What is strength-endurance training? We asked the experts how you can train both of these skills at once.
There are lots of different styles of training that will help you get stronger, from bodyweight workouts to lifting heavy weights. But functional strength isn’t just about learning to do a full press-up or building an impressive one rep max – it’s also about how long your body can withstand that time under tension.
That’s where strength-endurance comes in: the ability to lift heavy for longer. “Strength-endurance training is almost an oxymoron, because if you train for strength you’re typically working with heavier loads with fewer reps. If you train for endurance, you’re doing, say, 20 reps plus to work the slower twitch fibres. But there is a middle ground, and that’s strength-endurance training,” explains personal trainer Alice Miller.
What is strength-endurance training?
“Strength-endurance is all about building strength that lasts a longer period of time,” explains Emma Obayuvana, trianer from the Strong Women Collective. But this isn’t just about picking a light weight to get out as many reps as you can: “you need heavy weights with high volume, so you should look to increase the sets and shorten the rest. Lifting heavy weights over six or more sets is a good way to make sure that you are training the muscles for longer, ticking off endurance, but that you are still able to hit the strengthening aspect.”
According to Alice, another way to build the muscular endurance is to use techniques such as supersets. “Rather than pairing a push and a pull movement, as in typical strength training, you should superset two exercises of the same movement pattern,” she says. For example, you could do 12 reps of dumbbell bench press, then immediately follow up with 12 press-ups. “You’ve gone from training the chest for 12 reps, to training the chest for 24 reps – doubling the time under load,” Alice explains.
What are the benefits of strength-endurance training?
“Building endurance will prep your body to withstand stress, so that going forward you’re able to lift heavier loads,” says Alice. “That can help you build power as well as muscle, because you’ll be increasing the volume in one specific area.”
There are benefits to lifting this way outside of the gym, too. “We should all be able to perform tasks over an extended period of time. Unlike with pure strength, where you can lift a crazy heavy object off the floor but have to drop it immediately, this allows you to sustain the load so you can walk home from the supermarket or carry your baby around all day.”
What exercises should you do for strength-endurance training?
“Most strength-gaining moves are suitable for this kind of training,” says Alice. “The big muscle building moves, like squats, deadlifts and overhead presses will be great, but you can add in more isolating moves like Romanian deadlifts and chest presses to use in supersets too.”
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk'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).