adding, it might be just better not to acknolweldge the “functional mob” or give them any of our valuable time.


avatar Nathan Block August 24, 2012 at 10:11 am

You are either stronger or weaker.If you are stronger it will show everywhere in a positive way if weaker it will show everywhere in a negative way.That’s all.


avatar Joshua Trentine August 24, 2012 at 11:00 am



avatar Marc Lefebvre February 24, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Throw cardio in the mix everything is different.


avatar Joshua Trentine February 24, 2013 at 9:39 pm
avatar Leon October 8, 2020 at 2:06 pm

I think that I have a good/better understanding of how this method can and would increase muscular strength and endurance, my only question is how does this type of HIIT training apply to extreme endurance sports such as long distance swimming and running? I can see how the HIIT would help them, but can those elite athletes eliminate or drastically reduce their current routines of long swims and runs, or does that type of athletic endeavor still require that specific type of training (LSD)? Or are these types of sports (distance swimming/running) just locked into the LSD mode of training without looking at HIIT?


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