4 Core Differences Between Resistance vs. Strength Training




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Most health-conscious people have at least some idea about what resistance training and strength training is. If you start hitting a gym, it won’t be long before you start hearing about it.

You might get confused in certain situations because people tend to use these terms interchangeably, which is wrong because they are different activities.

Strength and resistance training help in reaching different goals. While resistance training focuses on overall wellbeing, health and flexibility, strength training focuses on improving strength and muscle gain. Resistance training is usually slower and less intense. On the other hand, strength training is all about intense training.

In this article, I’ll explain what the core differences are between resistance training and strength training, how they work, and what they do to our bodies. By the time you finish reading this, you’ll have a clearer idea about resistance vs. strength training.

Resistance vs. Strength

Resistance and strength training have some differences when it comes to their goals, intensity, effects and risks. Here, I’ve discussed all of them in detail. 

Training Goals

The first core difference between the two types of exercise lies in how they are performed. They are very similar in the fact that they mostly focus on the muscles.

That’s mostly why people confuse these two. Because unlike something like, let’s say, cardio, there’s little to no fundamental difference in how they work.

Both types of exercises help to build more muscles, but the difference lies in how they try to achieve it.

Resistance Training

As its name suggests, it has a lot to do with resistance. It could be from an external source such as a resistance band or some weights, or it could just be the person’s body weight.

Whatever you may use, you need to set that against your muscles, creating a resistance. That would strain your muscles and bones and restore them to something bigger and denser.

It is usually done to improve the overall fitness of a person while making muscle growth and flexibility the primary gain.

Man training chest with resistance bands at street gym

Strength Training

Many people think that strength training is for gaining more muscles. Now that is a gross misconception. Strength training is geared towards lifting and handling progressively more weight.

It is usually done quite explosively, and it is heavily focused on making the person stronger. The muscles are just byproducts.

People seem to think that strength training is solely done by using external weights, which is also a misconception. Any weight can be used, as long it is done explosively enough.

You may have noticed that strength training is also using the same fundamental framework as resistance training.

In this observance you are right, this is because Strength training also uses external objects to create resistance on your muscles. It just does it much faster and more explosively than resistance training.

Rear view of bodybuilder training with dumbbells

So, you could say that all strength training can be classified as a more robust form of resistance training. But the intensity level changes the result so much that it is a separate form of exercise altogether.

The Intensity levels

That brings us to the second core difference between the two types of exercise, their intensity level. It is also the most important of the 4 core differences because it is what makes these two types of exercises different on a technical level.

Resistance Training

In general, resistance training is slower-paced and lower-impact than Strength training. It is designed to slowly expose your muscles to resistance and then letting it heal. Thereby making it more resistant to that sort of strain.

But it uses a base level formula, where muscle growth and general fitness stays the primary focus. So, resistance training does not exceed a certain level of intensity.

As it turns out, going slower is beneficial for building more muscles and strengthening them further.

Resistance training often has a higher rep count than strength training. Ironically, it uses less external resistance than strength training.

That’s why there is also a lot less chance of an injury occurring during this kind of exercise. It can even be toned down enough that rehabs use this as the primary type of exercise.

Strength Training

As I said before, Strength Training is heavily geared towards power. The primary focus of it is giving a person more strength to lift heavier weight, generate more force, and be sturdier.

It is something that cannot be achieved with base-level resistance training. Strength training is all about lifting more weight faster. So, it has a very lower rep count compared to that of resistance training. But it uses a much higher amount of weight for creating the said resistance.

This excessively higher burst strength is what makes strength training differ from resistance training. This slower and faster rep count, along with the amount of weight used in these exercises produces vastly different effects on the human body.

Effect on Body

We all know that when we exercise, our muscles and bone bones go through a process of breaking apart. They later heal and grow back stronger.

How strong they grow back, is based on the amount of strain we put on them through the exercise.

The way resistance and strength exercises affect the human body is quite similar, which is to be expected since they both use the same fundamental principle of breaking and restoring. But the intensity of the effect is what makes them different.

Resistance Training

I mentioned how resistance training uses more reps and less weight. That makes the muscles more resistant to continuous strain. So instead of becoming more strong, they become more enduring. So that they can handle the same kind of continuous strain better in the future.

The bones, however, do not receive much strain through resistance training. So while the muscles become more enduring, the bones also become slightly more enduring. Especially the joints, as they receive repeated use.

To sum it up, resistance training makes the muscles and bones more enduring, thereby making them resistant to fatigue. It is the perfect sort of workout for the general population.

Strength Training

As you may recall, I stressed earlier how strength training puts more pressure on the body in shorter periods. That makes the muscles stronger when they finish restoring themselves.  But they sacrifice endurance for this strength.

So, they will be tougher and capable of producing a lot more force when necessary. But they also become more susceptible to fatigue. Because With lower reps and heavier weight, you aren’t teaching them to be working for a long time.

Strength training also makes the bones far stronger than resistance exercise. Because an explosive burst of strength puts a heavy strain on our skeletal structure. The last core difference between resistance training and strength training is their risk factor.

Risk Factors

Due to having different training regimes the risks they pose are also different. It is best that you consider these before going for any one of them.

Resistance Training

I recall mentioning earlier that resistance training is used in rehabilitation. It is relatively safe even at its maximum intensity.

It doesn’t strain your body too much, while at the same time it makes your body more resistant to strain and injury.

As long as you do these sorts of exercises correctly, they can provide a good foundation for resisting diseases like arthritis later in life.

Strength Training

Strength training strengthens your body and gives you more explosive power. But it also puts a considerable amount of strain on it. This should not affect you too much later in life unless you do certain exercises wrong.

But the risk of receiving an injury while performing these exercises itself is a lot higher than resistance exercise. That is why it’s usually a good idea to have a spotter.

Final Thoughts on Resistance vs Strength Training

I will frequently see people who like resistance workouts, my wife for example has used resistance bands for a long time before more recently switching to free weights and dumbbells.

I have never felt like I worked out as hard when I tried resistance workouts that featured bands as they never felt like they allowed the same work to my muscles, but I have seen good results from people using them.

I think both styles of training can be helpful to give you a better overall health and longevity, this should be your end all goal not just to have the biggest muscles but the best overall physique along with full body health and wellness.

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