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The common definition is "the ability to exert a force against a resistance". The strength needed for a sprinter to explode from the blocks is different from the strength required by a weightlifter to lift a 200kg barbell. It implies that there are different types of strength.

What are the classifications of strength?

The classifications of strength are:

  • Maximum strength - the greatest force that is possible in a single maximum contraction
  • Elastic strength - the ability to overcome a resistance with a fast contraction
  • Strength endurance - the ability to express force many times over

Absolute and Relative strength

  • Absolute strength - The maximum force an athlete can exert with their whole body, or part of the body, irrespective of body size or muscle size
  • Relative strength - The maximum force exerted relative to body weight or muscle size.

How do we get strong?

A muscle will only strengthen when it is worked beyond its normal operation - it is overloaded. Overload can be progressed by increasing the:

  • number of repetitions of an exercise
  • number of sets of the exercise
  • intensity by a reduced recovery time

How do we develop strength?

The effects of strength training

Strength training programs cause biomechanical changes that occur within the muscle and increase the muscle's oxidative capacity. The effects of strength training are:

  • an increase in ATP, CP and glycogen concentration
  • a decrease in oxidative enzyme activity
  • a decrease in mitochondrial density

These changes vary slightly according to the training intensity.

Changes that occur within the muscle because of strength training are classified as:

  • Myogenic - changes in the muscle structure
  • Neurogenic - changes to the connection between muscle and nerve

Myogenic changes

Strength training results in muscle hypertrophy, an increase in the cross-sectional size of existing fibres. This is achieved by increasing:

  • number of myofibrils
  • sarcoplasmic volume
  • protein
  • supporting connective tissue (ligaments and tendons)

Strength training programs increase intramuscular stores such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), creatine phosphate (CP) and glycogen.

In women, hypertrophy's potential is not as great as men's due mainly to the lower levels of testosterone.

Neurogenic changes

Repeating stimulating the muscle increases the central nervous system's response rate. The recruitment patterns become more refined, and as a result, gross movement patterns become more efficient and effective.


It is recommend you seek out expert coaching where practical, someone who has completed a level 4 strength and conditioning course.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1997) Strength [WWW] Available from: [Accessed