CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I recently began an exercise program to lose weight and get in shape. I hired a personal trainer who asked me lots of questions about my health at our first meeting. One of the questions that confused me was when she asked me if I was interested in muscular strength or muscular endurance. I don't want to build large muscles, but I wasn't sure what to say. Can you explain the difference? -- Carol
One of the quickest ways to achieve goals is to have personal guidance in first establishing reasonable goals followed by an action plan to reach them. Good for you for taking the initiative toward a slimmer, stronger you!
Happy to hear your trainer is doing a thorough assessment of your current health status. This helps trainers identify any medical conditions or limitations that would prevent you from doing certain kinds of physical activity, and it also guides trainers toward designing a personalized fitness program. This is why you were asked about muscular strength and muscular endurance, because knowing the types of activity you do on a daily basis determines which is focused upon.
Strength is defined as the maximal force you can exert in a single voluntary contraction -- basically all you can push or pull one time. It is also called a one-repetition maximum, or 1RM. Strength is important in certain occupations and activities that require lifting or moving heavy loads. It is also essential to older adults to live fully and independently.
To build strength you must use heavier weight and fewer repetitions -- high-resistance reps in a progressive training program.
We may not use our full strength on a daily basis but having it available is vital to an energetic life. Climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting luggage all call upon your muscular strength and if you have strong muscles you're also more likely to have good balance and agility.