The importance of muscular strength: Training considerations
School of Medical and Health Sciences
This review covers underlying physiological characteristics and training considerations that may affect muscular strength including improving maximal force expression and time-limited force expression. Strength is underpinned by a combination of morphological and neural factors including muscle cross-sectional area and architecture, musculotendinous stiffness, motor unit recruitment, rate coding, motor unit synchronization, and neuromuscular inhibition. Although single- and multi-targeted block periodization models may produce the greatest strength-power benefits, concepts within each model must be considered within the limitations of the sport, athletes, and schedules. Bilateral training, eccentric training and accentuated eccentric loading, and variable resistance training may produce the greatest comprehensive strength adaptations. Bodyweight exercise, isolation exercises, plyometric exercise, unilateral exercise, and kettlebell training may be limited in their potential to improve maximal strength but are still relevant to strength development by challenging time-limited force expression and differentially challenging motor demands. Training to failure may not be necessary to improve maximum muscular strength and is likely not necessary for maximum gains in strength. Indeed, programming that combines heavy and light loads may improve strength and underpin other strength-power characteristics. Multiple sets appear to produce superior training benefits compared to single sets; however, an athlete’s training status and the dose–response relationship must be considered. While 2- to 5-min interset rest intervals may produce the greatest strength-power benefits, rest interval length may vary based an athlete’s training age, fiber type, and genetics. Weaker athletes should focus on developing strength before emphasizing power-type training. Stronger athletes may begin to emphasize power-type training while maintaining/improving their strength. Future research should investigate how best to implement accentuated eccentric loading and variable resistance training and examine how initial strength affects an athlete’s ability to improve their performance following various training methods.