Reader’s request: What’s the difference between traditional strength training and endurance training?

and do you need both?

Hi friends! How’s the morning going? Hope you’re enjoying the day so far. It’s barre time for this girl, and I’m also trying to figure out when to take my gestational diabetes test this week. There’s never a *good* time, so I might as well get it over with as soon as possible. Is it weird that I think the worst part of the whole ordeal is that they expect me to sit around for two hours? I can’t even leave. I’ll probably bring my computer or Kindle and read or work for a while, but it’s going to be hard to sit still when pure sugar is coursing through my veins.

So today, I thought it would be fun to talk about strength training, since I’ve received a couple of questions about this lately. A frequent one has been: what’s the difference between endurance training (think barre or BODYPUMP) and *regular* strength training? (Regular = strength hypertrophy training, usually 3 sets of a set amount of reps, ranging from 6-12 or so.) 

What is strength endurancetraining

Here’s the difference is between the two:

Muscular endurance training requires the muscles’ ability to contract over an extended period of time. For these exercises, you’ll typically use a lighter weight and higher repetitions. For example, if you usually use 20 lbs for your 8 reps of biceps curls, you’ll use something lighter like 10 lbs and perform 15 reps or more. For endurance training, you are using a smaller percentage of your one repetition maximum (the heaviest amount of weight you could complete for one rep); about 50-70%. For these types of exercises, you’ll typically use a slow tempo, but not always. 

For strength hypertrophy training, you’re performing 3-5 sets, 6-12 reps per set, and at a higher resistance load: 75-85% of your one rep max. Usually, you’ll perform these exercises at a moderate and smooth tempo, usually taking an equal amount of time to perform the concentric part of the movement (which shortens the muscle; think about the “curl” of a biceps curl) and the eccentric (lengthening) portion (when you lower the weight down from a curl). 

Bicep curl and balance  1 of 1

Here’s why you need both:

Functionally, they both make a LOT of sense. In life, there will be times when you need to exert strength for longer periods of time… like when I layer 6 grocery bags on each arm and make the slow trek from the street to our door haha. If you improve your strength (through lifting heavier weights for less reps), you’ll surprise yourself with your ability to lift heavier items. This comes in handy for things like moving day. After I had been continuously strength training, I was a much bigger help during our multiple long-distance moves. 😉 By promoting endurance, you are teaching your body to perform for an extended period of time, even though fatigue. By promoting strength, you are not only increasing the size of your muscles (don’t freak out- women do NOT have the hormonal make up to get huge like dudes), but you are increasing your work capacity. 

Each variation of resistance training leads to injury of the cellular proteins in muscle. When this happens, your body sends out the signal for the muscles to repair themselves and grow. If you give your body the amount of rest it needs to repair between training sessions, it will allow protein synthesis to occur.

What really matters: changing your routine. Our body is highly adaptable and gets used to the same demands over time. This is why it’s critical to constantly change the type of training in your routine. If you notice that you’ve been doing the same amount of weights, sets and reps over time, it’s time to change it up! I think this is why I saw awesome results when I regularly started incorporating barre, BODYPUMP and Orangetheory in to my routine: they were all so different, they allowed me to hit my personal fatigue point in different ways, and they constantly kept my body guessing.

Remember, the best type of strength training is the one that you’ll DO. It doesn’t matter if it’s endurance, max strength, hypertrophy, power, fitness classes; if you’re consistent about it, that will make the most significant difference.

Here are some interesting reads:

How do muscles grow?

 Hypertrophy: a new summary of the research

So tell me friends: what type of strength training do you usually do? How often do you change up your routine?

Have a lovely afternoon and I’ll see ya later today on the family page!




Check out my latest post for Women’s Running here! 🙂

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  1. kristin | W [H] A T C H on July 7, 2015 at 9:53 am

    so true! love that you put it so simply and completely agree that the best kind of strength is the kind you’ll do.

  2. Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on July 7, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for the easy-to-understand explanation!

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:10 pm


  3. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on July 7, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I think it’s so easy to do the same thing over and over again. Most humans are routine. Part of fitness is really challenging yourself by changing things, but you really need to make a conscious effort to do it.

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      that is so true. it’s very easy to kick things into routine mode

  4. Foodlove Girl on July 7, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Great post. I’m wondering if I can start a muscle building plan now and actually see some results by the end of the year – 6 months? I think I can, I can think I can. choo! choo! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      you totally can!

  5. Lindsay on July 7, 2015 at 10:39 am

    One of the reasons why I love my gym’s format is that we never repeat a workout. I feel like I’m always switching up my weight and style of training and I’ve doubled my max weight in two months. A post that I would LOVE to see is a focus on switching to maintenance mode. I will probably switch from weight loss to maintenance in about six months, and I would love some more info on it. I’m terrified of doing it wrong and ending up losing all of my progress.

