Strength training and muscle building are similar enough for most people to use the terms interchangeably, but different enough for practitioners to disagree on their importance.
When you think muscle building, think body building – it’s all about size. Size is usually achieved by lifting about as much as you safely can only a few times – the “high weight, low rep” system. Exercises of this type build large muscle quickly. According to WebMD, just two workouts per week can be enough to see results, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be working for them.
Strength training is more about endurance. It involves lifting by lifting less more times – the “low weight, high rep” system. Exercises of this kind build muscle over time, but they are better at “toning” muscle – making it more defined. Exercises of these kind take a bit more time to show results, but people who are more interested in staying and looking fit than they are in “getting ripped” prefer the results.
Some weight lifters will go to the mat for one form of exercise over the other, but both have advantages, and there’s nothing wrong with doing a combination of both.
Aren’t Muscles Just Muscles?
Weight training and muscle building don’t only make muscles in different ways and at different speeds, they actually make different kinds of muscle.
There are three basic types of muscle fibers: those used for intense exercises carried out over a short duration, those used for moderate activity for moderate duration, and those used for lighter activity over a longer duration.
Muscle building increases the number of the first kind of fibers, and strength training increases the number of the second kind of fibers, while the third kind are increased more through aerobic activities like running or swimming. All of these kinds have advantages for different activities, but don’t worry, you always have some of each.
Starting an Exercise Program
Finding a strength training exercise that works for you is a lot safer than than finding a muscle building exercise that works for you because muscle building requires lifting heavier weights. This increases the risk of pulling something. If you build some muscles too big and ignore others, they can also wreak havoc with your posture and cause other serious problems.
Finding a strength training exercise that works for you can take a long time too, as it can involve doing exercises with different weight and different reps to find out what challenges you just the right amount.
Whichever kind of exercise you pick, it’s quickest and safest to talk to a personal trainer. These can be expensive, but you don’t need one for every session, just to figure out what weight and rep works best for you.
Can Your Diet Keep Up with Your Exercise?
Both muscle building and strength training require a lot of protein, but if you eat a Western diet, you probably get enough protein anyway. Be sure that you’re also focusing on iron, which is another big component of muscles.
Most people forget about calcium and magnesium when they start an exercise regimen. Your muscles attach to bones, and the bones undergo a lot of force when the muscles are used, which leads to bone growth – but only if you get enough minerals in your diet. In fact, your bones are one of the last places that calcium goes in your body.
It’s also very important for conducting the electrical charges that your nervous system uses to activate your muscles, which is another good reason to get more calcium in your diet if you’re about to start a new workout program. Talking to your primary care provider or a dietician is a good place to start if you think that your diet might need to change with your new workout habits. Also, you may check out my app, Z Fit Studio: Online Fitness and Nutrition Planner.