Strength vs. Power: Learn The Difference Between Both Types

muscular strength

Muscular Strength vs. Muscular Power

Muscular strength and muscular power are two terms we hear bandied about when exploring workout plans. But what do these terms really mean? Can knowing about the differences between muscular strength vs. muscular power help you to build lean muscle at the gym?

Finally how might knowing about muscular strength and power help you to reach your body building goals? Through the magic of exercise physiology, the answers to the questions are now revealed.

This brief article will explore the concept of muscular strength in the context of body building and weight lifting terminology. I will give you a basic, working definition of both muscular strength and power with the goal of helping you synthesize this material into your body building workouts.

As part of the analysis, I will compare and contrast muscular strength with muscular power so that you have concrete examples for real world application. Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!

strength vs. power
Strength vs. Power: Different Constructs

Muscular Strength

Muscular strength can be generally defined as a muscles ability to exert force. Sounds pretty simple, huh? While this definition gets to the heart of this concept, it may be helpful for you to know something more clinical.

A comprehensive definition of muscular strength is the maximum force that a muscle or muscle group can generate at one time. Let me give you some concrete examples so that you can see what I am talking about in the real world; like the gym.

Muscular Strength Example

Let’s say a person with the maximal capacity to bench press 220 LBS has two times the strength of someone who can bench press 110 LBS. Using this example, we would define strength as the maximum weight the individual can lift in one single effort. Typically, this is referred to as the 1-repition maximum or 1 RM. Make sense?

Muscular Strength vs. Muscular Power

Muscle strength should not be confused with the concept of muscular power. It might help to understand what the term muscular power means, right? OK – muscular power can be defined as the rate of preforming work and is the product of force or velocity.

chris and liam hemesworth body building

Muscular Power Example

Let’s use Chris and Liam Hemsworth as examples – to celebrities who happen to be brothers. Assume both Chris and Liam are at your gym. You stop your workout for a moment to watch them do some chest exercises. 

As part of your observation, you notice both brothers can bench press 300 LBS with the ability to move the weight the same distance from where the bar touches their chests to the position of full extension. Chris however can do it in half the time as Liam.

What are the implications? Well, it means that Chris Hemsworth has twice the power of his brother Liam. The element of time is the key variable here, which is measured in velocity.

Do you see the difference between muscular strength and muscular power now? Think of it this way. Strength gives you the ability to lift the weight while power gives you the ability to execute the lift quickly and continuously. You need power if you ever wish to work through a workout set with multiple sets and do it in a way which affords you the full range of motion.

And so while two people may be able to lift the same about of weight, the person who struggles to move through the reps is considered to have less power. The person who does not struggle is considered to have more power.

Chest Workout upper body exercises

Muscular Strength and Body Building Workout Plans

When you go about the business of picking a workout plan, such as an upper body workout plan, you want to incorporate the twin goals of increasing muscular strength and power, which is best achieved through muscular endurance.

The key to endurance is consistency over the course of time. This means you should be picking a workout plan, at least initially, that is realistic and doable in nature. Start off with lighter weights and use an upward pyramid approach as part of your set.

Again, you are trying to build strength, which eventually increases power over the course of time through endurance.


Many body builders make the mistake of heading into the gym with singular goal of increasing muscle size. While this is understandable (all of us want to get bigger) this approach misses the point. You cannot grow your muscles if you do not have the necessary strength to complete a repetition.

What’s more, you won’t be able to increase muscle size unless you have the muscular power to continuously work through reps as part of your goal set (i.e. 10 reps of 12, 10, 10 and 8).

Knowing about the concepts of muscular strength vs. muscular power are key to the success of your workout plans. This is true if you are trying to build an impressive back or if you are trying to to grow your legs.

One approach many weight lifters and body builders take to help increasing strength, speed and power are plyometric exercises. In fact, this is a core concept for people who engage in cross-fit type workouts.

If you are looking to gain more knowledge about muscle strength, muscle power and body building so that your workouts are more productive, I would recommend Strength Training Step by Step. This book is very helpful with creating workout plans that focus on muscular strength and power with the ultimate goal of increasing muscle size.

I hope you found the information on muscular strength and your workout plans useful. Thanks for visiting Men’s CulturePlease like us on FacebookCircle us On Google+ and Pin us on Pinterest!

About John D. Moore 391 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a licensed counselor and Editor-in-Chief of Guy Counseling. A journalist and blogger, he writes about a variety of topics related to wellness. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Check out his show --> The Men's Self Help Podcast


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