Strength vs endurance training: Finding the perfect balance

Discover how to get get the perfect balance of strength and endurance training for peak performance and optimal health and longevity.

Weight training vs cycling
What to know
  • Both strength and endurance training play essential roles in physical fitness.

  • Balancing strength and endurance exercises can be achieved by alternating days for each type or combining them on the same day with adequate rest in between.

  • The decision to focus on endurance or strength first in a given workout session depends on your goals.

  • Experimenting with different schedules, optimizing your nutrition, and consulting a fitness expert when needed can help you reap the biggest benefits from your workouts.

  • Incorporating Mitopure™ into your fitness regimen can support physical fitness and overall cellular health.

Finding the perfect equilibrium between strength and endurance training is akin to walking a tightrope in the fitness world. It requires a nuanced approach to ensure you’re gaining strength and enhancing your cardiovascular capacity to get you through longer workouts.

Even though it may sometimes feel like you’re on a seesaw balancing act between the two, you can effectively integrate both into your training regimen with a few simple strategies. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of both endurance and strength training. We’ll also guide you in finding a workout schedule that marries these two vital components of physical fitness.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, competitive athlete, or somewhere in between, learning how to balance strength and endurance training can lead to better results and a healthier, more vibrant life for years to come.

Strength vs endurance training

Before we dive into how to strike a balance, it’s important to first discuss strength vs endurance training as separate entities. Both of these exercises are an essential part of your fitness regimen. They help support energy production where you need it most - in the mitochondria.

Keeping your mitochondria healthy, which is your body’s energy headquarters, supports muscle performance and benefits overall health and longevity.

Strenght training woman

Strength training

Strength training is an activity that exerts a muscle or muscle group against an external force to increase muscle size, strength, and endurance. It may involve bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, free weight exercises with dumbbells or barbells, weight machines at the gym, or even resistance bands.

Many people associate strength training with gaining physical bulk and muscle mass. While regular strength training will certainly provide these results, it also enables you to build your muscular endurance to “endure” longer training sessions.

Strength training is not just for bodybuilders - it’s essential for all active people and endurance athletes. In fact, mounting research connects regular strength training to improved longevity and physical health in older age.[1]

Benefits of strength training

Research shows our muscle mass starts declining by 3-8% starting at 30 years old. To reduce the loss of muscle mass, preserve joint health, and maintain peak performance, strength training is essential.[2]

Weight training is not only beneficial for athletes looking to improve their performance but also for individuals seeking to enhance their overall health. It plays a critical role in maintaining functional ability, balancing energy levels, and promoting quality of life.

The top benefits of strength training include:[3]

  • Improved muscle strength
  • Increased muscular tone
  • Bone strength
  • Better stability and joint health
  • Weight control
  • Improved mental health
  • Longevity

With thousands of mitochondria per muscle cell, supporting your mitochondrial health is foundational to building and optimizing your muscular health. The healthier your mitochondria, the more energy produced to fuel your strength training sessions.

Endurance training man

Endurance training

Endurance training typically involves activities that stress the cardiovascular system, often practiced over longer periods to help increase stamina. Types of endurance exercises include walking, long-distance running, elliptical, swimming, cycling, interval training, etc.

The primary purpose of endurance training is to strengthen the heart, lungs, and muscles’ ability to sustain prolonged physical activity without fatigue. The overall goal is to be able to maintain activity for longer before “hitting the wall” and losing the energy needed to continue.

Benefits of endurance training

By regularly engaging in endurance activity, you can increase your aerobic capacity, allowing you to perform exercise more efficiently and with less fatigue.

Endurance training comes with its own set of benefits, including:[4]

  • Improved stamina
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Boosted metabolism
  • Increased lung capacity and efficiency, allowing you to absorb more oxygen with each breath

Supporting your mitochondrial health is one fundamental way to improve endurance. With higher-functioning mitochondria, more energy is generated, which allows you to maximize your endurance training.

Balancing weight and endurance training

How to balance strength and endurance training

Balancing endurance and strength training is possible with proper planning. Here are a few strategies to ensure these exercises complement rather than conflict with each other:

Define your fitness goals

If you’re aiming for general fitness, an even split between strength and endurance training may be best. If you have specific goals, such as running a marathon or competing in a bodybuilding contest, you’ll want to adjust accordingly.

If your overall goal is endurance, spend more time on endurance activities; if your goal is strength, spend more time in those areas. For example, this may look like a 60/40 or 70/30 split.

Create a schedule

Depending on your time constraints, one option is to alternate endurance and strength days and keep these exercises separate.

A second option is to incorporate same-day training, where you perform both exercises on the same day to allow for more full rest days. If choosing this routine, you should allow at least 2-4 hours between training sessions to allow yourself time to refuel and recover after a workout. An easy way to separate them is by doing one in the morning and one at night.

