Which single phrase best describes muscle endurance

What exactly is strength endurance?

Strength endurance: The motor characteristic "strength" does not only play an important role in strength-based sports. Endurance athletes can also benefit from targeted strength training. Strength endurance is seen as an important part of training, especially in cycling, triathlon and swimming.

What exactly is strength endurance or strength endurance training

So-called “sport-specific training strategies” are usually built into the training process. Dennis Sandig and Dr. In this article, Klaus Wirth want to critically examine the structure of strength endurance. Above all, the common "sport-specific training methods" are to be analyzed and questioned.

Strength endurance in practice

In the theories of strength training one often finds terms that are not clearly delimited. (1) For example, strength definitions are often used solely on the basis of external appearance. However, the influencing factors remain unclear, without which strength training cannot be used in a targeted manner. The reasons for this lie in the different ways of looking at theoretical fundamentals and in different approaches to the subject of "strength training".

Especially in the training recommendations of sports associations such as the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR) you will often find theories and recommendations on strength that are not in line with the current scientific analyzes on this topic.

Above all, there is no overview of current studies and research work. This is particularly evident in the association's internal guidelines for strength training in endurance sports. Often there is a lack of concrete knowledge of the physiological background. Strength training is usually recommended here in the form of so-called sport-specific training methods.

Specific strength training

One tries to train the strength “specifically” - that is, based on the actual sport-specific movement. For this, the movements of the sport are carried out with increased resistance. In this way, the respective adaptation should be transferred to the actual competition movement. Cyclists or triathletes during bike training ride z. B. with the largest possible translation uphill.

This form of training is recommended because it is believed that it will teach the athlete to produce more power on the bike. In practice, young German drivers in particular often complete large-scale training in this area. (2) The runners do such training in the form of mountain runs or with brake parachutes and car tires that have to be pulled. Here, too, it is assumed that you can train your strength endurance in this way. But can this really be improved? And what exactly is strength endurance performance?

Strength endurance and strength endurance training - how to do it right

Strength endurance in sport - between training myth and sport practice

Strength + endurance = strength endurance?

A variety of definitions and descriptions can be found for strength endurance. These often leave room for interpretation, as neither the intensity nor the scope are determined. Strength endurance is often seen solely as the resistance to fatigue in long-term strength performance. This definition, which goes back to Harre, lacks a precise definition of what exactly determines the power stimuli and what determines the endurance stimuli. (3)

The fundamental problem is that the delimitation of force impulses is missing. According to the above description, almost all loads fall under the term of strength endurance. Only when the duration and intensity of the strength stimuli have been determined more precisely can it be determined what the strength endurance really includes. As a result, strength endurance is often seen in sports practice as a simple mixture of strength and endurance skills. Increased resistance in the execution of the movement is always equated with a strength training effect.

The right intensity in endurance training

The sports associations specify the respective intensity below or at the anaerobic threshold. This means that the exercise intensity is approx. 2-3 mmol / l lactate. However, the theory of strength training actually excludes that: strength endurance would then have to be trained maximally anaerobically in order to achieve the given intensity. The associations of endurance sports recommend a route length of 20–120 minutes. (4) Some authors even believe that this should be the only form of strength training for endurance athletes. (5)

However, this again contradicts the specifications from strength training theory, which provides a maximum period of 2 minutes for strength endurance. And the maximum strength (1RM) of 50% is far above the limits specified for endurance sports.

Targeted training control

However, if you want to control your training in a targeted manner, you have to deal precisely with the physiological parameters of the training. For strength training, you first have to determine which adjustment mechanism should be activated. It must be determined whether the strength in the sense of hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth) or the neuronal activation ability should be trained, or just the endurance. This is primarily improved by adjusting the metabolism. This in turn has to be trained specifically by the athlete - for example on the bike.

The dimensional analytical structure approach

It remains unclear what the performance-determining components of strength endurance could be. If an athlete wants to improve their performance in a targeted manner, all influencing factors must be known. You have to demand the determination of framework conditions in order to be able to make the strength endurance tangible. This is made possible by delimiting the dimensions and components of force. A reliable model is available with the dimensional analytical structural approach of the force. (6) Here, the force is not differentiated solely on the basis of its external appearance. Rather, coordinative influencing variables can be separated from the condition.

