Strength training vs resistance training: What’s the difference?

We often use strength training and resistance training interchangeably. But there is a difference between strength training and resistance training.
Woman engages in resistance training
Aren't strength training and resistance training the same? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 9 Aug 2023, 09:30 am IST
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Exercising isn’t always about weight loss. It’s also about keeping your muscles strong and staying fit in general. Adults who lead an inactive life experience three to eight percent loss of muscle mass per decade, apart from fat accumulation, notes a 2012 study published by the US National Library of Medicine. Fitness enthusiasts will tell you to go for strength training, but some may urge you to try resistance training. Now comes the important question. How are strength training and resistance training different?

strong woman
There is a difference between strength training and resistance training. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What is strength training?

Strength training is a form of physical exercise that focuses on building and developing muscle strength and endurance through resistance or weight training exercises, celebrity coach and athlete Rohit Nair tells Health Shots. It basically involves using machines, free weights or bodyweight exercises.

Difference between strength training and resistance training

It’s true that strength training and resistance training are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two.

Strength training

Strength training focuses primarily on increasing muscle strength and power. It involves lifting heavy weights for a lower number of repetitions, typically in the range of 1 to 6 repetitions per set. The emphasis is on challenging the muscles with maximum resistance to stimulate muscle growth and strength gains.

Resistance training

Resistance training is a broader term that encompasses any exercise that uses resistance to work the muscles. Strength training is there, but resistance training also includes other forms of training that use resistance. So, bodyweight exercises, resistance bands or lighter weights with higher repetitions all come under resistance training. The goal of resistance training can vary, from building strength and muscle to improving muscular endurance or toning, says the expert.

Pros and cons of strength training and resistance training

Benefits of strength training

• Strength training focuses on heavy weights and low repetitions, leading to significant gains in muscle strength.
• It promotes muscle hypertrophy, leading to increased muscle size and overall muscular development.
• The stress placed on bones during strength training can help improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, says Nair.
• Increased muscle mass from strength training can raise resting metabolic rate, aiding in weight management.

Side effects of strength training

• Lifting heavy weights can increase the risk of injury, especially without proper form or supervision.
• Strength training workouts can be more time-consuming due to longer rest periods between sets.
• Some strength training exercises require access to gym equipment or free weights, which might not always be readily available.

Benefits of resistance training


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• Resistance training includes a wide range of exercises, from bodyweight to bands, offering various options for people with different fitness levels.
• Higher repetitions and lower weights in resistance training can improve muscular endurance and stamina.
• Many resistance training exercises can be performed anywhere with minimal equipment, making it accessible to people without gym access.
• With lighter weights, the risk of injury is generally lower compared to heavy strength training.

Side effects of resistance training

• Resistance training might not lead to significant muscle mass gains as strength training does.
• While it improves muscular endurance, the strength gains may not be as substantial as those achieved through heavy strength training.

If power development is the primary goal, strength training is more effective.

Popular strength training exercises

If you choose to do strength training, go for these exercises.

1. Deadlift

This compound exercise targets multiple muscle groups, including the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and core, says Nair. It involves lifting a barbell or dumbbells from the ground to a standing position, focusing on heavy weights and low repetitions for building overall strength.

2. Bench press

It is a classic upper body exercise that primarily targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It involves lying on a flat bench and pressing a barbell or dumbbells away from the chest. Heavy weights and low repetitions are used for maximum strength gains.

Squats exercise
Squat is a good strength training exercise. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Squats

It is another essential compound movement that works the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. This exercise involves lowering the body with a barbell on the shoulders or using dumbbells and then rising back up to a standing position. Squats are performed with heavy weights and low repetitions for strength development.

Best resistance training exercises

Here are some of the resistance training exercises you must try.

1. Push-ups

It is a bodyweight exercise that targets the chest, shoulders and triceps. By using your body weight as resistance, you can perform higher repetitions to improve muscular endurance, says the expert.

2. Resistance band rows

Attach resistance bands to an anchor point and perform rows to work the back muscles. Resistance bands provide adjustable resistance, making them suitable for people with various fitness levels.

3 . Glute bridge

To do glute bridge, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, squeezing your glutes, and then lower them back down.

Now that you know the difference between strength training and resistance training, pick exercises according to your needs.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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