This will ensure you reach optimal performance with each exercise and are not too physically tired or depleted for the second training session.[5]

Prioritize good nutrition

Optimal nutrition for training plays a crucial role in recovery and overall performance, so it’s important to prioritize a diet rich in:

These include foods such as chicken breast, turkey, eggs, tofu, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whole grains, starchy veggies like potatoes, fish, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Seek professional guidance

Consider consulting with a fitness professional who can provide personalized guidance and a workout plan tailored to your goals and schedule. Having accountability from a coach can also motivate you to be more consistent with your workouts and experience greater results.

Cardio vs weights - What to do first?

While we know that separating endurance and strength sessions is beneficial for performance, which should you do first? The answer depends on your goals.

If you want to build strength: Train for muscle growth by doing strength first. Starting strength exercises when you’re feeling fresh and most energetic allows you to lift heavier and perform better. Doing cardio after your strength session can also help with recovery and build endurance without compromising your gains.

If you want to increase endurance or lose weight: Do your endurance workout first. Starting with endurance workouts first can help you burn more calories and ensure you have the stamina for optimal performance. Consider waiting 1-2 hours until your strength workout so that you have the energy to lift effectively. A carbohydrate snack in between might help, too!

If you want to build overall fitness or are pressed for time: Consider cross-training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which combine elements of strength and endurance in a single workout. These workouts are quick and effective and can be particularly helpful if you have time constraints or can’t separate your endurance and strength sessions.

It’s important to experiment for a few weeks with each option to see what works best for you, your schedule, and your performance.

Should you do more reps or more weight?

You can modify your weight training routine to prioritize muscle endurance or strength.

Building muscle endurance

To build muscle endurance, do more reps with lower weight. Here are some general guidelines to follow:[6]

  • Lift lighter weights (less than 70% of your one-rep max) with more reps
  • Increase your number of reps up to 25
  • Increase the number of sets to 3 or more
  • Implement shorter rest periods, 90 seconds or less, and ideally, less than 30 seconds in between sets.[7]

Building muscle strength

To build muscle strength, do fewer reps with a higher weight. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Lift heavier weights (approximately 70-75% of your one-rep max)
  • Do fewer reps per set, such as 8-10
  • Reduce the number of sets to 3 or less

Your one-rep max is the maximum number of weight you can lift in a given exercise, and using this as a baseline can help you determine how light or heavy you should go.

While these rules generally apply, new research suggests the most critical factor is lifting to the point of exhaustion, or “fatigue out.” Whether through heavier weights with fewer reps or lighter weights with more reps, both can yield the same outcome, especially in terms of strength gains.[8]

Final words

By combining strength and endurance training, you’ll be one step closer to peak performance. Finding a balance between the two is all about creating a schedule that works for you, whether that looks like doing both on the same day or separating them into separate strength and endurance days.

When creating your plan, it’s important to evaluate your goals, assess what’s feasible with your schedule, and perform your strength and endurance sessions at least two hours apart. This will ensure you maintain a consistent routine, have time to refuel and recover between sessions, and reap the biggest benefits from your efforts.

If you need more support meeting your fitness goals, Mitopure™ has been clinically studied for its role in building endurance and muscle strength at the cellular level.

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Always consult with your medical team, personal trainer, and registered dietitian before starting a new exercise or supplement regimen.

Authors

Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Dietitian-Nutritionist, and Health Content Writer

Dr. Emily Werner

Reviewed by

PhD, RD CSSD

References

  1. O'Keefe JH, O'Keefe EL, Eckert R, Lavie CJ. Training Strategies to Optimize Cardiovascular Durability and Life Expectancy. Mo Med. 2023;120(2):155-162.

  2. Volpi E, Nazemi R, Fujita S. Muscle tissue changes with aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004;7(4):405-410. doi:10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2

  3. Westcott WL. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012;11(4):209-216. doi:10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8

  4. Hughes DC, Ellefsen S, Baar K. Adaptations to Endurance and Strength Training. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018;8(6):a029769. Published 2018 Jun 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a029769

  5. Hughes DC, Ellefsen S, Baar K. Adaptations to Endurance and Strength Training. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018;8(6):a029769. Published 2018 Jun 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a029769

  6. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Van Every DW, Plotkin DL. Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports (Basel). 2021;9(2):32. Published 2021 Feb 22. doi:10.3390/sports9020032

  7. Børve J, Jevne SN, Rud B, Losnegard T. Upper-Body Muscular Endurance Training Improves Performance Following 50 min of Double Poling in Well-Trained Cross-Country Skiers. Front Physiol. 2017;8:690.

  8. Pumping iron: Lighter weights just as effective as heavier weights to gain muscle, build strength. ScienceDaily. Published 2016. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160712094259.htm

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. References: *Nutrition studies: 500mg Mitopure® have been shown to (1) induce gene expression related to mitochondria function and metabolism and (2) increase the strength of the hamstring leg muscle in measures of knee extension and flexion in overweight 40-65 year olds. Data from two randomized double-blind placebo-controlled human clinical trials. **Nutrition NOURISH Study: 500mg Mitopure® have been shown to deliver at least 6 times higher Urolithin A plasma levels over 24 hours (area under the curve) than 8 ounces (240ml) of pomegranate juice in a randomized human clinical trial.

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