Fig. 1: The dimensional analysis structure approach © trainingsworld

This approach is also backed up by studies. However, they essentially relate to neurophysiological and morphological aspects of maximum and speed strength. Only a few studies exist on strength endurance and its delimitation. (7) The neuromuscular fundamentals, on the other hand, have been well investigated and confirmed in longitudinal and cross-sectional studies. (6) In this way, certain influencing variables can be specifically addressed in training. This model works with the division of strength into the sub-categories of maximum strength, speed strength and strength endurance, which, however, cannot all be on the same level. Rather, the maximum strength can influence both speed strength and strength endurance. So you have to understand maximum strength as a basic skill.

What is strength endurance?

In general, the term strength endurance describes a complex motor skill that determines performance in various sports and disciplines. The strength endurance is characterized by 2 characteristic components:

  • On the one hand, a force-influenced component is involved, since a load has to be moved.
  • On the other hand, the energy metabolism plays an important role, since the duration of the exercise is important. (7)

The direct dependence of strength endurance on maximum strength

This results in the direct dependence of strength endurance on maximum strength and muscle metabolism (see Fig. 1). The load and the duration of the load must now be determined in order to make the strength endurance tangible.

Schmidtbleicher specifies certain parameters for strength endurance and further delimits strength endurance by using the level of the impulse sum achieved in a defined period of time as a basis. He describes endurance as the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the largest possible pulse sum in a defined period of time (no longer than 2 minutes at maximum workload) against higher loads (more than 50% of maximum strength). The reduction in the impulses produced in the course of the exercise must be kept as low as possible. (6)

The improvement of strength endurance

Strength endurance can now be determined and described in more detail. The trainers can use these specifications to define more precisely how strength endurance can be trained. Above all, it becomes clear that a distinction must be made between strength-oriented and endurance exercise. Training with the aim of morphological changes or neuronal adaptations increases the maximum strength, and so the individual impulse can be improved in strength endurance performance.

In contrast, aerobic strength endurance training - as practiced in many endurance sports - does not result in an improvement in strength. But this must be aimed for if you really want to improve strength endurance. Since the metabolism has to be anaerobic, strength endurance performance must not exceed 2 minutes. If strength endurance training takes longer, it is only endurance training in which the strength component is not improved.

The effect of so-called endurance training in sports practice

This is all the more important as the resistance for endurance performance must be over 50% of the maximum strength. (6) This is the only way to achieve the necessary intensity in each case in order to ensure predominantly anaerobic adaptations in the muscle metabolism. Thus, the effect of so-called "endurance training" in sports practice can no longer be seen as strength training.

This can be explained by the fact that even professionals only pedal around 350–400 watts during endurance training on the bike. Maximum impulses can sometimes be over 2000 watts. (8) Thus, the values ​​for "endurance training" on the bike are less than 50% of 1 RM compared to the maximum values. An improvement in strength parameters is not to be expected in trained athletes.

The duration of the exposure is crucial

In addition, the duration of the load is decisive for the type of training. The longer an exercise lasts, the greater the role that the reduction in flow rates, the reduction in energy-rich phosphates in the muscle cell, and the H + ion and lactate concentration play. (6) So you have to determine strength endurance when training whether the strength or the endurance component should be improved.

Endurance athletes train the endurance component anyway in different variants of intervals and intensive basic training. Further improvements through so-called specific strength endurance training are not to be expected. If you want to improve your strength, this can only be done by emphasizing the strength component in training.

This, in turn, has to be done in the weight room by training the activation ability. Endurance athletes benefit more from maximum strength training than from strength endurance training. We conclude from this that the sport-specific strength endurance training, as it is often used in practice, cannot lead to the adaptation of strength endurance. You may have to look at it as a variant of endurance training - the strength is not increased that way.

Strength endurance training: How to effectively improve your performance

There is little clarity about the possible training methods for strength endurance. If you want to train this in a complex way, you must not lose sight of the goal. To improve the endurance component of strength endurance, the following training method is recommended (Table 1, 2).

