April Merritt by April Merritt

Push upMuscular strength and muscular endurance qualities that often go hand in hand. When we are testing/evaluation clients we focus a lot on body composition and then sometime cardiovascular tests. How many people think about tests of muscular strength or muscular endurance? Is it really necessary to see how strong our clients are before we start them out?

In practice, many fitness professionals don’t see the need to test muscular strength or endurance prior to establishing an exercise routine. However, personal trainers often focus on strength training during their client sessions, and group fitness instructors frequently focus on both strength and flexibility development in their classes.

This is part of the reason that both the 4th ed. Personal Trainer Manual (Chapter 7 and 8) and 3rd ed. Group Fitness Instructor (Chapter 3) manuals address the topic.  Understanding the importance of strength and endurance is also important for the certification exam (you knew we’d come back around to that eventually).

When we talk about muscular endurance and muscular strength, things can get a little confusing.  The assessment of muscular strength is frequently tested independent of muscular endurance. A 1 repetition max (1RM) test is often considered the ‘benchmark’ for measuring strength. It is one all out push to see how much you can lift – a measure of the greatest amount of force that muscles can produce in a single maximal effort.

It’s important to remember, though, that it is not advisable to test beginners with a 1RM type test. Not so safe and not so accurate, often because they don’t have a good idea of where to even start.

Muscular endurance, on the other hand, refers to the muscle’s ability to exert a submaximal force repeatedly over time, such as a half sit up test or a push up test. But muscular endurance tests also measure strength to some degree.

Take the push up test for example. If you have very weak upper body muscles, you’re going to have a difficult time pushing yourself up. Therefore you may only be able to do a couple pushups before everything gives out. Because your strength is so low, we’re not able to get a great measure of endurance. The YMCA bench press test is another example of this. You lift a certain weight to the speed of a metronome. The test is stopped when you can’t lift the bar up or when you can’t keep up with the metronome. This type of test puts lighter clients at a disadvantage. If I am struggling to lift the bar to the start position because it’s too heavy, I’m not going to get a lot of repetitions in. My strength impacts my endurance.

When you are looking at a muscular assessment and trying to decide if it is strength or endurance, there is one key difference. If the test is all out in one push, that is measuring strength. If the test requires the client to repeat the motion more than one time, then that is a measure of endurance.

Questions? Contact one of our Education Consultants at 1-888-825-3636 x782.