How Strong Are You? 7 Strength Types That Will Tell You

Ever since our ancestors were still trying to figure out how to make fire, our physical fitness has been crucial to our wellness. Sure, you can look the part — bulging biceps, built calves, six-pack, the works. But even though you look like a fitness god, could you actually use your strength effectively if the situation called for it? Strength is not as simple as muscle tone; there are actually many varieties when it comes to how our bodies use our hard-earned muscles. For some more info on how this breaks down, here are seven types of strength and the role they play in our everyday lives.

1. Agile strength

man picks up a dumbbell from a rack

Agile strength will help you perform a range of activities. | iStock.com

Agile strength is the ability to control and maneuver your strength based on the situation at hand. At the gym, this type of strength isn’t usually emphasized. Most of your muscle-building moves involve a singular back and forth type of motion. But in real life, you may need to use your strength to move in more than just one direction. For example, if you need to pick up your kids or move a piece of furniture around the room, this calls for a more functional and mobile type of strength. By building agile strength, you’ll help reduce the risk of injury and improve the performance for a range of activities in your daily life.

Your move:

In order to build your agile strength, go for free weights. Try this 30-minute dumbbell workout from Men’s Fitness to get moving on your agility abilities.

2. Strength endurance

Man running on a road

Strength endurance means you can do a taxing physical activity for a long time. | Thinkstock

As the name implies, this type of strength has to do with your endurance during activities that are physically straining. If you have strength endurance, it means you can keep up with muscle-pumping activities for extended periods of time. It relies on aerobic efficiency to supply oxygen and nutrients to working muscles while trashing metabolic waste. This type of strength comes in handy when you’re running a marathon, working on household chores for hours, or any kind of workout that stretches over a longer period of time. Plus, more strength endurance means better postural stability and enhanced performance during any workout.

Your move:

To increase your strength endurance, focus on a combination of single-joint exercises. Pick a few of your favorites and complete two to five sets of 10 reps each with 30 seconds of rest in between. Before you know it, you’ll build up enough endurance to keep your body active for as long as necessary.

3. Explosive strength

Man lifting heavy weights at the gym

Explosive strength allows you to move as quickly as possible using your maximum effort. | Thinkstock

Maximum force. Minimal time. This is the key formula that defines explosive strength. Think about any time you had to quickly jump out of the way of incoming danger — a car, bike, or maybe even a throw during dodgeball. That’s your explosive strength coming into play. This type of strength has to do with your muscles lengthening followed by a rapid shortening, as well as how quickly you can move through a range of motion. By working to improve your explosive strength, you’ll reap the benefits of reduced reaction time and improved resiliency of muscle and connective tissues.

Your move:

Once again, your best option to build up this type of strength is through a series of single-joint workouts. For a structured workout focusing on building explosive strength, give this routine a go.

4. Maximum strength

Man lifting heavy weights at the gym

To build your maximum strength, bump up the intensity in your routine. | iStock.com

Bodybuilders and strongman competitors have this type of strength locked down. Maximum strength is the optimum level of muscle force that the body can produce. It involves a specific muscle or group of muscles using all of their motor units in order to create a maximum effect. This type of strength comes into play whenever you’re powerlifting, squatting, deadlifting, or bench pressing. And, believe it or not, guys who have greater maximum strength also have better bone density and higher levels of muscle-building hormones.

Your move:

Go for free weights or machines, just like you would when building strength endurance. But for this type of exercise, pump up the intensity. For some more ways to build maximum strength, try these 10 tips from Bodybuilding.com.

5. Starting strength

Man running on a treadmill

Your ability to sprint from a stationary position is an indicator of your starting strength. | Thinkstock

You know that burst of adrenaline you get right before taking off on a dead sprint? Your ability to speed up instantly from a stationary position is an indicator of your starting strength. Essentially, this variety of strength has to do with your body’s capability of producing a great amount of force without any momentum or warm-up. While this type of strength doesn’t seem like it would come up in everyday life, it also controls smaller actions, like your speed moving from a seated to standing position. But on the more extreme practical side, you never know when you’ll need to quickly jump into action, so it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of starting strength.

Your move:

Work on compound and single-joint moves that focus on greater initial force production from a stationary position. You can also go for a cardio option, like a sprint workout, to build up your quick-start abilities.

6. Speed strength

Man doing push-ups with feet elevated in the park

Athletes typically need great speed strength to perform well. | iStock.com

In short, speed strength is the capability to exert a lot of force in a short period of time. For example, your skills at throwing a baseball or swinging a golf club could indicate your level of speed strength. The more you hone this type of strength, the better you’ll perform as an athlete across the field.

Your move:

Focus on workouts that use your own body weight as resistance — push-ups, dips, squats, etc. The key here is your tempo rather than your level of weights. Try a circuit workout, head to the batting cages, or even grab a few of your buddies for a game of golf.

7. Relative strength

Man doing pull-ups for exercise

This type of strength has to do with your body composition, too. | iStock.com

This strength has to do with your body weight-to-force ratio. So even if you’re smaller than the built guy standing next to you at the gym, it’s possible your relative strength is even higher than his. For this measure of strength, all the other strengths come into play. So when muscular efficiency and muscular force both increase while your body stays at a consistent mass, then your relative strength will rise. For a simpler explanation, if two guys each weigh the same but the second can do more pull-ups than the other, then the second guy has higher relative strength. So basically, relative strength equals efficient strength.

Your move:

There really isn’t a specific workout for building relative strength because it has to do with multiple abilities. So instead of dwelling on a specific workout, vary it up and try a little bit of everything to build this type of efficient strength.