Stimulus intensity50-60% of 1RM
Repetitions per series20–40
Series per training unit (per muscle group)5–6
Series break0.5-2 minutes
Contraction speedslowly to briskly

Tab. 1: Load configuration to improve the endurance component

Stimulus intensity95-100% of 1RM
Repetitions per series1–3
Series per training unit (per muscle group)3–4
Series break4-6 minutes
Speed ​​of contractionexplosive

Tab. 2: Load configuration to improve the force component

When it comes to training control, however, you should not focus solely on maximum strength. A more practical reference point can be the “Repetition Maximum” (RM). The number of repetitions serves as a control basis. The weight is chosen so that the specified repetitions can be mastered. For practical reasons, a series of 3 work sets per muscle group should be sufficient.

Strength endurance: recommendations for recreational athletes

In recreational sports, the term “strength endurance” is often used when 15–20 repetitions are given. The intensity differs from the actual strength endurance. If training were carried out with the load specifications described there, very high lactate values ​​would be the result.

However, if the intensity is reduced to such an extent that this lactate accumulation does not occur, it is to be expected that training stimuli will no longer be set after just a few training units and thus an adjustment will not be made.

quality not quantity

The often-cited argument that more repetitions lead to better learning success with regard to the execution of the exercise is more than questionable. To clarify this fact, here is an extreme example: If you have the choice of doing 50 squats in a series or 5 times 10 repetitions, the 2nd variant is to be preferred. The fatigue in the individual series is lower. But that is an indispensable prerequisite for motor learning.

The series of 10 repetitions are not performed with the maximum possible weight, but with a load that ensures that the last repetition can be performed with the same quality of movement as the first. In this way you create the conditions for a quick learning of the training exercise and at the same time generate a slightly higher training stimulus for the development of strength skills. Quality instead of quantity should be the benchmark here.

Strength training sessions: recommendations for endurance athletes

Especially in endurance sports, strength endurance units are planned on a large scale according to the training methods developed from practice. It is believed that endurance performance can be improved through strength endurance training. Triathletes hope to be able to move "thicker gears" through the gain in strength. The point of view in cycling is similar: the specific endurance training should help to transfer greater performance to the pedals.

We carried out a study on this and measured the maximum strength of trained cyclists. An isokinetic strength test was then performed on an SRM ergometer. The cadence was set at 60, 80, 100, 120 and 140 revolutions. If you compared the maximum force with the maximum power at the cadence, it turned out that at 60 revolutions no correlation was found between the maximum power and the power - in contrast to the 100 revolutions.

Training of maximum strength on the device

This shows that at low cadence the force cannot be transferred to the pedal. This is possible at high speeds. The maximum force was highly significantly related to the performance at high speeds. This proves that the strength that is trained in the weight room is also used in the competition movements. Endurance, on the other hand, is trained on the bike in the form of specific interval programs. The "specific strength endurance training" has no use in the training structure. However, training of maximum strength on the device can be recommended.

If you want to train your strength, you have to go to the weight room as an endurance athlete. If, on the other hand, you want to train your competition-specific endurance, the best way to do this is with the sports equipment. But we don't see any point in doing excessive “strength endurance training” in these types of sport. The force is by no means developed in this way.


The question of the sensible use of special strength endurance phases is difficult to answer. If you look at the physiology of individual sports, only a few are really limited in their structure by the strength endurance. In most cases an improvement in the muscular activation ability can be recommended if the strength ability is to be improved. The endurance component must be clearly trained in the form of specific endurance training. The use of endurance training in phases can only be recommended for wrestlers. Stresses occur within 2 minutes, which are highly intensive. This can be well prepared with thorough strength endurance training.

Basically, however, the greatest importance is to be attached to hypertrophy and maximum strength training here as well. The intelligent planning of these sections in the canon of the still very important maximum strength training and the hypertrophy phases is an important factor. The strength endurance training must be coordinated with the other training content. Basically, it applies to every sport that strength in the weight room and endurance must be trained for yourself.For future training strategies, training must be geared more closely to the physiological requirement profile of the respective sport.

Our tip from the editorial team:

Knowledge is only one side of the coin. 8 out of 10 fitness athletes do not fail because of a lack of knowledge, but because they fail to implement this knowledge in everyday life. Avoid the 4 most common mistakes that make fitness success fail.


Dennis Sandig M.A., PhD student at the Sports Science Institute of Saarland University, head of the "Research" department at iQ athletik GmbH.

Dr. Klaus Wirth, Research Associate in the Training Science Department at the Institute for Sports Science at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University.


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