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      that is awesome that your gym is constantly changing things up! quite a few people have asked about a post on that, so i’ll put one together! xo

  6. Beks on July 7, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I’m currently doing regular strength training (3 sets of 10-12 reps at a heavy-for-me weight), but I’m thinking about incorporating some beginner HIIT or 10 Training. Running is so hard for me, though. My calves always tighten so badly!

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      start off by adding short, slow intervals and see how it feels!

  7. Tracy on July 7, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Thanks for the informative post! I try to do a mix of both each week.

    Good luck with sugar test! Never too much fun 🙁 It’ll be over and done with before you know it! Most importantly, hope you get good results!

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      thank you, friend!

  8. Cindy on July 7, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Good luck with the GD test. I took my Kindle to entertain me but somehow ended up falling asleep in the waiting room! Human making and toddler care/entertaining is tiring work. Sitting still for an hour was a recipe for sleep. Good news was that I passed.

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      hahah! watch, that will probably happen to me, too. happy to hear you passed! was yours fasting or did you get to eat bfast first?

      • Cindy on July 7, 2015 at 4:34 pm

        They told me I could eat a lite breakfast, low sugar and no fruits, but I fasted just to be safe. I had an early appointment, so it wasn’t too bad.

        • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 9:26 pm

          i’m bringing food to the office with me hahah

  9. Alex @ get big, go to work on July 7, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Hi Gina! Thanks for such an informative article. It was a really enjoyable read. I tend to stick to hypertrophy strength training as its my favorite, but I know it is so important to incorporate other kinds as well. A reminder I needed. Thanks.

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:02 pm


  10. Cassie on July 7, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I am a routine girl, so it’s very hard for me to switch things up. I do 15-30 minute yoga routines in the morning that are on a 30 day cycle. That helps keep things slightly different at least.

  11. Laura B @ FitMamaLove on July 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    As a Pilates instructor, I mostly do that for strength training and unfortunately, I’m noticing a difference in my physique from sticking with too much of the same thing all the time. My body was happier doing Pilates a couple times a week and mixing in a few weights sessions too. Since I’m not happy with the changes I’m seeing, I’m cutting back on my classes and making more of an effort to get in more cardio and weights (thanks to Summer Shape Up for the workouts!). I still love Pilates, but teaching it everyday is too much of a good thing for me!

  12. Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona on July 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    This post has some great info. I didn’t realize how different they were. Thanks for sharing!

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      no prob! happy you enjoyed 🙂

  13. masala girl on July 7, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    thanks so much for sharing this! it’s something i kinda knew about, but its always good to get more info 🙂 do you think you could do a post on the benefits of supersets vs circuit style/ 3sets of 1 exercise before continuing?

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      definitely! xoxo

  14. Brittney on July 7, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Good luck at your testing!! I do 2, sometimes 3 days of hypertrophy training, 15-20 lbs and 4-5 days of endurance strength training w/ 6-8, sometimes 12 lbs depending on the exercise.

  15. Christina on July 7, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    interesting post.. thank you!

    • Fitnessista on July 7, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      glad you enjoyed it!

  16. Sarah on July 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    I do strength training, out of habit 😉 I like the slow, smooth movements over the other..

  17. Erin on July 7, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    I try to do a little bit of both. I do endurance training with barre and Pilates, but then I lift heavy weights. Sometimes I give myself a little TRX treat to mix it up.

  18. Elle on July 7, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I love both. I used to love just lifting weights in the traditional 3 sets, but then I discovered barre and got great results from that. Its surprising how much of a workout you can get from no weight or 3 pounders!

  19. Sagan on July 8, 2015 at 5:18 am

    Love this explanation – thanks for sharing!

    That’s part of why I alternate fitness classes at GoodLife (Combat on Mondays & Wednesdays, Step on Tuesdays, Pump on Thursday, and Attack of Fridays) – because I want to keep my body guessing, and the different types of equipment and body weight exercises used definitely contribute to a more well-rounded, fitter me, as opposed to if I was just doing the exact same class day after day.

  20. Tara | Treble in the Kitchen on July 8, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Great explanation, Gina!! And I love the reminder at the end…it’s all about actually doing it so do what you enjoy 🙂

  21. Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food on July 8, 2015 at 6:12 am

    The majority of my strength training is traditional but I have done a ton of Body Pump in the past, which I love!

  22. Catherine on July 9, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Would your barbell workout count as strength hypertrophy? Would it depend on the weight used; i.e, use more than Bodypump weight? Thanks!

    • Fitnessista on July 9, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      yes it’s strength hypertrophy and you could use a heavier weight than bodypump

  23. Erin on July 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Loved this post! Thanks, Gina.

    I have been switching it up between pilates-style workouts and CrossFit endurance training for my strength training but would love to incorporate some heavy lifting back into my routine at some point. This was good motivation.

    What about super slow fitness? Have you done a post on that yet?

    • Fitnessista on July 9, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      i haven’t! i can definitely feature that 🙂 xo

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