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Here’s What You Might Not Know About Your Muscles

We all know muscle is better than fat. But, while muscle weighs more, it benefits the body in many ways — it helps support good posture, lean your body and build confidence.  But do you know the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance, and which is best for your body?

Muscular strength is a muscle’s capacity to exert force against resistance, for a minimal amount of time.  Increasing strength means increasing the amount of force you exert. It is anaerobic and therefore does not require oxygen as an energy source. This means using heavier weights and completing fewer reps. Or carrying a heavy load of groceries, a child, two beach chairs, or a cooler, beach chair and umbrella.

Muscular endurance is the ability to do something over and over for an extended period, without getting tired or breaking form. Think about completing a full set of lunges without rest. Or, think lighter weights and executing more reps without resting. It is aerobic, and requires oxygen. The longer you go without rest, the more muscular endurance you will have. Activities like skiing, tennis, basketball and running require not only cardio health, but muscular endurance.  Conditioning your muscles in this capacity increases your ability to execute aerobic activities without muscle fatigue. For example, climbing the stairs of a New York City 4th floor walk up without stopping on each landing.

Muscular strength and endurance are equally important in daily life – to accomplish both everyday tasks and recreational activities. In fact, the American Council on Exercise recommends using a mixture of both strength and endurance exercise routines for maximum results. While you may not need to carry a body out of a burning building, your muscles need to get strong and stay strong– especially as we grow older. We lose 5 % of our muscle mass every ten years after the age of 35, even if we are fit.

With so many fitness options, how do you know what exercises build strength, and which ones build endurance?  Truthfully, many do both. Holding planks are a fantastic way to build muscular strength, as are any movements that require the use of your own body weight for resistance.  Muscular endurance can be honed using a lighter set of weights and more repititions in an upper body conditioning series. Push-ups build muscular endurance in the upper chest, back, arms, legs and core.

While this list is not all-inclusive, one of the many benefits of integrating a barre fitness practice into your routine is the ability to condition muscles both for strength, and endurance.  You will find planks and push-ups in every class, and the tiny repetitive moves and isometric holds inherent in barre classes will build strength and endurance the longer you remain in position – making barre fitness an excellent means of incorporating both strength and endurance conditioning into your daily routine.

Furthermore, mixing running, tennis or other cardio intensive activities with barre will ensure that you achieve strength and endurance training; and a healthy dose of flexibility practice to boot. But don’t forget to allow your body to rest. According to the International Sports Science Association, resting your body every 3 to 4 days is necessary for the muscles to repair and grow.

 

Sources: International Sports Science Association & American Council on Exercise