Strength training and resistance training

What’s the difference between strength and resistance training?

Posted by for Strength

Strong Women ambassadors explain the difference between strength and resistance training so you can pick the best one for your goals. 

Current government guidelines state that adults should be doing two resistance training sessions a week for optimum health. The main benefit of this is that muscle strengthening exercises could help delay the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density that starts from around age 50, according to the findings. 

But right now, we are all training away from the gym and many of us are without dumbbells, kettlebells and other forms of weights. So is it really possible to meet these recomendations during lockdown

Luckily, resistance training is possible to do using just your bodyweight, according to two of Stylist’s Strong Women ambassadors Caroline Bragg and Emma Obayuvana. They’re here to clear up the confusion around this style of workout, explaining the difference between resistance and strength training and when you should do each of them. 

What is the difference between strength and resistance training?


“Resistance training could be mean using body weight, or a resistance band, free weights or anything where you’re pushing or pulling against something with added resistance.  Strength training, on the other hand, is more about building strength and utilising time under tension – which means lower reps at a higher weight.”


“Resistance training generally means that you’re building muscle by using resistance, which can come from your own body weight, from free weights (like dumbbells), or from using machines. Whichever you choose, you’re using resistance to increase the strength of your muscles. In that sense it ties into strength training, but strength is not the main goal of resistance training. Strength training is where you are lifting heavy at low reps and specifically training to get stronger.”

What are the benefits to resistance training?


“Resistance training improves your bone density. We lose muscles as we age, but if you are doing resistance training, you’ll be building more muscle in your body so the rate at which your muscle atrophy will slow. Generally, resistance training applies to everyday life. So it’s functional training. So you’ll see the direct benefits, such as when lifting a box you’ll know how to lift correctly and be strong enough to do it. It also has psychological benefits because you’re going to feel a lot more confident about yourself and your abilities, have a better quality of sleep, and be able to recover better.”


“It depends. There is benefit to doing a body weight exercise, like planks, push ups and squats. And you can do higher reps with resistance exercises and therefore you build endurance up.” 

Should you do more strength or resistance training?


“Well I would always start with resistance training, because that can mean introducing anything, even just body weight. Work on this first to get your form right first, such as learning to nail a bodyweight squat with perfect form. Then you add load and you can start to build strength.”


“I would say that this entirely depends on someone’s goals. One person’s goal could just be to get into training with free weights, so adding in resistance alone is great, but if your only goal is strength then you would need focus on the programming around that. However, you can do both. You can have a couple of days a week where you’re focusing solely on your strength, and you will be lifting heavy for low reps. Then after a good recovery time you could have a day where you just focus on general resistance training.”

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).